Episode 39: The Challenge of Change: Our Top 5 Lessons Learned


Change is both a constant and a challenging part of our professional lives. Leading change and managing change are different skills, and learning to navigate both processes successfully is essential to long term leadership success. Tune in to hear Jeff and Jennifer’s Top 5 Lessons Learned. With both Success Stories and Pitfalls to Avoid, these lessons in change are gleaned from Voltage Leadership’s most successful and challenging client engagements.

Jennifer Owen-O’Quill, Leadership Director for Voltage Leadership Consulting, is an executive coach, facilitator, organizational consultant and leadership guru. With 25 years of leadership experience across a broad range of industries, she has coached leaders and their teams to execute institutional culture change through effective organizational management and leadership development. Some of Jennifer’s clients include: Carilion Clinic, WDBJ-7, Fenway Sports Group, Novozymes Biologicals, Yokohama Tires, Canatal Steel, Polymer Solutions, Interactive Achievement, Corvesta and the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. Not-for-profit clients include Washington and Lee University, Goodwill Industries, Habitat for Humanity, New Horizon’s Healthcare, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwestern VA, and CMR Institute. Jennifer coaches professionals in firms in the Southeast and across the country, including Abbott Laboratories, Baker McKenzie, and Kirkland & Ellis.


Jeff: Welcome. This is Jeff Smith and I’m so glad you could be here today with us. Well we have cast our great Jennifer Owen-O’Quill. We’re sitting right next to each other. Jennifer, welcome. It’s great to see you. Jennifer has been teaching all morning and I’ve had a couple of coaching sessions so haven’t had a chance to say hi to you so welcome.

Jennifer: Hello and we’re going through a lot of change this week ourselves personally and professionally so it’s fun to be here and have this conversation.

Jeff: That’s the theme of the day. The challenge of change our top five lessons learned so Jennifer works at Voltage and does some—just amazing work facilitating, coaching, speaking, strategic planning and so I’m looking forward to hearing her lessons learned around change and I’m sure I’ll throw in a few along the way as well. We are live today so if you’d like to get in touch with us call 1-866-472-5788. You can also send us an email.

I’ll check it a couple of times throughout the show at Jeff@VoltageLeadership.com. Our website is VoltageLeadership.com as well as you can like us on Facebook at Voltage Leadership or you can connect with me at Jeff Smith Voltage Leadership Consulting on LinkedIn as well as connect with Jennifer Owen-O’Quill on LinkedIn. You can follow me on Twitter @VoltageLeaders. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about a few changes going on in our world.

Jennifer and I beforehand we’re listening to some music and she was her favorite change song here was Ball of Confusion by The Temptations so we’re going old school so we’re having some fun with that. I told her what mine is We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel, just the chaos of that song. Plus if you listen to the lyrics in 1980s you could almost lift them and put them into 2017, but probably my all-time favorite is changes by David Bowie and you know just love that and I wish David was still around. He’d be producing some more music for us.

Some changes going on this week for me. My oldest daughter, Olivia graduates from high school Friday morning at 9 AM so that’s a big change Jennifer you know.

Jennifer: That’s a big change.

We don’t really see the whole landscape of how one change in a person’s life affects the whole fabric of a family, but that is for sure true.

Jeff: You know we’ll get a real taste of it when she goes off to college in the fall to Duke University to study some engineering and almost immediately her younger brother will have his birthday and he’s already like, “Olivia won’t be here for my birthday.” It’s like, “Yes.” It all changes. I think that my second daughter, Caroline is the one to feel it the most because Olivia has been driving her to school.

She’s got to figure out a way to get to school for the first like four or five weeks before she starts driving. We will be talking about change today. You know just a reminder too that June 15th our book will be out so you’ll be able to buy it on Amazon and other places, but if you want to reserve a copy, you can go to VoltageLeadership.com and you can see the book there. You can pre-order it. Again, the book is from Aha to All In: Life Lessons from an Unexpected Entrepreneur and so we’ll be having John on the show in July to talk about some of the lessons that he learned and some of our best practices that we learned even right in the book so here we go.

Let’s talk about change that we’re seeing and what do we see in the world, so you know I guess Jennifer let’s start from you know what made you think about—talking about this today on the show.

Jennifer: Well I find that the pace of change is intense out there in the world and there’s a lot of instability and uncertainty in many organizations that we work in for a variety of reasons and dealing with that creates this interesting tension of wow any of a variety of changes might take place. There are 15 directions we might have to pivot to and we’re not pivoting to any of them so there’s this odd tension now, but people can feel under current of we’re preparing for change and I don’t know which way I’m going to be going. Then there’s some other organizations where the change is coming very quickly and so both of those—in both of those situations the thought of wow there is a lot that people are dealing with right now as that’s both that they come in with our world is changing and it feels rapidly.

I just think people are walking into the workplace coping with change let alone the change is there.

Jeff: Never mind. It could look like I’m resisting some sort of change that you’re bringing up to me in the workplace when it may have nothing to do with that. It just made me like oh my gosh you know I’ve got to deal with you know my mom you know needing healthcare or you know the kids are going off to a new school or six other things that have happened before we even get into the workplace. Much less now in the workplace we are changing faster and faster.

We’re being asked to work on new types of software. I work with people all around the world, have people that are virtually based and be able to somehow and must get all that change to get the best results possible. You know we’re going to title this you know The Challenge of Change: Our Top Five Lessons Learned. Where do you want to go next? Do you want to start with some lessons or do you want to shape up change first? Where would you like to go?

Jennifer: I think I’d like to start with a principle.

Principles like something to keep in mind.

Jeff: Okay well good, go for it.

Jennifer: Whenever we want to navigate change to me there needs to be a north—a true north in that and the true north isn’t just the vision. The true north is also what’s stays the same. What’s the touchstone for people? As you’re thinking about all the things the world that it could be, that it should be, the business that you want to pursue.

The organization of the future, we’re all very—as leaders often engaged by that to really attend to and begin with. What should stay the same? What are really the things that matter that ground us. What are the ground rules of how we’re going to be together?

What are the things that people can count on? That’s the beginning for really what to change. Knowing that there’s a place to tether yourself while everything is changing. The Smith family is still the Smith family and we still have the same values and we’ll be together at Christmas, right? Those are the things that you can look forward to that you can set out these things will change and there’s a lot of other things that are moving around. Focusing that tension on the things that will remain the same is a helpful way to open a doorway to the possibilities of what then can change.

Jeff: I love that so you’re saying she’s not coming home for Thanksgiving. Oh man, let me cry right here. No.

Jennifer: No. No. I don’t know, but I knew that I could count on her being over for Christmas.

Jeff: You know I think that’s a great one that I use often with my folks that I coach and the groups I interact with. It’s sometimes we get so hung up in the—there’s this little change or a mid-sized change, “Oh my God everything is changing.” It’s like hold on. Let’s talk about what’s not changing.

Let’s talk about hey you’re still working with the same group or you know here’s how we work together. Hey, understand that yes lots of change is coming and it happens. There is some stability. There are things that happen so that people can understand hey we’re going to try to break down this change in digestible pieces but look 80% of what you’re doing is still the same so let’s not get over worked up.

I like that as principle. What else do you got for us?

Jennifer: Ah well a tool for that is setting some ground rules. It isn’t just what’s going to stay the same in the organization, but how are we going to be together while we’re navigating this change.

What can I count on with you? You can pull up and do that. It takes five minutes. What do we need to do to be together?

Different teams might need different things. I was working with a group who was telling me that for each team that they have, they have the set of ground rules that is just for that team. It’s not the whole company has a set of expectations about how we’re going to be together, but this group works in this way. We need to accomplish these things and so this is how we’re going to be together. The specificity of it makes it real.

Jeff: Yes, I was just with a group this past weekend there they were over at Carilion and doing some strategic planning with the psychiatry area and what they were working on is how they’re going to get to their vision 20/20 so I know that’s a topic we’ll get to. Some vision and how do you navigate towards vision, but what was helpful too for them was they use this exercise. It comes from CCL Looking Glass Experience or Visual Explorer.

It took a picture of where are we today? Where will we be in 2020? Just being able to have the conversation about what’s the shared understanding of where are we today? Because we all are kind of are so busy. We’re going through our lives.

Do we have a shared understanding of even today? Before we introduced the changes and so you kind of use a concept called touchstone like where are we today right? Well I think it’s important for us to—before we go too far into change to say, “Okay, what’s our shared understanding?” Now what does it look like 2020 and you do this visually and then say, “Okay so we have a lot of different visions, but let’s start to share what are the commonalities of the vision and how do we get from the reality of today to the vision that they are that co-creating?” I think what was important was that they took a moment to say about today before they spent all their time into the future.

Jennifer: That’s really important and that shared understanding of current reality. You can’t really cast a vision about where you’re going if you don’t know what the differential is because you don’t know what you have before you.

Jeff: That’s right, yes. You know I think part of this is I use a tool that I’m sure we’ll talk about some other tools here along the way, but something called pre-mortem as well. It’s a little about what are some of the things that as we navigate the change it might go wrong. We spend a lot of time in the post mortem and we analyze—hard to change that, but the pre-mortem is you know as we’re starting to get a shared understanding what is it that we think might not work in the change.

Say that up front because we’re not emotional yet. We feel some things, but it actually hasn’t happened yet. I’ll give you an example. It’s possible that we might have to argue over resources three months from now.

When we hit that, let’s talk about it now when we’re not emotionally connected to the resource and we’re able to say, “When we hit that, we’re going to decide at this group setting and we’ll have a vote or we’re going to do you know.” It’s a matter of who requested it first. I don’t care what they say as much as it is. Let’s get ahead of it and know that we’re going to have conflict as change happens.

What are some of the things that we could expect and get in front of it? Being able to do a pre-mortem often will help a group get to thinking about well what are the possibilities and gets them a little bit more excited to knowing that we’ll deal with some of the conflict and we came up with a plan.

Jennifer: I love that. That is brilliant.

Jeff: I love it. Do you have any last tips before we go to a break here? Anything that you want to share?

Jennifer: I want to cover around this co-creating. We’ve thrown that word around a couple of times. I think that’s something important to come back to. What does that mean?

It sounds kind of soft and is that really a soft, fluffy or does that really mean something? What do you mean when you say co-create and what does—how do I apply that in my setting. You know when I’m leading my team or working with folks. Does that mean you just give the decision away or does that mean that everybody gets a say? Does that mean I’ll lose the power of the vision or what if the thing I need to have happen doesn’t happen?

Jeff: Let’s pick up that in two minutes. We’ll come back from a two-minute break and we’ll answer some questions about co-creating. We’ll be right back.


Jeff: Welcome back. I’m here today with Jennifer Owen-O’Quill from Voltage Leadership and we’re having a great conversation around the challenge of change and some of our top lessons learned. Right before the break Jennifer was asking about co-creation and what is it? Is that soft word and all of that?

You know the—so the definition of co-create is to do something jointly. You know create something jointly okay. When I think about that in the context of vision excuse me. It’s really about how do we get a group of people together.

It can be two. It can be five. It can be ten and we get our best ideas and there’s not one right way. There’s not one right path.

It is how do we come up with the best of both of what people are thinking about? Where do we need to take the company and considering everything? Your SWOT analysis to your strategic plan all of that, but it’s a conversation where there’s not the answer from one side of the other. It’s kind of that Venn Diagram of the stuff in the middle. You know in a Venn Diagram that’s co-creation.

Jennifer: That’s a great answer.

I like that answer and there is a way that you know it when it’s happening because everybody feels some ownership, but nobody is the owner.

Or the dictator of the vision.

Jeff: Yes, yes so that’s the—you know I think you see that there is engagement and there’s excitement and we’re probably getting the best ideas. What’s some of the downfalls or pitfalls that you might see in co-creation? It’s just easier for me to say, “Go do this.” Right?

Jennifer: I think it’s hard for people to have the thing that’s in their imagination get messed with. People really like—there’s something so pure about the idea that we have in our mind.

We could become very attached to those things. Yes, I find that people will really contend for a vision that they feel strongly for and there’s whole organizations that are built around we’re going to follow Bob.

It’s Bob’s way or the highway.

If you can’t figure out how to follow Bob, you won’t be successful here.

Jeff: Yes.

Jennifer: You’ll just follow Bob, but what happens when Bob is gone?

Jeff: You know and everyone who sees it, but Bob is the guy or the woman or whomever that leads, and will people speak up. Having worked with enough Bobs.

A layer below Bob the quick answer is do you really know? You know the—we tend to protect ourselves, so I think what to watch for on co-creating is making sure you have the right set of people right. It will take a little bit more time but allowing people so if you’re a leader that normally dictates and you’re used to be the guy or the woman that comes from on top of the mountain and brings down the vision. You know what’s going to happen is you might get some compliance, but you’re probably not going to get commitment.

It can become a flavor of the month. Like here’s what I want everyone to do. Everyone does it for about 27 days. Then they watch Bob or Jennifer and whomever and if they turn their attention to someplace else maybe they weren’t really bought in. The benefit of co-creating is that I was there. I understood—I understand why we’re doing what we’re doing, and you get that bought in commitment whereas when someone comes and just drops the vision on you, you know the change on you at best you get compliance.

You know so that I think that’s one of the first lessons is if you co-create it leads to better engagement, yes there’s more time, but invest the time on the front end because that will get engagement and make the change leadership easier.

Jennifer: The way that you can tell and identify whether you’re really allowing vision to be co-created is the question that’s being asked and answered around the table on what question or how question.

If people can ask what should we do, what are the problems that need to be solved? What are the issues that are before us? What is the big idea?

If they’re allowed to engage with those questions, it’s a direction of mind that you want in your leaders.

To be allowed to wrestle with that. The selection process if a good leader can shape a selection process like that to be able to get maybe to the answer that is that they believe is best. That’s how—that’s the role of the leader but having everybody engaged in the “what” question is important. There might be a question that needs to be answered that’s pivotal for the marketplace that you didn’t think to ask.

If everybody is asking the “what” questions we can make sure we ask the right ones. If you’re only asking how question or only allowing people, you bring the “what” to the table and they only ever get to wrestle with the how. That’s implementation.

That’s not making sure that they are part of the vision.

Jeff: We’ve got some good questions around sort of co-creating. We’ve got a vision so once we have the vision how do we make sure that everyone really buys in to the vision right? If they co-create it that certainly helps, but you know I often work with you know you see a vision kind of created over there in a corner among seven or eight people then they bring it out and they got the song and dance and you know let’s say Bob is our boss again. You know so Bob brings it up and you know he comes forth and you know gets up on the stage and gives a ra ra speech. Let’s even say Bob does a nice job right.

Does a ra ra speech, woohoo hoo. Does that mean now we’ve all heard it. We had the company meeting that the vision is cast and we’re following it.

Jennifer: The vision is cast, but we’re not following it.

Because this isn’t ours yet.

Even if we co-created it because it’s still Bob and Bob’s posse.

Jeff: Bob and posse. I like that.

Jennifer: Right so communication is about more than just telling people.

Communication is also about the conversations that we have because there still might be some more to uncover—some more pre-mortem we have to do as you said.

Some more things to work out. How do you engage people in a conversation? It isn’t how many emails that you send or how many pretty pamphlets that you make with the vision in it that communicates to people. It’s also how you engage people around what it means for them.

You can push the thinking, but how do you pull for both understanding, but also what matters to them.

It has land and if you don’t know how the thinking landed you don’t have two important data points. You don’t have—do they understand me? What do they—well you want and aspire to or passionate about and what’s the creativity locked in them that I’m missing. You got to pull both of those things to really complete the circuit of excitement in there.

Jeff: Okay so what we’re talking about, how do we get this thing communicated so what Jennifer said I want to just extract is wise? Often, we push right and so we come up with a vision and then we push it out there and we just kind of truthful that we hope that it gets there. That is, you know the town hall meeting. That is the email.

In general, they say for us to really hear and start to embody the change it takes about seven times hearing about the change that’s being asked of us in four to five different forms. Think about this. Jennifer has just talked about push. Now the pull is maybe you go to a manager’s meeting with the team and that is an open discussion to say tell me what you heard about the change.

What concerns do you have? What excites you about the change? What do you think you’ll have to do differently about change? You’re starting to pull understanding and pull from them. What did they hear?

You’re also getting great knowledge to say, “What do you we need to go back up to and recast?” Because maybe some of it did get translated, sometimes you just miss some things like we didn’t consider this in the marketplace. Making sure that you have both push and pull communication techniques when you’re leading change is a critical lesson learned.

Jennifer: I like to—the image that came to my mind while you were talking was the image of a well actually and if you drop a bucket into a well—do you gather? You have obviously the bucket is what contains the thing that you need right so it’s the vision that comes down, but you must pull up the water, but notice what happens often times particularly in those older wells when you pull up that old bucket. It’s usually wooden and it leaks. The water pours right out of it. You got to keep doing that. You got to keep dipping back in and dipping back in to make sure that you’re communicating what it is that you want to accomplish and that you’re also not just selling it. You know vision leaks and you can’t just push it. You can’t just sell it. You must be able to engage with it in a conversation.

Jeff: Yes, here’s the line. A good book for you to read if you’re interested in this is Switch by Chip and Dan Heath again Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. I got a great line in it, “Resistance is often just a lack of clarity.” What I want to talk about that is that as you’re casting this vision, as you’re working with folks, you should be really understanding is that resistance or people asking these questions because they’re really unclear.

Remember a change that you’re introducing, you probably had months of getting ready for it or weeks of getting ready for it, thinking through, asking questions, challenging peers and all of that. Now that you turn and you’re going to ask that someone to show up and do different behaviors and do a lot of different things and so what you’re seeing is I’m just unclear. Like what is it that you want me to do because I used to do this and maybe you haven’t gotten down to the specificity of what I need to do differently. Now if they’re still resisting six months later and they’re asking the same questions, that’s resistance.

When you see some people asking the how questions and you know exactly what you want me to do and how do you want me to do it and how will you measure me on that. That’s not resistance often. That is saying, “I’m engaging with you. I want to work with you, but I’m unclear. You might view that as a resistance and think oh my gosh, I would say lean into it. Give a few specifics now and help the person be able to do the right kind of things.

Jennifer: Yes, I think about all of those things that you just said happened because the leader was asking questions was being curious about how things were landing.

Be curious about how things are landing. Go and ask questions. Have conversations because you’ll have the opportunity to refine and communicate again what was already said. We stop listening when we come up against something that makes us anxious and change makes us anxious. About three sentences into that beautiful speech that whoever gave at the front right they stop listening when it started to feel personal.

They didn’t hear anything after that. You got to say it again and again and again to make sure the whole message gets communicated.

Jeff: I wrote that down Jennifer. What’s in it for me? Like if you’re not helping me understand what’s in it for me and what—whether that’s I’m going to change, what behaviors? Is it good?

Is it bad? If it doesn’t get down to like, “How does it affect my life?” What’s going to make it be doing differently? I’m just kind of you know I’m dazed and confused and no sure.

I might depend on how I react to change I might sit this one out you know just kind of wait. You know is this still going to be around 30 days from now. The more that you can say, “This is how it’s going to impact each person.” Often what you want to do there is let the managers that have those kinds of conversations. It isn’t a onetime let’s have that conversation at a senior management town hall.

It’s going to be helping managers to be able to translate and be translators. A lesson learned is empower your managers and bring them in, so they can be change ambassadors for you because they’re the ones that will reinforce your change.

Jennifer: I like that. Change ambassadors.

Jeff: Jennifer we’ve hit some good lessons learned. I think what we’ll do is we’ll continue to do that. We’ll give you some more practical tools and tips on exactly how we’ve seen people be successful change. In the meantime, it’s time for another break so we’ll take a two-minute break and we’ll talk to you on the other side.


Jeff: Welcome back. I’ve got Jennifer Owen-O’Quill with me today. She’ll be on the show the whole time so Jennifer so glad you could be with us today.

Jennifer: It’s good to be here.

Jeff: Yes, so we’ve been talking about change and some of our best lessons learned and all of that. You know I’m curious as we sort of go through it we talked about a little bit about you know change ambassadors and as well as we’re probably heading towards implementation and where would you like to go next?

Jennifer: Well I was caught by what role do you think change ambassadors play in implementation? I was—I that idea caught me. What do mean? What are they doing?

Jeff: I love change ambassadors and so here’s what I mean. I’m thinking back to even gosh ten years ago my career when I was a little bit more than that now, working at Capital One, we were doing a massive change. We called people change ambassadors. That was a real term and their rule was to be out there and to reinforce the core concepts of what we were trying to get done.

These were not management folks. These were folks that we invited to help us be able to understand. What we were doing is changing the way we were going to do business? What are changes in our core processes and how we were going to get things to our customers?

We’re going to change dramatically and so we had these folks in on design meetings. They were helping to co-create. They were there when we were unsure of how to move forward. When we went out to ask people to do different things, we had the change ambassadors go out.

We gave them a little training on how to communicate effectively, how to facilitate a group discussion and they went out and led conversations among their peers and said, “No that’s not the way it is at all.” Like when people push back. The management just wants us to do this or XYZ. They’re like, “That wasn’t the case at all. We wanted to do this. This wasn’t on a management.” We the folks that are going to be this job so it’s trying to get people that will have influence and be able to get others buy into change involved as early as possible and then equipping them with the tools to lead others.

Jennifer: That is so important and I—the other word I caught when you were talking about change ambassadors is that they went out and they led conversations.

They went out and led engagement and they did it first hand as peers with folks to try to keep listening, keep asking questions, and staying curious, but also communicating what the vision is, what the values are, what the process is so that it’s—so that there’s clear mechanism for where you take your curiosity, your anxiety, your fear, your frustration, your ideas. Where you bring that every change process as you think about. I’m going to turn a moment toward implementation. Every change process needs to have some steam valves.

It’s like your combustion engine or something where you just need a way to release that energy out into the world and planning for that—for that natural force of change creates tension in people. They need a place to expound and express that so creating these ambassadors is a way to do that. It’s very wise. It’s a little bit of diplomacy in the middle of a change process.

Jeff: Yes, I like it. We’re talking implementation. I’ll just start with a couple of mine—you know favorite best practices and ideas. One of them is a boundary exercise.

Here’s what I mean as you’re starting implementation it can be tempting to say, “We’re going to go back to what we used to do.” A boundary exercise is you know, this is when sometimes folks—this comes back from the Vikings, they would go, and they would land, and they would burn their ship because they were going to take over. You couldn’t go back. You got to go conquer the land you’re in so burn your ship and go solve the world here.

Go conquer. In the corporate world, here’s some examples, you burn the manual. You know so whatever the old process was you know literally I’ve seen people going to have bonfire. You know when they’ve changed to a new brand they might take all of the stuff that has you know you have the logos and your you know your email, I mean your mail and all of that and burn it. Get rid of it.

We are changing. We can’t go back now. You see in it. I led one change effort where a group was moving from one building to another building and the old building was going to be destroyed.

We went and painted a mural, and everyone wrote beautiful things to say that they were leaving. They allowed that to sort of be there for a month or so before the building was demolished, but it was a way to say goodbye to the building.

Write all your notes. Do what you need to do. You know I’ve seen others you know go out and you know hit on something or knock something down. It sounds like we’re violent. I don’t mean it that way, but the more that you could show we are changing, will help in the implementation.

Jennifer: People skip over the grief of change in the business world because they want to get it done because they want the results. The leader is—the leader already took the time. The greeting that the leader did at the beginning to initiate the change was they were frustrated already and said good bye to whatever it was before they even started with the change process. Your people didn’t go through that process with you. They weren’t up at night being done with it.

We’re going to lose things that we like and enjoy. Here are some ways that they’re so important to us, but we need to move how this gets expressed in the organization. Yes, it may be that the value of this event we’ve always had game afternoon is really—that’s still important, but we’re too big.

Jeff: She called it speed demon. I often called it the Tarzan swing you know when we announced the change don’t swing over and expecting everyone to be immediately excited about right. You weren’t. You know just as Jennifer talked about. It took you a moment to be like, “Ugh, I guess we got to change. This isn’t working anymore.”

You and the people you co-create with had time. Give people a little bit of time to understand, get comfortable with the new change. You’re going to be there to help move them along. If you’re the Tarzan swing and you announce it and expect them to show up the next day all excited about it, just not right.

You know and then this depends on my styles and I’m a high influencer. You know I tend to get bigger and want more personality. When maybe what they wanted was data and facts and what’s the next step. Really understand who you’re leading and are you helping them for the change?

One of the things I talk about here is being to give the first couple of steps. Again, I’m going back to this book from Chip and Dan Heath called Switch. They talk about this from a when they were trying—this is an example from two cards that you go when you get car washes. At one car wash they gave you a thing that had eight states—eight punches that you would get before you got a free car wash.

Across town, very similar demographic they did one that had ten, but they punched the first two for you. Once you got to ten or eight, you got a free car wash. Well the interesting part was the one that was the eighth but didn’t have any punches folks only converted about 19% of the time. It took them on average—I don’t remember exactly, but ten or 11 months.

Whereas the other one that was already punched twice and you gave them two and you taught them how to do it. It was converted about 50% of the time. Normally only about six or seven months and the reason why was that you’ve taught them the behavior. You’ve showed them hey here’s the first couple of steps.

When you’re in implementation mode, what are the first couple of steps? If we’ve already done it, maybe before you even announce the change you get a couple of things done. Like we’ve already started to do this. We’ve already started to work with this other department.

We’ve already started to do you know this kind of work and you say, “Wow, look at that.” Now the next step is this and you know how to do that. People will have confidence in the change because they’ve already gotten three punches. It felt like they were 30% of the way there instead of 12 and a half percent of the way there. People even though it was the same number of punches.

They really believed it so for listeners what I want you to be thinking about is that you’re going to do some change, how can you give credit for the first couple of punches. People feel like they’re on the way.

Jennifer: That is so smart. Just people do need to feel like there’s some momentum and what I would add to that is to pause and check your work even though you want to keep the momentum going. To come back and check in and make sure things are still going well so that you can course correct. If you have—I was traveling this last week to Bush Gardens with my family and I missed my turn.

I ended up in Harrisonburg where I was at JMU. Surprise, surprise—I was like ah.

Jeff: I’d like to say I’m shocked by this revelation but keep going.

Jennifer: Alright, alright so I’m turning around right, but I didn’t check my work early enough to notice that I was off track so if the leader doesn’t check back in.

That’s what happened so check in and see helping people are doing as they’re going along. Then give them another piece of it. You know what can you do next?

Come in with a set of questions and maybe give them another little step to get them going on their way.

Jeff: The reason I’m laughing is that Jennifer ended up in my hometown. That’s why I know where all these things are so.

It’s you know. She went about a half an hour over—hey, but life happens. That’s a great one. That one to build on and it’s called—I call them frequently asked questions.

The way to really get people through change during your whole limitation is that you’re going to be hearing things from all different parts of the organization. The more that you can be pulling people and putting out frequently asked questions and go ahead and front load. You know right out from the beginning. Hey we might not know the answers.

You don’t have to say that you know the answer when you’re on stage or you’re answering the question or something that you know. You can say, “Wow, great question. We’ll be back in touch with an update on Friday so we’re sitting here on Tuesday.” That doesn’t mean you have to have an answer on Friday.

What you have to do on Friday is come back and said, “Hey you’ve asked some great questions. Here’s the ones we can answer and here’s the ones we’re still researching.” That just gives that confidence as you’re leading your change that you’re listening, that you’re adapting, and that you really taking in feedback.

That your pain as I see don’t go well or when we announce it and then when something doesn’t go right we just have to blame the user or the person implementing the change instead of being there to really listen and say, “Okay, it didn’t go quite like we thought it would in implementation, but what are you learning where you are? How do I get that information to other parts of the business?”

Jennifer: Again, in your pre-mortem you should expect that.

Right you should expect that there is not going to implement flawlessly because when was the last time something went perfectly as planned.

Jeff: Not in my lifetime, but it will I’m sure. Okay, maybe not. Jennifer, this is a great discussion so when we come back. We’ll give you our sort of our best tools and tips to take with you to help you navigate change. We’re coming up against our last break. We’ll see you in two minutes.


Jeff: Welcome back so glad you could be with us. We’ve got Jennifer Owen-O’Quill here today and let’s just go through some of our lessons learned and best practices. I’ll just give you the themes from today. The first is co-create with the people on your team and that are around you so as you’re thinking about change, go and co-create.

Make sure that there is a shared vision. You’re going to co-create around that shared vision so making sure that there’s a good vision. The next step is making sure that it’s communicated well. Remember sort of that guideline of seven times for communication to really be heard, interpreted, and felt in probably four to five different forms, channels, communication vehicles. Next comes implementation and making sure that you’ve thought through what some of the best practices are, frequently asked questions, taking time to give him the first couple steps, doing a check in.

Maybe it’s a poll survey on how the change is going. The final one we’ve really haven’t hit, but it reminds of Cool and the Gang. It’s celebrate good times. It’s a celebration right and often we don’t do that. Woot woo. I like it from the background. What will happen is that we don’t take the time. We’ll do all of that hard work and then bam we’re right onto the next change.

Jennifer was talking earlier. I call them the Tarzan Swing. Jennifer calls it the speed demon. That’s what happens. That’s where resentment can come. Is it—you’re going to the next change so don’t forget the celebration right, Jennifer?

Jennifer: That way you enjoy and celebrate and savor the moment and energize yourself to recognizing people is so important and the hard work that they did. It takes a moment. You’ve gotten all the way to the top of the mountain. Stop and look around for a minute. Enjoy it. There’s going to be another change, I promise, but savoring this one and pausing to party is good.

Jeff: Truthfully, you’ll probably—most of you are in three or four changes at a time.

You know significant changes to the organization, restructuring, new product line, you know new boss. Most of you are going through three to four changes at the same time. We still need—just like I talked about a bound of reaction or maybe we burn the manual, you also have to say, “Change is done. We implement it.” We’ve got this. It’s now a part of our regular practice, right? Just being able to call a state of state and they don’t say, “We did it. Have a dinner. Bring in some popcorn.” Whatever it takes, movie tickets. I don’t care you’ll figure that out, but don’t forget to celebrate the change.

Jennifer: Yes, declaring victory is a very important.

Piece of the puzzle and a change process. Declaring victory and moving on right and it helps allow people to get in their mind. This isn’t my new reality and I did it.

Jeff: Yes. We were talking a little bit about lessons learned on the break. One of the ones you had was about how much time to expect on change?

Jennifer: Oh yes, it’s like. It’s like when you hire a contractor. You must expect it to take more time and a lot more money, right? Although maybe not, hopefully not, but you know you must be able to really expect that change takes more time than we want.

Particularly if you want everybody to feel it and to be changed and be doing things differently. Be thinking about the organization differently so that’s an important one.

Jeff: I was just telling that real quick too—that doesn’t mean don’t do the change. It’s just is understanding that sometimes slowing down to co-create, stay a little time to make sure the behavior is good will mean that it will get done instead of you having to come back four and five time and redo during a change. Know that it’s just going to take a little bit longer, but to plan for that.

Jennifer: There’s a few characters that I have to think of is to who not to be.

You’re the one that cast vision. You’re the only one that can control the vision. You’re the only one that can know the vision. You’re the only one smart enough, you know whatever to be able to do that. The other characters—the micromanagers.

You’ve got the vision hoarder and then micromanager so I’m going to tell you exactly how to do what it—how it needs to be done, implementing it in exactly this way. Don’t shove it down their throat. Make sure it’s digestible right? Watch the speed.

Jeff: Watch the speed. Yes, okay that’s all good stuff, Jennifer. I love it. You know for me a couple of the ones that I got back to we talked about this earlier, but the—or just recently, I was telling.

It’s the celebration right. Celebrate new behaviors so as soon as someone does it. Make sure you celebrate it. You may be like well they’re supposed to do that. Yes, yes guess what?

Most change—the reason that they don’t do it is because no one noticed. They tried it. You ask me to try something, well I tried it and then no one said anything. Well that old behavior is actually easier. I’m more likely to go back to the old than I in the new and so when someone does something and they go and do something you know successful, celebrate it. High five them you know.

Because otherwise it’s a lot easier to go back to that old path than it is the new one.

Be there to celebrate especially the first two. After that, yes then it starts to become the expectation.

Jennifer: Right catching people winning is so important.

That people don’t know what to repeat and keep doing unless you catch them winning.

Jeff: One we didn’t talk about, but I just wanted to mention is survey often, do a pulse check. You know so maybe you know of it’s a significant change, go through you know four questions a week and just get a pulse check. It can be just a check box activity. It can be a one to ten.

You know like how are you feeling about the change this week? You know if there’s you know what you would say your mood is on a one to ten. You know and how good do you feel about how the change is going? You can ask those kinds of questions and offer open ended questions like if there’s one thing that we do differently to help you through this change, it would be what.

Being able to do some of those quick check ins. You know we did again, one where we had a change management office. We did it for six months and we could really track, and we could see right when we started to have a little dip. Hey maybe that is time to do—to bring in you know a town hall discussion.

Bring in some pizza and celebrate a few of the changes. Let’s highlight a few of the people in the room and celebrate the change that they’ve already done. Then when we were just maybe just tired in general, we’d have a different strategy, but we—the only reason we could do that was we were constantly sort of just taking a pulse of those four or five questions.

Jennifer: Right and what’s helpful about that is that you continue to be able to track your progress so yes, it’s true that it’s bits and starts. Three steps forward then two steps back, but keep in mind that’s progress right so it’s okay that there is this give and take with people.

Jeff: I’m trying to see if there’s anything else. Oh, include the managers ahead of time. Let’s say you’re higher up in the organization.

You’re higher up in the organization and what ends up happening now often is that you’re so sort locked away co-creating and now you’re ready to go to the masses and tell everybody here’s what’s happening. Well what happens is we skip right over the managers that are the ones that are going to be living day in and day out with the folks that we’re asking to change. Bring the managers in even if it’s an org change, if it’s a new product at least the night before, the morning before and say, “Here’s a few things to know. Here’s how we’re going to include you in the future.” You can’t always you know let’s say it’s a reorganization or there’s a new boss. You can’t always bring them too early in, but even if you can get them an hour ahead of time so that they—they’re not surprised in the room with them. Then there’s a better experience for them.

Jennifer: Boy that is so important, so I think we’ve really covered a lot of ground here Jeff. Amazing.

Jeff: I appreciate you doing such a good job with being prepared today Jennifer for walking us through, yes, good notes. Good stories. You rock the house. Let me just tell you about the upcoming weeks.

Next week Lee Hubert and we will be talking about what didn’t I do on vacation? This is going to be about some tools and tips, about how to set up your vacation, make sure that you delegate it well ahead of time and how you’re going to spend that vacation, so you really recharge as we all get in to this summer mode. Okay also in the upcoming weeks we’re going to be doing some things like having John Hagmaier back on the show. We’re going to do some diversity and conclusion, to talk about how we help to support that in our organizations as well as some you know some best practices and some lessons learned from my own vacation.

What I want you to know about the book is it is coming out on June the 15th from Aha to All In: Life Lessons from an Unexpected Entrepreneur. John Hagmaier and I wrote that together with Bill Long and we’re so looking forward to getting the feedback on that. If you want some information about us—for about us during the week, please come out to our website, VoltageLeadership.com. You can see our blog. We do that weekly on Mondays.

We drop that throughout the course of the week we also give you some leadership tips and tools and updates. If you follow us on Facebook or on our website you’ll get those. If you want to shoot us an email, it’s Jeff@VoltageLeadership.com or Jennifer@VoltageLeadership.com and we’ll be sure to get back to you and if you want to book us for a speech or just want to do some work with us, we’d love to have you. We’ve got some fantastic clients, but always looking to add another client or two it would be great.

Thanks for listening to us each week. You help us shape the show so please feel free to email us at those email addresses and let us know. Tell us about how you’re putting these things into practice because we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, make it a great weekend. We look forward to talking to you next week. Take care.