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Agents of Aspiration – Agents of Change

“What is your theory of change?”

The room went silent as the participants paused in reflection.

“If you are to lead others, you need to know what your theory of change is. What contributes to helping people change? We know we want change. But how do you make it happen?”

Trevor Waldock, one of my leadership gurus, was leading a group of leaders-in-training for Emerging Leaders and raised these simple questions to the group. Questions I have reflected on since. And, he is right. If we are to lead others, which will almost certainly involve change, then we need to understand the things we do to help people buy into the journey of change. Aspiration has, at its core, the concept of change. Aspiration is about moving to something greater, better. If we are to help people aspire, if we are to be ‘Agents of Aspiration’, then we need to be ‘Agents of Change’.

Models of change

There are many business models about change and change theory. A quick google will come up with ‘Kotter’s Theory of Change’, ‘Bridges Model of Change’ and the ‘Nudge Theory of Change’. Each one has helpful concepts to help us understand what we need in place to help people change and aspire. As leaders, we are the catalyst for this change and aspiration. We have a key role to facilitate the situation; to make it more conducive for people to aspire.

The Bridge Theory explains the 3 parts to change. 1. Ending; 2. Neutral; 3. New beginning.

1. When we take people through change, they will mourn the ending of something familiar. In these moments they need empathy and time.

2. In the messy middle, they will have resentment and so need direction, short-term goals and wins to boost morale.

3. As the new beginning reveals its promise, energy will rise and it is time to help them see how they can contribute, and to celebrate the wins.

Kotter Theory explains 3 stages for us as leaders. 1. Create the climate for change; 2. Enabling the organisation; 3. Sustaining the change

1. We create the climate when we help people understand the reason and urgency for change.

2. We enable people when we help empower them and help them to see the wins.

3. We embed the change when we model and reiterate what makes it stick.

Taking a different approach, the Nudge Theory takes a more indirect route. It suggests 1. Define the change; 2. Work one to one; 3. Engage people in choices

1. When we passionately paint a picture that engages with people’s ‘why’ it creates an attractive route.

2. Work alongside people, tailoring the message to them and help them to see what they can contribute.

3. Limit the obstacles to their involvement and provide them with simple choices on how they can be involved.

If we are to be an ‘Agent of Aspiration’, these models can help us with our theory of change.

1. Create an attractive vision of what things could look like. Make the aspiration something worth traveling to.

2. Honour what they are letting go of. It was something that helped up until now, but something new is needed now. Show an empathy for what they will leave behind.

3. Create a good climate of support. Remove the obstacles that you can.

4. Work alongside people to see how they can buy into the change.

Understand the emotions

Aspiring to something new involves change. As such, it will evoke an emotional response as people deal with the transition. As leaders, we need emotional intelligence to understand what the emotions are telling us. Many people struggle to verbalise how they feel and the emotions you see need translating. This is where I find my favourite model of ‘Knoster’s Model of Complex Change’ so helpful.

When you see the emotion on the right hand side, it is telling you what they need to help them make the change, to continue the journey of aspiring to something new.

When you see

· Confusion – needs the vision clarified for them

· Anxiety – they need help seeing the skills they have to achieve this or help developing the skills to make the change possible for them

· Resistance – there is not enough of an incentive for them. So, what will help make it worth it for them?

· Frustration – they need some things to help them make the change

· Treadmill – it looks like there is no end. Help them plan the steps

Being an Agent of Aspiration, an agent of change, is not about a one-off dramatic vision-casting exercise. It is about the long haul and working with people. Detecting the emotions that we see, and stepping into what they are telling us, will enable us to help people continue the journey of aspiration.

To be an ‘Agent of Aspiration’ is a great privilege as a leader. To paint the picture of something better and help people work towards it can be life transforming for people.


Can we help you?

How is it going for your team? Do you need help working out what is needed to help the team keep aspiring? We can help you with one-to-one coaching to discover what is needed or work with you and your team to help everyone gain clarity. Give us a call on 01449 710438 if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you and your team.

Everyday Leader is here to empower, inspire and equip you to do that. If we can help you find a way forward, through coaching, training or consultancy, do let us know. Contact us now:


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