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So You Want to be a Change Agent: A Survival Guide

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Presentation from SXSW19

Published in: Leadership & Management
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So You Want to be a Change Agent: A Survival Guide

  1. 1. #survivechange @milouness Lesson 1
  2. 2. The Smart One is responsible! My father never graduated from high school, he resented my getting a college education. In an already turbulent household, this became another cause for fights. When I was an intern for the State Department, a historian named N. Stephen Kane told me that he had a similar family background—his dad and he would get into fights. Until Stephen realized that if he was the PHD—he was the smart one—then it fell on him to be the adult in the room. If you’re so smart you know how to fix things, then it’s up to you to ensure productive conversations.
  3. 3. Lesson 2 #survivechange @milouness
  4. 4. Theological change is HARD! In the mid 1990s the internet emerged and I became persuaded that it would change the way all knowledge organizations did their work. I was surprised that people did not immediately acknowledge my brilliance—my ideas were roundly dismissed. It wasn’t until years later that I realized advocating for open communications platforms was heretical to the CIA, a secret organization. So if you’re a change agent making theological change is really hard. Recognize which of your ideas are truly heretical.
  5. 5. Lesson 3 #survivechange @milouness
  6. 6. Comfortable with being uncomfortable! So if you’re a change agent, it won’t be easy and you can easily dismiss just how difficult and uncomfortable it can be. You have to learn not only to tolerate that feeling of discomfort but to be comfortable with it.
  7. 7. Lesson 4 #survivechange @milouness
  8. 8. Approach through an Adjacency Often, the best way to approach hard change is through an adjacency. Find an area, if you can, that is important to the organization—that suits their values—that you can use to package your own idea or some portion of them.
  9. 9. Lesson 5 #survivechange @milouness
  10. 10. Gain and KEEP Allies! As a change agent it should never be about your ego. In fact, the first priority of a change agent is to make their idea someone else’s idea. And it’s not just enough to gain allies— you have to keep them as well. Sometimes you will have to modulate your ideas to keep your supporters on the change bus.
  11. 11. Lesson 6 #survivechange @milouness
  12. 12. Befriend Bureaucratic Black Belts Change agents tend to be dismissive of bureaucrats. This could be a big mistake because bureaucrats often have information that can help their ideas advance. Take a bureaucratic black belt to lunch.
  13. 13. Know when to Quit Always Speak your Truth Develop your Emotional Intelligence Being a change agent can be very hard and it is easy to underestimate the toll it can take on you. Communicate your ideas freely. You never know who might hear you and be influenced. Entrepreneurs often have keenly developed emotional intelligence. Successful change is not just about the brilliance of your idea—it’s also about the relationships you make.
  14. 14. The smartest person in the room is responsible for productive conversations Theological change is HARD! Change Agents must enjoy being uncomfortable Work through an Adjacency Make your idea Community Property Befriend Bureaucratic Black Belts Know when to Quit..or retreat…or just rest Always speak your Truth Develop your Emotional Intelligence #survivechange @milouness
  15. 15. The smartest person in the room is responsible for productive conversations Theological change is HARD! Change Agents must enjoy being uncomfortable Tell Stories, Appeal to Emotions Work through an Adjacency Avoid the Athena Complex Make your idea Community Property Some conflict is good and productive Befriend Bureaucratic Black Belts Spend more energy on practicalities Know when to Quit Don’t forget organizations value smoothness Always Speak your Truth Remember, the Status Quo owns the measuring stick Develop your Emotional Intelligence #survivechange @milouness carmen@REBELSATWORK.COM
  16. 16. #survivechange @milouness Art by John Conroy

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