Support Structures for Change Agents

A few years ago when I was working in a large organization helping a 1600-ish person department with a change, I had a few of those days that I think we’ve all had at some point. I had a day of meetings scheduled and every single one was canceled by the time I got to work.

I checked my mail, had 12 coffees, walked around to see if anyone I was supposed to have meetings with had time, and updated our big visible change wall. At this point, I ran out of things to do. I’ve talked to many change agents all over the world who’ve had similar problems:

  • What do you do when you’re waiting for change to happen?
  • How do you deal with the pressure from above when there’s nothing left to push?
  • Should you invent something to do just to look busy?
  • What happens when this becomes a pattern?

All organizations have a natural pace of change and in this case, progress was much slower than I, or the stakeholders, wanted. Of course, being the change agent, my opinion doesn’t matter too much, it’s their organization!

In another organization, our change team would spend weeks helping people with the change we were working on only to have 1 disruptive manager tear everything down in one meeting with her peers. We’re left picking up the pieces and to be honest, we were quite pissed. At least, in this case, we had each other. We could go out for a drink, go for a walk and vent, and otherwise blow off steam. Let’s leave how to handle that situation out for now, because this month, our community theme is Self-Care and Support Structures for Change Agents.

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5 Tips for Building Support Structures

Exercise: In today’s world, work-life fusion is becoming increasingly popular. In the past, we were asked to leave ourselves at home and send our professional representative to work, but not anymore. Successful business are ones that encourage people to bring their whole selves to work. Psychology Today reports that mental illness is on the rise as people are constantly bombarded with social media and asked to do more with less. Exercise not only helps you physically but mentally as well.

12-Steps to Happiness: Management 3.0 suggests there are 12 steps, backed by science, that increase engagement, and happiness. Check out the full list here.

Meditation and Journaling:  I frequently use journals throughout any coaching or consulting engagement. It helps me express my thoughts, and more importantly, let off steam in a private way. Elizabeth Scott recently wrote about other coping strategies for stress.

Find a Local Meetup: There are tens of thousands of groups on, this is a great way to find other like-minded change agents to connect with!

Culture Hacking: In my workshops, we practise a technique called Culture Hacking. While you may not end up actually doing these hacks, it’s a great way to blow off steam.

Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing tips and ideas on how to build support structures for change agents through various stories and interviews with various coaches. Sometimes we forget about how important self-care is, especially when you feel like you’re the only one responsible for a change. 

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