Carol Kinsey Goman

Article Summary:

Ten questions managers must answer to be an effective change agent.

How to Be a Change Agent

Managers wanting to effect change, need to ask difficult questions of themselves before they set out to “shake things up” for others.

Question #1 – What is the employees’ perspective?
To mobilize a work force to transform itself, leaders must know what people in the organization are thinking, must encourage them to articulate their points of view and their concerns, and must be ready to respond to them sincerely.

Question #2 – Did you “set the stage” for change?
Leaders must encourage employees to join a constant questioning of the prevailing business assumptions — and to be ready to act upon new opportunities early in the game to maintain a competitive advantage.

Question #3 – Are you tracking employee perceptions throughout the change?
George Bernard Shaw once said that the problem with communication is “the illusion that it has been accomplished.” When it comes to communicating change, leadership must be especially careful not to suffer that illusion.

Question #4 – Are you giving honest answers to tough questions?
In the light of economic realities that offer little in the way of job security, employees must be able to rely on their employer to give them honest information that will allow them to make informed choices about their own jobs, careers and futures.

Question #5 – Can you answer the most important question: What’s in it for them?
The question I hear most often about change is “What’s in it for me?”

Question #6 – Is your communication “behavior-based?”
For today’s skeptical employee audience, rhetoric without action quickly disintegrates into empty slogans and company propaganda. In the words of Sue Swenson, president of Leap Wireless, “What you do in the hallway is more powerful than anything you say in the meeting room.”

Question #7 – Is it your vision or our vision?
If the vision belongs only to top management, it will never be an effective force for transformation. The power of a vision comes truly into play only when the employees themselves have had some part in its creation.

Question #8 – Can you paint the little picture?
Vision is the big picture and it is crucial to the success of the enterprise. But along with the big picture, people also need the little picture Question #9 – Are you emotionally literate?
Large-scale organizational change almost invariably triggers the same sequence of reactions: denial, negativity, a choice point, tentative acceptance, commitment. Leadership can either facilitate this emotional process, or ignore it at the peril of the transformation effort.

Question #10 – Do you know what shouldn’t change?
The greatest challenge for leaders is to know the difference between what has to be preserved and what needs to be changed.

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., coaches executives, facilitates management retreats, helps change teams develop strategies, and delivers keynote speeches and seminars to association and business audiences around the world. She is the author of nine business books, including: “The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work,”   “This Isn’t the Company I Joined: How to Lead in a Business Turned Upside Down,”   and “Managing in the Global Organization.”   Carol can be reached by phone: 510-526-1727, or through her website:

Read all advice by Carol Kinsey Goman; Find more Management experts

More advice on Management
» Business Success by Trusting Intuition
» Employee Engagement Strategies
» all Management articles