This is the second post in a series, Global Leadership Development: a Transformation Journey. Access the first post here: Leadership Development for Everyone in the Company…Yes, for Everyone.
If you are committed to achieving a cultural transformation journey within your organization, no process, as perfect as it can be, will replace the need for change agents to make it sustainable in the long run. Call them “change agents”, “transformation leaders”, “internal coaches” or whatever fancy name you can find, their commitment goes beyond just “playing a role” in the endeavor. In fact, what you are asking from these people is to embark on a personal transformation adventure.
What it takes to become a genuine change agent
“You got the title, you got some training and the bible of the new culture. Now, go in the field and bring the gospel to the masses!” Yes, sure! Now, if change agents take on the mission seriously, they have to confront whether they will be effective and if they can genuinely embody the new culture to a level that surpasses what is expected of any other employee. Their peers and colleagues will scrutinize them as role models of the new culture. It takes authenticity and humility to course correct at any moment and to acknowledge mistakes, as change agents also learn to implement the new culture in their job while explaining it to the rest of the organization.
The cornelian dilemma of change agents
The game becomes really serious when change agents face the challenge of confronting their boss, a senior director, the General Manager, or even the CEO for not being true to the new culture. Either they can play it safe and risk having all their efforts ruined by the discredit brought when a senior manager violates the commitment of the organization to the new culture, or they act and risk being sacked for their effrontery, when not saved by a more senior manager acknowledging their courage and backing them up.
A big commitment could bring a high payback
While training and coaching dozens of change agents in a recent cultural transformation initiative, we noticed their accelerated growth as professionals, which was often recognized by the organization through valuable promotions. All of these change agents took on this mission in addition to their current job. In spite of their increased workload, most of them reported having totally changed their relationship to their organization: their leadership was demonstrated to their colleagues, they were able to network with and know a much larger array of colleagues, and their sense of purpose in being a professional was enhanced by the difference they made in their colleagues’ life.