Fast Company

The Change Leader's MVPs

A select group of people brings any change initiative to life.  I call these people, the Most Valuable Players (MVPs). They are not always friends.  They do not always have clout, political power, or resources. But, they are powerful in the truest sense of the word and deserve respect. MVPs midwife the future leaders work so hard to realize. 

In sports an MVP is often isolated from the team, recognized for the prowess and performance that goes beyond team playing and exceptional individual achievement. But, in a change initiative, MVPs include every person of influence, anyone who plays for the cause. 

Make no mistake: change depends on people. The action people take is the performance that makes things happen. MVPs are human beings, blood and guts: hearts, minds, and hands. Treat them respectfully and appropriately to increase the valuable impact they wield. The ability to wring results from an uncertain future is theirs. 

Some MVPs will emerge completely unsolicited. You may never even meet them. Instead you will hear about them far outside your own sphere of action. When change travels far and wide and out paces you and your team, they are your unsung heros.  

MVPs come in all roles and functions. They make their appearance up, down, and across the hierarchy. Some make the cut through the resources they command or their political clout. Others earn it by delivering powerful results through other means. Here are 14 categories of MVPs to consider: Political Leaders, Policy Makers, Resource Providers (time, people, money), Influencers, Thought Leaders, Technical Experts, Researchers & Academicians, Practical Visionaries, Front Line Executers, Partners, Alliance, Supplier, Competitor, and Detractors.

Detractors? Detractors are often maligned and so deserve some special elaboration. In brief, Bring your detractors in the front door, or they will come in the back door and bite you in the butt! Here are three benefits engaging with detractors can bring to you: (i) They may educate you on your weaknesses. Then, you can fortify and bolster your position by addressing the areas they identify. (ii)Some convert and become staunch supporters. Remember Paul of Tarsus. (iii) If others appreciate your efforts, you may become a magnet by virtue of your willingness meet with critics. Some detractors will respect you for this as well. Though they may not support your primary effort, they can become partners in other helpful ways.

All of the MVPs together form the web of support that yields and sustains transformation.  They are the social network behind every successful change.

Seth Kahan (Seth@VisionaryLeadership.com) is a Change Leadership specialist. He has consulted with CEOs and executives in over 50 world-class organizations that include Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps, Marriott, Prudential, American Society of Association Executives, International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association, Project Management Institute, and NASA. He is the founder of Seth Kahan’s CEO Leaders Forum, a community of CEOs working together to innovate through the current economy. His next book, Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out, will be published in Spring 2010 by Jossey-Bass. Visit his other blogs, GettingChangeRight.com for more info on the upcoming book and FreelanceFortune.com for tips on the art of success for freelancers.  Follow Seth on Twitter. Fast link to this blog: SethFast.com. Learn more about Seth's work at VisionaryLeadership.com.

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