Change Management

The Unlikely Evangelist

Update: Sometime in late September 2016, someone drove a vehicle over the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley, apparently thinking that the worlds “public land” meant that he, as a member of the public, was entitled to destroy the natural phenomenon so that other members of the public would not get to see what he had seen. Rain will clear the vandalism but the amount of rain required will take decades to fall, given that Death Valley is so parched naturally. Please enjoy this photo of what the apparently magically moving rocks looked like before he ruined them – and please speak out to your kids, friends, strangers, anyone who you can reach and tell them that being a member of a civilized society means understanding that we are all one and that no individual’s personal desires entitle him to diminish the rights of others. You won’t be evangelizing Death Valley so much as what it means to be a responsible human being who cares for the well-being of others but this unfortunate news is a good, non-violent example even my nephew and nieces can understand.

Original Post: My Significant Other (SO) is really picky about where we go on vacations. Due to the nature of his work (firefighting), we don’t get to travel during the summer (known in our house as “fire season”). Plus, we both need to de-stress big time. Usually, that means he wants to go to the middle of nowhere. The images in this post, for example, are from Death Valley. However, most of these out of the way places turn out to be amazing.


They are usually so amazing, in fact that we end up telling everyone we know  — as well as poor random strangers we run into at the grocery store or wherever – about the awesome self-moving rocks at Death Valley’s “Racetrack Playa” , seeing a 10 point buck in the parking lot of the remote Prince of Wales Hotel on the way to the beach behind the hotel to see the bear everyone was talking about, or digging up fossils in the badlands of South Dakota with research scientists.  We have become evangelists for places that most people would call “the ends of the earth.”

Most marketing people hear evangelist and think of Guy Gawasaki when he was promoting Apple’s Macintosh line. However, being an evangelist just means the head cheerleader, someone who creates a critical mass of people who understand and support something down to their bones. Change management specialist find, however, that not every CEO or CMO wants to be – or is currently capable of being – an evangelist. How do you change this?

Get Buy In

Benchmark data shows that employees most want to hear about the change from their manager and the organization’s leader. That may be why active and visible executive sponsorship was identified as the number one contributor to successful changes and lack of it (i.e., abdicating messaging to surrogates) as the biggest obstacle to success. Active and visible support – referencing the transformation’s latest progress in every meeting and internal speech, recording a message to be played at the end of a training, etc. – takes a great deal of time out of an executive’s normal work. However, as the CEO of Infosys stated, “You have to sacrifice yourself first for a big cause before you can ask others to do the same.” That same article from McKinsey & Company that cited the Infosys CEO states that organizations with senior leaders who devoted up to fifty percent of their time to supporting the change were more than twice as likely to have successful transformations. Share this and similar data with your reluctant evangelist.

Prepare Your Spokesperson

No one wants to face a challenge unprepared, especially if they’re reluctant to devote time to the project anyway. Do everything you can to prepare your spokesperson. There are detailed toolkits available from change management consultants that might be worth looking at if you don’t have internal experience in preparing executive spokespersons or in change management. The basics include developing all necessary messaging and talking points, both high level and specific ones for whatever audience the executive is talking to. Provide answers to potentially difficult questions that might come up. Make sure that your spokesperson knows about any recent changes or issues that have come up and how you are or plan to handle them.


If the executive isn’t good at live presentations or phone calls or just needs help delivering the message effectively, consider getting him/her some professional media training. Doing what is essentially public relations services for your executive may not be glamorous but, I can tell you from having been the media relations support person to some of the tech industry’s greatest minds, it is essential to help them connect to an audience that often entirely different from them.

Use Time Effectively

I’ve mentioned before that change management requires you communicate messages again and again and again and then again a few more times in order for the other person to really get it and that this repetition has to heard consistently from all stakeholders in a single, consistent message. However, you need to do this effectively or your executive will balk at “wasting” his time. Face to face is always ranked as one of the best ways to communicate and it would be great to have live “Town Hall” sessions with the leader answering questions live. Often, though, it is impractical to do one in each location around the world where you have an office. Instead, perhaps host a live session in the office with the most people and stream it online for others.

In the same way, brief the person who helps write the executive’s speeches, blog, and other employee communication so

that the appropriate messaging is “automatically” integrated into materials. Use one to many techniques from the evangelist, such as recorded messages to all employee phones, monthly email updates to all employees, a video or even written message at the end of online training sessions, and so on. If you make the effort to maximize the executive’s time, you’ll be a lot more likely to be given the time you need.

Share Results & Adapt

Periodically, run an assessment of ow well your messaging is getting through. See if the need for the change is clear, whether the change is seen as a logical outgrowth of organizational culture (the context in which change management is most likely to be accepted), if the department-level change in behaviors are clear, and so on. Change your messaging if things are unclear. Change your communications tactics if understanding varies between teams. Communicate all of this to your evangelist so he/she is prepared to represent the change and address its underlying reasons.

Comment welcome, especially examples of how you engaged your executive sponsor in the role of transformation evangelist.

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