20 May Your ABC(D) Guide To Being An Agent Of Change
Change is an interesting word. Depending on who you ask in your industry of choice, change can either be welcomed with open arms or send people fleeing. In a dramatically entitled Forbes article from 2017, writer Sam Page leads off with “Adapt Or Die”. While incredibly blunt, those words ring incredibly true. In the higher education sector, it’s most certainly gotten to that point.
For me, being an agent of change is in my work DNA. If you ever wanted to peek at my LinkedIn or reviewed my resume for a job, it would become clear that I am not brought in to keep the status quo. Over the last decade, I’ve used the ideas of disruption and change to impact the higher education institutions I’ve worked at. My passion is making an impact on the student experience, and that experience is quickly changing. You can state the case for any other industry as well, from retail to fashion and beyond.
Change does not come easy, though. In most cases, change agents walk into an environment entrenched in its traditions and current ways of business. According to the Harvard Business Review, 60-70% of change undertaken in organizations fails. But- there is a path forward. As a young professional (especially one that’s labeled as a millennial), I’ve found that using the guide below has allowed me to successfully make an impact in my roles. The ABC(D) guide below can also be applied to various different industries as well!
Change can go bad quickly without truly knowing what the culture of your company is like. The line that most often makes change agents cringe is “This is always how it’s been done here”; and while it’s certainly frustrating, it also holds substantial weight. Change ultimately begins with what currently exists, and if you do not have an understanding of the work culture, environment and the past, you may not have the reasoning you need to move forward.
The best agents of change are relationship management experts. One cannot bring change to your company without the support and buy-in of colleagues. Much like assessing, if you do not have the proper support, change will lead to nothing but heartache and failure. Build your network of allies and create a coalition of individuals that not only believe in your vision, but have also bought in. Bringing on the right influencers (as we see every day with social media) can make or break change.
There is no C in change without communication. A smart agent of change can properly articulate their vision and have a plan moving forward. During the assessing stage, asking the right questions allows you to dive deep into the company’s current state of affairs. Being able to also state your reason for change along with your vision can assist in building your change coalition. And once your plan is all set, your ability to communicate next steps the grand stage will determine your path forward!
The millennial in me wants instant gratification. The change agent in me knows that real change is wrapped up in the long game, and does not come overnight. Realizing this from the beginning will add a genuine layer to your attempt to make a difference within your company. Without dedication to the cause and the willingness to do the work, how can you properly assess the past and present, build a group of colleagues who believe in your intent, and communicate your plan and vision? Stay the course, and consistently review strategy and implementation.
Be the Optimist
One of my favorite quotes ever (my e-mail signature since the beginning of my career!) is from Winston Churchill.
“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
If you think about it, it’s an excellent rationale to use with the guide above. Combine an opportunistic mindset with a passion for making an impact in your industry and maybe you’ll be the next great agent of change.
Scott A. Siegel-Ortiz is a well-rounded higher education professional with over 10 years of dedication to the development and success of students. Born and raised in the Bronx, NYC, Scott is a product of the public school system. He is also a first generation college student. Scott went on to receive his BA in Communications from the College of Mount Saint Vincent and his MA in Higher Education Administration from Stony Brook University.
His passion for making an impact knows no boundaries. He is constantly striving to reach the next level while encouraging his students to do the same. He currently serves as the Associate Director of Student Life & Engagement at the Columbia University Business School where he focuses on building community through quality student engagement programming and leadership development that focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion. Scott also loves long walks down the aisles of Target and likes to post lots of pics of his cats on social media.
Want more of Scott? Watch his episode of SKTV about being a boss and having a boss at the same time.