Org Change Consultant, Change Thyself
At the end of a planning or skill-building session, a good facilitator will ask “what are you going to do differently when you leave this room?” People make lists. Some of them do some of the things on those lists.
But there is always a point where maintaining the status quo is easier than behaving in a new way. A point where deep and lasting change will either happen, or it won’t. More realistically there are many of those points. Budgeting can be one. So can responding to resistant behavior from a team member. Handling unanticipated questions can get you as well.
There’s no neon sign that says “if you’re serious, turn here” or, on the other hand, “failure this way.” We can justify making the easy familiar choice just this once. But here’s the thing. The choice matters every single time. Because it’s never just once, and the impact of those choices builds up over time. Either you are choosing to reinforce the change, or you are letting things slip back to the way they were before.
I’m living this right now in my journey from health plan exec to org change consultant. I’ve made many bold decisions already – leaving a company I’d been with for 15 years, starting a solo gig instead of looking for a traditional position, focusing on my passion for change and organizational development instead of defining my future by job titles from my past. So far so good.
Where the rubber met the road was when I took my fledgling consultancy out into the world and let people know what I was all about.
As I talk to people about my work, it makes sense to some and less sense to others. Not surprising.
I’d noticed that I was tailoring my language and enthusiasm based on my audience. Makes sense.
But it was starting to come at the cost of presenting my true and best self. Uh oh.
I had to ask myself: Am I going to do this? Am I going to stop guessing what others want me to say and start saying what I think? Am I going to share my own experience and beliefs and vulnerabilities and see what happens? Am I going to choose change?
No way, said the sneaky hyper-vigilant voice that’s always lurking in my head. My sneaky voice is soft-spoken, but it has strong opinions, and is never off duty. Sneaky voices hate change.
Fortunately I have access to some other perspectives. I listen to my coach, who helps me notice these moments and return to my best self before taking action. And I listen to colleagues who remind me daily why I’m on this path. One told me “I’m not really afraid of much anymore.” Another told me how being willing to talk about his belief in creativity, harmony, and spirit had allowed him to have an amazing life (he told me this from Mexico where he spends several months each year). You cannot talk to these people and not be inspired. They are the antidote to my sneaky voice.
So back to my choices – do I speak honestly and directly about what I believe, or not? Do I live into this change, or do I stick with what feels easy and familiar?
I’m betting you have faced some version of this choice as you lead changes in your organization. How can you recognize the moments where the change could get stuck? What behaviors or decisions are needed to build momentum? Where are the voices of fear or inertia or confusion getting in the way of progress, and what supports you to keep going anyway?
Speaking for myself, this blog is my first step. Don’t tell my sneaky voice I hit the “publish” button.
*These amazing people are, in order, Marcia Hyatt, Allie Wilkinson, and Jay Vogt. Check them out!