How to find a change agent
If you’re not getting the marketing results you need, you may need a change agent. Or, take on the role of change agent yourself.
To find hidden change agents among your team, look for these 4 behaviors:
1. Change agents question everything
Change agents exhibit relentlessly curiosity. They obsess about customers. They learn all they can about products and services, the company and competitors.
Their reflex is to question assumptions, facts and received knowledge. They ask out loud whether a team is using the best approach, content or process.
Change agents question authority and ask the questions no one else dares to ask. Asking great questions can make them into the experts that others turn to for answers.
Change agents never say, “That’s not how we do things around here,” or “We tried that two years ago and it didn’t work.” That’s because change agents value inquiry and learning more than conformity and obedience.
2. Change agents have a clear purpose
A pure customer focus can move mountains. Change agents obsess over customers.
By infusing that clear and consistent purpose into their work, change agents invite others to follow their path.
Change agents discover purpose by seeing the world through the eyes of customers and working to understand their pain points, needs and buying journeys.
That’s how they deliver content and programs that fit customers like a glove.
3. Change agents seek forgiveness, not permission
Especially when they’re new to an organization, change agents use their “new guy” license to test the limits.
Or, an enlightened executive can grant them a change license. That’s what happened to me in my first 6 months at Ameritech, a Fortune 50 company.
I’ll never forget meeting the CEO of Ameritech for the first time. It was on the morning I issued a news release about Ameritech winning a multimillion-dollar deal with EDS.
Minutes after the release crossed the wire, my phone rang. It was the CEO, Dick Notebaert, whom I’d never met.
He got straight to the point: he hated a couple of phrases in the release. I replied, “Dick, I hated those too. But that’s what the customer approved.”
“Do you have the draft of the news release before the customer edited it?” he asked. Sure. “Bring that draft and the one you issued up to my office right away.”
I’d never seen his office. I rushed upstairs. Dick read both releases quickly, then said, “I like the original one better. Why didn’t you put this one out?”
“Dick, the customer wouldn’t approve that draft. I put out the draft they approved.”
“So, why didn’t you call me?”
“Because my boss told me never to call you.”
“You gotta break the rules. I’m counting on you.”
He made it clear: my job was to figure out the task and get it done somehow, no matter what my boss said.
That’s when it hit me. After many years in command-and-control companies, places where you follow orders strictly, I had transplanted into an entrepreneurial culture at Ameritech – but hadn’t changed the way I worked.
That was a pivotal moment in my career. Dick entrusted me with all the authority I needed to run my function, even offering a license to exceed the limits my boss set.
Luckily, for the 8 of the next 9 years, I worked closely with Dick at Ameritech and Tellabs. Of all the 52 bosses in my corporate career, I learned the most from him.
4. Change agents learn, learn, learn
Marketers face new challenges, new buyer behaviors and new technologies every day. Change agents seek to learn at every opportunity by:
- Reading the best books, blogs and websites about marketing
- Attending local professional association meetings
- Participating in national marketing conferences.
To learn how to navigate the changes ahead, join me at the Business Marketing Association (BMA) conference. It’s now called the 2017 Masters of B2B Marketing Presented by ANA’s Business Marketing Association, on May 31-June 2 in Chicago.
As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.