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The Way of the Change Agent

Now more than ever, the world needs masters of change.

All that was civilized and predictable has become a Wild West.

For you, who forge new order, stop the bleeding, and make new growth possible – I am sharing this excerpt from the upcoming Change Agent’s Cookbook. It will provide you with some mythical support. Don’t scoff at the notion of mythical support. Myths are some of the most powerful tools in the change agent’s arsenal. In this case, you’ll take sustenance from the mythic archetype of the Fixer:

We know the end:

You’re respected.
You’re respected because you respect yourself.
You respect yourself because you know what to do to actually deliver on the promises.
You respect yourself because you know how to think, you know what questions to ask, you understand what the answers mean.
You respect yourself because you’re not just a specialist – you can talk business, brand, design-thinking, creativity, behavior change, data, media, technology, boards of directors, ceos, management teams — everything that adds up to growth.
You are respected because you are able to show up as a master of change, in flow and having fun.
Your confidence and positive energy are attractors.
You are the embodiment of inspiring action.
Here’s the beginning:

You have a WAY. You have a process, a procedure, a consistent way of operating

The Way of the Change Agent.

“Be regular and orderly in your life so you can be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert

We’re obsessed with “fixer” characters. These are true professionals who show up and take charge, resolving seemingly unsolvable situations.

Harvey Keitel’s Winston “The Wolf” Wolfe from Pulp Fiction is a classic fixer character. Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad is another quietly imposing fixer. Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington in Scandal, is billed as “D.C.’s greatest fixer.”

There are so many more iconic fixers. Sherlock Holmes, of course. Jodi Foster in Inside Man. Julia Roberts’s Erin Brockovich in Erin Brockovich, George Clooney as Michael Clayton in Michael Clayton. If you haven’t seen the classic scene in which fixer Alec Baldwin as Blake attempts to straighten out a pack of sad-sack salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross, go to YouTube and watch that right now. It’s the origin of the phrase, “Coffee is for closers!” Better yet, see the whole movie.

From their first entrance, our eyes track these characters like stalker ex-boyfriends. What makes them so mesmerizing is their competence and elegant confidence. They do their job with very little wasted movement. Like Jonathan Bank’s Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad and George Clooney’s Michael Clayton, they also bring the humility and realism that should come from experience. Yet they can be brutally frank when necessary.

They can also puff themselves up into larger, scarier beasts when required to establish dominance in the service of good order. This is what is so brilliant about “The Wolf” sequence in Pulp Fiction. Keitel’s character is as polite and officious as Gustavo “Gus” Fring can be in his Pollos Hermanos apron on Breaking Bad. But, when he needs to establish who’s boss, he becomes momentarily forbidding before returning to normal size again and complementing the coffee. Alec Baldwin as Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross infuses this character with a striking realism – we know that there are Blakes in the real world and that they are one reason salesmen die. Blake also represents the brutal logic of the fixer – the fixer only does what works, even if it hurts.

As Master Change Agents, we embody the archetype of the Fixer, with a little bit of magic thrown in.

A Fixer is, first, a professional of the highest order. What makes many of these characters interesting is that their professions are often seedy or at least morally ambiguous, not expected to be “professions” at all. The professionalism that they bring to such things as cleaning up lawyer’s messes, making political scandals go away, “cleaning” gory crime scenes and bringing rapacious salesmen into line is what makes for great drama. It works because it rings with an insight about the human condition – that we can develop professional ethics even where they are absurd. We respect professional ethics even when we can’t condone the results.

So, as a master change agent, you will be ready to show up professional in all situations. We’ll also be careful to work toward worthy results.

Fixers are also Tricksters, going beyond professionalism to work a little magic in the course of their work. The order of the Fixer’s method leads to epiphanies and flashes of brilliance.

Master Change Agents are regular and orderly in their methods so that they can be violent and original in their work.