Category Archives for The Curious Choice Leader Podcast

Leading Change – Planning in an Uncertain World

Planning in an uncertain world

Somehow we are at the midpoint for the year and usually, that means reviewing our plans and checking we are on track.  I have to admit, I wondered if it was worth going back to mine given how much has changed since I wrote it and how much like a work of fiction it would look.  I know I’m not alone in wondering where to start with planning and making decisions with all the uncertainty we are experiencing.

That’s what we are going to talk about over the next few episodes.

So, are you ready?  Its time to get curious and make some choices about how we plan in a rapidly changing world.

Is it worth planning with all this uncertainty about?

If you are listening to this podcast in the week it’s published, the strange but true fact is that we have just hit the halfway point for the year.  I say strange but true as it doesn't really seem that time has been passing in its usual way and the Dr Who quote about time not being a linear progression from cause to effect but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint being more of a big ball of wibbly-wobbly,  timey wimey,   stuff, seems more apt than ever.  

And normally, the midpoint of the year is one of those times where we press pause for a moment, review where we are and then refocus our plans.  But let’s face it nothing has been normal about this year, so is this something we should pass on, another thing to let go of as we navigate the rolling waves of change the storm that is 2020 is delivering?

And even if we do decide to plan, how can we since all our usual planning assumptions are proving to be untrue and we don’t really know what to expect from our business environments?

And those are very valid questions.  And we could choose not to plan and to just go with the flow, but let’s be real my Curious Choice Leaders, that’s not really our style is it.  OK so it could be an interesting experiment and we might learn something from doing it for a while, but we know that now we are in the messy middle of the changes this year is creating, it’s time to start looking to the future so we can build whatever comes next for our businesses, our teams and ourselves.  If you and your team want to keep doing whatever it is you do in the long term you need to all be going in the same direction and you need a plan.

Why we should still plan despite the uncertainty

Now what that plan looks like, in terms of details and time frames may need to change but you need to come together, plan and then work the plan. 

It’s part of what our teams need from us to make their work feel worthwhile, to keep them pulling in the same direction and give them a sense of purpose that we all crave.

What happens when we don’t provide this clarity about what is coming next is people will fill in the blanks in their own way, which can cause some very interesting challenges down the road.  Just last week I had a call from a client wanting advice on how to handle a situation in their team where one team member had assumed they would all continue working from home and was now living five hours away from the office.  The company concerned have not yet decided if they are going to continue with remote working in the long term but hadn’t communicated that and now this leader has a complex situation to resolve.

As we look at our roles in leading people through change it’s all very well when we know where we are going as a result of the changes, but right now we are all trying to work out what a post-pandemic work world is like.  Hopefully, we won’t always have to lead with this much lack of information about the future very often, but what we learn doing it now will make it simpler next time we’re leading change.So, yes you can probably see how to lead people away from the Pre Covid world, but where are you taking them?  That’s something we are all working out as we go along.  The world around us is literally changing week by week if not day by day, and sometimes it feels like hour by hour.  There are very few certainties.

Does that make planning harder, yes.  Does that make it more complex, yes.  Does that make it impossible – No.

As we have discussed, in previous episodes, we can always choose our reaction to a situation, you could choose to avoid and abdicate planning as a leader right now we’ve talked about the consequences of that option, or you can choose to see this as an opportunity to improve your planning and build your team and your performance going forward.

But where can we start with our planning

So how do we do that?  Where can we start when we need to plan in a seemingly unplannable situation.  From my perspective, there are three areas to think about, what’s stayed the same, what we can control and how far out we plan and I’m going to talk about each of them in a little more detail.

What stays the same?

It’s a very natural reaction when we are faced with change, to focus on what is different and stop noticing what has stayed the same. 

If you think back to when you were younger, you may have done those spot the difference puzzles, the ones where you have two pictures and you have to spot what’s different about each of them.  As you do the puzzle the differences become all you can notice and we almost literally stop seeing what has stayed the same.  It’s the same with change - we are drawn to what is changing and soon forget what has stayed the same.

And recognising the things that have stayed the same give you a platform for your planning.

Things that are likely to have stayed the same include what your organisation exists to do, the clients and customers you serve, the values your organisation lives by and the business goals may well have stayed the same.

We can use the things that have stayed the same in two ways to help us plan - firstly it gives us a start point and some constraints and secondly it can help us build a framework to make decisions.  And once we have the framework it becomes relatively easy to make decisions, effectively you just need to ask, does this meet the criteria we set and move us in the right direction.

Planning Horizons

Next up we can think about the timeframe we think about our plans for, or if you like our planning horizons.   

If you think of planning like a road taking you where you want to go, when things along the road are staying still and staying in line, the road is straight and it’s easy to see a long way into the distance, and maybe even all the way to where you want to be.  When things are relatively stable we can see a long way ahead, the horizon can be a long way away, and we can plan further into the distance.

Now imagine the things at the side of the road keep moving into the road, one or two we can cope with just by gently swerving around them, but as more and, more of them move we can find ourselves on a twisty trurny slalom course of a road, and only able to see a few feet ahead and not knowing which direction to turn.  Sounds a bit like 2020 doesn’t it!  It becomes a bit like being a rally driver waiting for the co-driver to read the plan and tell us which way and how hard to turn just before we need to make that manoeuvre.  We still want to get to the destination, there is still a plan for us to follow and rather than focusing on the moves some miles ahead we need to focus on making the right next turn now.

This shorter-term decision making in the context of a long term objective is uncomfortable at first, just like rally driving it uses some adrenalin, and importantly it relies on us being able to help our team flex and adapt rapidly and uses all our skills leading change.

Your task here is to work out what the right planning horizon is for your situation.  The reality is that these planning horizons are going to move and emerge as new information comes to light, so there is no one right answer here, you need to consider things like how long the things that are uncertain will remain uncertain, and if there are things you can do to reduce the level of the uncertainty around specific things or even remove it altogether.  

It can be helpful to keep a list of all the assumptions you are making around the uncertainties so you can monitor when anything changes and adjust your plan accordingly.

Personally, since March I have changed my business planning horizons from having an annual planning framework with detailed quarterly plans, to focusing on my long term vision and planning month by month what I need to do to keep moving in that direction. For my business that feels right and the question is what’s right for you in your situation.

What can you control?

Finally, the third area we need to consider is focusing on what we can control. 

If we think about our business and the world it operates in, we can break the thing we think about down into 3 areas, the things we can control, so things like how you do a particular task, the things we can influence, so things that you need other teams or other people to help you with, and the things that concern us but that we can’t directly influence or control, like finding a cure for Corona virus - unless you are one of the amazing research scientists working on this, in which case, thank you!

When we are planning how we solve a problem or move to a goal it can be helpful to break the factors that impact that plan, the ideas we have about how we can reach our goal, and the things we think may stop us, and all the things we are not certain about, into one of those three categories.  Imagine these three categories as concentric circles - the inner circle is the things that you can control, next out is the circle that is made up of the things you can influence and outside that are the things you are concerned about.  

Circles of Control, Influence and Concern

What happens when we choose to focus our energy and effort on the things we can control is that that circle gets bigger pushing the circle of things we can influence so it grows too.  However, if we focus on the things that concern us that circle grows too - but rather than expanding overall it grows by pushing in on the things we can influence and the things we can control so both circles get smaller.

When our circle of control is small we notice the uncertainty and feel we are being pushed around by whatever changes come our way.  

So we need to focus our planning on the things we can control, and spend most of our time and effort there,  with some time spent working to influence the things we can influence.  

The successes you gain working this way will help you, your team and your business feel good about the work you are all doing and soon build the momentum you need not to be thrown so far off course by any changes that come your way.

Summary & Taking Action

OK, so in this episode, we have talked about how even though it can seem like an impossible task that would be pointless anyway given our experience of the last quarter, we need to plan ahead and why that is important.  That plan may look different and we may well not be able to provide the clarity we are used to providing with our plan.  Then we talked about the three areas it’s helpful to consider when starting to bring you plan together; looking at what has stayed the same and using that to build a decision framework, thinking about our planning horizons and how far ahead it is sensible and pragmatic to plan and then finally how we need to concentrate on the things we can control.  We have choices to make about how we plan, and as we reach the half way point of the year, now is the time to make them.

The things I share are based on my experiences and some will be more relevant to you than others - it’s up to you to decide what you take and apply from this podcast.  That’s what curious choice leadership is all about - getting curious and building our understanding then evaluating what we find and making choices about what’s right for us and our business

So the three questions I would like to leave you with are, 

  • What things that impact your planning have stayed the same?
  • What is the right planning horizon to be working to now?
  • What are the important things can you control and use as the basis for your plan?

Leading Change Why Active Listening Isn’t Enough

Why Active Listening Isn't Enough

It seems that last week I was not the only Podcast talking about having Difficult Conversations! Simon Sinek also talked about the subject with David Harris, they had a great conversation so I would recommend checking it out. 

While we came at the subject from very different starting points, there were three key themes that we both covered - the important thing is to have these conversations, the need to be open to new ideas while you are having them and the importance of listening.  

One of the questions Simon asked David was how he learned to listen so well.  And it’s a great question, the research shows us that less than 25% of professionals have had any formal training in listening, yet we know it’s a key leadership skill, and it’s fundamental when you are leading change.  I would even argue it’s a key life skill.

So, are you ready?  Its time to get curious and make some choices about how we listen!

How do you learn to listen?

We have lots of training available on how to present and how to talk, and structure our ideas for other people, but not in how to listen effectively or take in that information.  

If we are in the happy minority who have had some training it’s probably been in how to actively listen.  How to look like we are paying attention, to nod and to make encouraging sounds.  We may even have been taught to mirror the other person’s body language or summarise what they have told us.  

And there is nothing wrong with active listening - but it’s not enough especially if we want to get the benefits of being a good listener.

The Benefits Of Great Listening

And those benefits are substantial.  Being able to listen greatly is fundamental to building our relationships with our teams, and that is what underpins our ability to work with them effectively.  It’s important for our teams to feel listened to and listening is one of the key ways you let people know you value them.  Listening well allows us to build trust, show empathy and compassion

It does the same for our relationships with our stakeholders and clients making sure we are truly understanding what they need from us, identify solutions that are going to work and how we resolve any challenges that come up.  Listening well will also ensure we understand what is happening in our wider organisation and in the wider world we operate in, which not only helps us make decisions but it also builds our credibility.

As Curious Choice leaders, listening to what you are hearing and not hearing around you is a basic part of being curious.  Listening is the best way to gather information.

Not All Listening Is The Same

And good listening is indeed very active.  It’s not something we sit passively and do, it’s not letting sound wash over you may be the way that you would if we were relaxing and listening to a meditation tape or a favourite piece of music.  When we're listening in the context of leadership listening is a much more participative activity than that

So we know we can listen differently at different times and we don’t need to listen with the same intensity all the time.  The art is knowing how you need to listen at different times. Listening well takes conscious effort and energy, so picking the right level to listen at helps you get the most from conversations without taking more energy and effort than you need it to.

The Different Levels Of Listening - Listening Staircase

Let’s take a look at the different levels of listening. 

Imagine a staircase and each step that we talk about is a build on the one before heading towards really really great listening.

Ignoring Listening

At the bottom step of the staircase that is what I call ignoring.  What's happening here as we may think we're listening, we may even tell people we are listening but actually were busy doing something else.  So we haven't engaged our brain in the situation or in what's going on around us.  We are not even listening actively when we are listening like this.  If you think about meetings you have been to recently, or if you live with a teenager you may have experienced this.  It’s not great when you are the speaker.

When you listen like this or rather don’t listen like this, you run a high risk of damaging your relationships.

Pretending to Listen

Then as we step up the listening staircase the next step is where people are pretending to listen.  They may be looking at the speaker and maybe even nodding, but what is happening internally for them is very different, they are desperately listening for the pause in the conversation so they can say something, which may or may not still be relevant to the conversation.  This can happen because we are not paying sufficient attention, or because we have an idea that we really want to share, and sometimes remembering it becomes so big in our minds that we forget to keep listening. 

As leaders when we do this to our teams the impact is that we shut down conversations and disengage our teams.  It’s also something we can help our teams manage by ensuring that people all get an opportunity to contribute to a discussion.

Selective Listening

On the next step up the listening staircase from pretending to listen is what's called selective listening.  What’s happening here is the person is taking in and beginning to process the information that's going on in the rest of the conversation but they're listening for things that they can disagree with, or make a point they think makes them look like the best person in the room.

This kind of listening can often be perceived very negatively, and if we listen like this as a leader we not only close the conversation down but we effectively tell our teams that we know better than them about everything and they will soon stop bringing ideas to us and speaking up at meetings.

I’m sure if you think about meetings you’ve been to recently you can think of plenty of examples of each of these levels of listening, !

Listening at these levels may be active, but it’s not enough to get you the benefits that good listening will.  You are not going to be getting all the information that is available to you, or understand new perspectives, or help your team feel understood and valued.  And that all matters more than ever when we are experiencing a lot of change.

Levels of Listeninkg - The Llistening Staircase

Attentive Listening

If we want to use our listening effectively, we need to move up to the next level of listening.  It’s quite a big step to get to Attentive Listening but this is the minimum level of listening we need to aim to be at when we are working with team members, especially when we are leading change.  

At this level, we are listening to make sure we understand the other person’s perspective, and it’s where we start making a positive impact in the relationship we have with the person we are listening to.  Approaching conversations with the intent to understand the other person’s perspective and to demonstrate that understanding takes a lot of energy and focus, which can be hard at first, but the more you do it the easier it will become.  

When I’ve talked with people about attentive listening there is a common misunderstanding that I think it’s worth calling out here.  Understanding someone’s perspective does not mean you have to agree with it.  When you are listening in this way however together you will be able to work backwards through their thinking to a point where you do agree and to a point where you can have a great discussion about those differences.

You don’t need to listen at this level all of the time, but it should be the minimum level you aim to listen at when you are working one to one with people or in high-pressure situations.  You’ll also find a lot of benefits listening like this when you work with stakeholders and clients.

Empathetic Listening

So what’s on the top step of our listening staircase?  Well, it’s Empathetic Listening where we are listening from the other person’s perspective, from their frame of reference, seeing the world through their eyes.  To do this we need to be able to quieten our inner voice and the thoughts we have sparked by what the other person has said, we need to be able to listen without judging the speaker.  

This takes a lot of practice, but once we are able to do this we will notice the benefits in terms of our relationships, how effectively we are able to communicate and ultimately in our team’s performance.  Personally, I know I also found I was getting less frustrated with people at work once I learned to listen like this because I was better able to understand where they were coming from I was more able to get my point across to them and we were able to get great outcomes and results.  It certainly helped me manage various bosses I had and proved invaluable on a number of very difficult projects!

What Stops Us Being Great Listeners?

So what stops us all listening like this all the time?

It’s hard work and we can easily become distracted by our thoughts, by ideas sparked by the conversation, by things that were worrying us anyway or things we needed to remember, like thinking about the conversation we had with someone just before this, or maybe by a book we are reading, you get the gist!  Great listening means muting those internal thoughts and reminders for a while.

It's also harder to listen when you are tired.  If your energy levels are too low you literally won’t have enough energy to listen well. While on the other end of the scale, if your energy levels are too high and you are buzzing so much you can hardly stay still, you will also find listening hard as your mind will flit around more. Yet another reason to manage your energy as a leader.

The environment we are in makes a big difference - For example, it’s harder to listen well in a noisy environment,  so it’s worth doing the things you can to manage this.  If you find listening over video conference hard try using headphones to cut out the other distractions.

Improving Your Listening Skills

So, you may be wondering how you can become a better listener

The first step is to notice which level you are listening at in different work situations. Then ask yourself if you have been listening at the best level.  Most people tend to find there are at least one or two activities where they need to make a significant change in how they are listening.

I suggest picking one of those activities at a time and really focus on listening at the level you want to during it.  At the end, take time and review how you did and what you could do to improve even further.  Once you are confident in that situation start focusing on the next one on your list and practice listening as you want to in that and so on until you are confident you are listening at the right levels.

Summary & Taking Action

OK, so in this episode, we have talked about listening and how if we have had any training at all in listening, it’s probably been that we need to listen actively.  That’s a good start point and as leaders, we need to take it further.  We broke listening down into different levels, ignoring, pretend and selective listening, which don’t help us be effective leaders and then the levels we need to aim to be listening at, attentive listening where we are listening to understand and empathetic listening where we are listening so we can see the world from the other person’s perspective.

The things I share are based on my experiences and some will be more relevant to you than others - it’s up to you to decide what you take and apply from this podcast.  That’s what Curious Choice Leadership is all about - getting curious and building our understanding then evaluating what we find and making choices about what’s right for us and our business

And the question I would like to leave you with is:

In what situations do you need to step up how you are listening?

Leading Change – Having Difficult Conversations

Having Difficult Conversations

We’ve all been there - worrying about a conversation we need to have because we know it could be a difficult one, maybe because we think the person we need to talk to won’t like what we have to say, or because the subject is charged with emotions.  Having these conversations is something we need to do as a leader, and something we end up doing, even more, when we are leading change.  So how can we get comfortable having these uncomfortable conversations?

Are you ready?  Its time to get curious and make some choices!

Facing a Difficult Conversation

I remember the first time I had to have one of those classically really difficult conversations for real.  I’d practised them on training courses and knew all about just how wrong a role play telling someone they smelled and needed to improve their hygiene could go, so how was I possibly going to cope telling someone I was firing them?  

There were good reasons for the firing and I knew it was right for the team, for the business and for the person I was going to fire, but I still lost a lot of sleep and spent ages going over things in my head.  I’d talked it through with my boss who was great at supporting me, I’d worked out just about every possible scenario, and some pretty impossible and very improbably ones too.  I chickened out once too!

When I did have the conversation, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected - I got straight to the point and told them I wanted to talk about their job and asked her how they thought it was going.  Much to my surprise they burst into tears and said they wanted to leave but didn’t want to let anyone down.  Imagine my relief when I was able to tell them I could make that happen for her!

Some conversations will always be difficult conversations

Now not every difficult conversation is about losing a job, and not every conversation is that easy once it’s started but there are some things we can do to help ourselves get good results from all of them.

Even having said that, I think it should add that even when we become practised at these difficult conversations there are some that we will always be anxious about having.  Certainly, whenever we are talking about redundancies, job losses or firings, and possibly when we have to give feedback that we think someone will take personally or have to tell them their pet project is being stopped, we are always going to have an anxious moment beforehand.

And that IS a good thing, even if it doesn’t feel it at the time.  Being empathetic towards the people we work with is something we are striving for, we build relationships with the people we work with based on it, so naturally, these conversations are hard.  That anxiety helps us remember how important it is to get these conversations right and to take them seriously.

There are two main things we are going to look at, getting ready for these conversations and then what we need to do during them

Getting Ready For Difficult Conversations

Being prepared makes all the difference to how the conversations go and spending time getting ready is a much better use of our energy than spending time worrying about the conversation.

So what can we do to get ready for these difficult conversations?

There are three key questions for us to consider as we do our preparation, and on one level they seem simple but the more curious we get about our answers the more prepared we will be.  

I often get asked how long people should spend answering these questions, and that is a difficult question to answer because it depends on your experience, how challenging the situation is going to be and how severe the impact of the conversation might be.  Giving someone feedback on some work can be a difficult conversation, but it probably won’t be as difficult as telling someone you are making them redundant.

Question 1

The first question is What Really is The situation.  You need to get curious about the facts, look at the situation from different perspectives, gathering all the information you can.  As well as the facts about a situation, looking at the impact it had on you, the team and the business.  I would also challenge you to consider how you are reacting to the situation, what assumptions are you making, are they valid?  The same goes for prejudices and any personal hot buttons that this situation is pressing.

Question 2

Secondly, I suggest asking yourself what you want from the conversion, get curious about the different possible outcomes, and be really clear what could happen next and what you can and can’t do in the different circumstances.  Doing this thinking in advance of the meeting allows you to focus fully in the meeting rather than having to work these things out as you go along.

Question 3

The final questions is what do you need to do to be ready for this conversation.  There are two areas to explore with this question.  Firstly there are the practicalities, things like when and where should I have the conversion, do I need to book a time or a meeting place, how much privacy do we need, is it OK to do it over zoom,  is there any paperwork I need and things like that.  

Secondly, there is the more literal interpretation of the question, what do you need to be ready for the meeting, how are you going to make sure you are able to focus, to listen and to stay in control of your emotions during the meeting.  You will know what is going to work best for you, be that clearing your diary just before and having a walk, be that making sure you are earring well, meditating, taking a moment to practice mindfulness, or having coffee or whatever it is that gets you mentally in the right place to be the leader you want to be in the meeting.    

For me, the hardest part of these conversations is getting started so I like to work out word for word how I’m going to open the conversation and practice them over coffee just ahead of the meeting.  

Your values really are going to be on show in how you behave in this meeting so make a conscious choice and demonstrate them well.

But What If I didn't Know This Conversation Was Going To Happen?

Being ready for the conversation is great, if you know it’s happening, but what if you don’t? 

Well from my perspective you can use the questions above during the meeting too, establishing the facts first, and thinking about possible outcomes and making sure you are being the leader you want to be.  

Remember if someone comes to you with something difficult you don’t have to have all the answers immediately.  You can focus on listening and collecting the facts and then tell the other person you need time to think about it and that you will get back to them. Obviously you need to make sure you do.

This keeps your relationship in a strong place and shows you respect how important the subject is.  It also means you can check other peoples perspective about the situation and consider other options and the wider implications of a situation.

What To Do When You Are Having A Difficult Conversation

As we talked about getting ready for these difficult conversations we talked a bit about how you want to be in the meeting, and what else do we need to keep in mind as we have these difficult conversations.  Every difficult conversation, but its very nature is going to be different so generalisations about what to do beyond the start of the conversation are pretty meaningless, so instead, we are going to focus some key behaviours that are going to help you.

First up I would suggest getting straight to the point.  Your team members probably know when there is a problem and they may well have noticed you getting ready or even being a bit distracted, so let’s make sure we treat people with the respect and dignity they deserve by getting straight to the point.  And as I said it is totally OK to write yourself a script for that opening bit and to have notes to keep you on point and making sure you cover everything.  We are looking to get our point across clearly here rather than prove how great our memory is.

Where it’s appropriate, having told the person what you are going to be talking about in this conversation, asking them for their views before you go any further is very helpful, what’s their view on the project you are about to cancel, what do they know about the situation the company finds itself in, how do they think they are performing at work.  Then listen - what you hear next will help you know how to make your points in a way that makes sense to the person you are talking to.  If their view of things is very different to yours you know you have a different explanation to give than when I asked how her job was going and they told me they hated it and wanted to leave!

Through the whole conversation make sure you are really listening to understand the other person’s perspective and acknowledging their points.  We need to approach these meetings with a curious mind.

Staying calm and focused just on the conversation you are having, not being distracted by your mobile phone, your email or other thoughts in your head will also really help.

And finally, remember it’s OK to adjourn the meeting, consider what you have discovered before taking the meeting to the conclusions it needs to get to.

Summary & Taking Action

When we are leading change, leading in a rapidly changing world or when there is lots of uncertainty every conversation has the potential to be a difficult one. As we all know those circumstances all create a level of fear and with that comes a heightened sensitivity and emotions are closer to the surface than sometimes.  When we are experiencing this heady cocktail, we tend to approach each conversation with our defences up, making it even harder for us as leaders to manage the conversation and get great outcomes.

In this episode, we have looked at why some conversations are harder than others and then thought about how we can make sure we are ready for them by considering three main areas and answering three questions, What really is the situation? What do I want from the conversation? and what do I need to do to be ready for the conversation?  Then we talked about approaching these difficult conversations with a curious mind, and how we need to be in these meetings and making the choice to be the leader we want to be.  The things I share are based on my experiences and some will be more relevant to you than others - it’s up to you to decide what you take and apply from this podcast.  That’s what curious choice leadership is all about - getting curious and building our understanding then evaluating what we find and making choices about what’s right for us and our business.  

And the questions I would like to leave you with are:

Having listened to this Podcast what are you going to do differently next time you are facing a difficult conversation?

Leading Change – What Leaders Need To Do Part 2

Leading Change - What Leaders Need To Do Part 2

In the last episode, we started looking at how we can lead our teams through the change curve.  We looked at the things we need to do through the whole process and in this episode we are going to break it down further and look at the things we need to do at the different stages of change.

Are you ready?  Its time to get curious and make some choices!

Leading Change, Rolling Waves Of Change

About the only certainty, we have in our working worlds at the moment is that we are going to be operating amid rolling waves of change for the foreseeable future.

To simplify things, for now, we are going to look at what we need to do at different phases of the change process thinking about just one change at a time.  In reality, we may be leading multiple changes which are at different points in their change processes, but if we have the right building blocks we can assemble them as we need them for our particular situations.  

This episode builds on the last two, so if you've not listened to them yet, you might want to do that to fill in any gaps, but you don’t have to do it right this second and I promise not all our episodes will build on the ones before.

In ​Episode 2 we looked at the lopsided smile that is the Kubler Ross Change Curve with its 5 phases of denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance.

Getting from Panic to Productivity as we Lead Change

As we lead our teams from the initial panic that comes during denial and anger and back to the performance that comes once change has been accepted, we need to adjust the focus of what we do.   We need to keep being the leader and doing the things leaders do - what changes through the process is what we focus our energy and effort on.

We need to change our expectations and what we are looking to achieve with our teams as they go through the change process, expecting peak performance, or even anywhere near that from your team after you have announced a big change is just not realistic and will actually slow down how you get back to being a high performing team.

Our brains all only have so much working capacity, and change will take up some of that capacity - the bigger the change the more room it will take up leaving less capacity for everything else.  

So our goal when going through change should be to get people to move through the process effectively and get back to being productive.

The 5 stages of the change curve can be split into three sections to guide what we need to do as leaders.  The initial ice-cream brain stage made up of the denial and initial anger, the messy middle which takes us from there through depression and the early stages of bargaining then getting things working as we fine-tune the bargaining and start accepting the changes as our new normal.

We need a different focus at each stage, so let’s take a look at what we need to do in each of them.

The Ice-Cream Brain Phase

The first phase of change is what  I call the Ice Cream Brain Phase.  To some degree, no matter how much change you have been through before at this stage you are going to find yourself unable to think as clearly as you normally do and it’s going to be a bit like when you get a brain freeze from eating too much ice cream - you literally can’t think about anything other than how much it hurts and you have to remember to even breathe! 

Once you’ve caught your breath when you look around you at how you and your team are behaving you are going to notice a wide range of things from hyper productivity as people channel the adrenaline caused by the changes into doing anything and everything possible, usually to try and keep things going as normal, to those who shut down totally and refuse to acknowledge that there is even a possibility that change might be on its way.  When these behaviours aren’t what you are used to seeing in yourself or your team, they are signs that you are still denying that change is happening.  As people start to move beyond denial you are also going to see anger and frustration.

In this phase, our goal is to get people to acknowledge that things are changing.  

Overcoming Initial Resistance When Leading Change

We know people are naturally resistant to change and just telling them once is not going to be enough!  We need to be explaining to people what is changing and why, and we need to keep talking about it consistently and even when we think it has been said way too many times.  People will hear the message at different times depending on when the ice-cream brain freeze melts for them.  The more complex the change the more you are going to need to keep reexplaining it.

We need to talk about what has stayed the same - if you think about a spot the difference picture puzzles, there are always more things that have stayed the same than have changed. It may not feel that way to people and it’s our job to remind them of that as it gives us all a life raft to hold onto as we navigate whatever the changes are.  

Even in the unprecedented levels of change we all experienced as Corona Virus Lockdowns were introduced, there were lots of things that stayed the same for our businesses - who our business served, what we delivered for our clients and importantly our company’s mission.  Often. many of our core business processes stayed the same, its just where we were to execute them that changed.  

It can be a very powerful exercise to list all the things that are not changing when it feels like change is overwhelming.

We and other people are going to feel a sense of loss -  even if the changes are positive, if you think about a time where you moved house or brought a new and exciting car, the chances are a part of you felt sad and you missed something about the old house or car.  Acknowledge what is being lost and keep reminding people about where these changes are taking you.  

Be authentic and human and make time and really listen to the people around you.  Make sure they feel understood and that they know you are there for them.  

When people are feeling lost as they often are at this stage of any change building a sense of connection and community is really important.  As a leader we can create opportunities to connect, even in this remote working world we now all find ourselves in.  I’ve seen lots of great examples recently, things like virtual coffee areas, daily check-ins, calls to just say hello, sharing stories as a team, fancy dress.  You know your team so do what works for them and be ready to try ideas they suggest.  You are going to have to make a conscious effort to up the time you spend communicating with your team and making sure that communication is two way.

The Messy Middle Phase

Next people will enter the messy middle of change - but just to make it even more complex for you, they won’t all do it at the same time! 

Luckily some of the things you needed to do to help people stay the same.  You need to keep talking about what is changing and why.  The pull to go back to how things were will be very strong,  try thinking of the past as a big piece of elastic, initially, you pulled it and it stretched,  but what you do next will determine what happens to that elastic.  If you let it go it just ping back into shape or if you hold on you can keep it stretched.  Early on, the elastic goes back into shape really easily and it’s going to take a while and continued pulling to get it to stay stretched and eventually snap.

The feeling of community and being connected that you are creating will help people pull together on that giant piece of elastic.

Allow People To Process The Changes

Our aim in this messy middle stage is to allow people to process the change.  It is going to feel confusing and quite possibly unsettled for people.  It can be tempting to rush people through this stage but that’s counter-productive.  We don’t want to stay here for any longer than we need to but it is important that we take the time for people to internalise the change and work out what it really means.  If we don’t all that happens is that elastic gets mended and the pull to the previous way of doing things gets stronger.

And the results of that can be devastating - after all, there were reasons you introduced the changes in the first place!  There was one department in a large multinational company I worked with who had experienced this.  Their company was restructuring and they needed to reduce their costs and headcounts.  They introduced the changes, made a few tweaks to how they were organised and what they did and then skipped this middle stage of change and just went back to work.  As a result, people were overloaded with work as they didn’t stop anything they had been doing and just added new things on top, they didn’t understand the changes and the department ended up bigger and more costly than when they started.  That’s when I was called in.  It also made the next round of changes much harder for people as more jobs had to go, they were under more pressure from the organisation and there were more barriers to change to overcome for people.

During the messy middle people are going to have a lot of questions - and even though it may feel like you are surrounded by young kids who keep just asking why for hours - that’s a good sign that they are starting to process the changes.  Being patient and taking time to listen is really important while people are navigating their way through this messy middle.  It can be very tempting to make promises you can’t keep, but that is going to do more harm than good in the long run. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know.  The trust you build with people now will make all the difference in the next stage of change.

Building Productivity Phase

And that final stage is Building productivity.  Once people have processed the changes and things are starting to feel more normal we can break those final strands of the elastic and work in the new way.  Our aim at this point is to get things working well again.  Things won’t be perfect right away and we need to be honest with our teams about that. 

Visible Signs When Leading Change 

We know people do what they see us doing rather than what they hear us telling them to do and that as leaders what we do gets noticed more, so we need to be really strict on ourselves about doing things the new way. There have been some very striking examples in the media of country leaders telling everyone they need to wear face coverings and then not doing it themselves, or visiting factories where they are mandatory and not following the rules, and when we are that leader how can we expect others to do things the new way when we won’t. 

Leading by example matters even more than normal as we come out of making changes.  But we are human so when and if we slip up we need to call ourselves out on it, admit it and tell people how we are putting it right.  

How we demonstrate working in a post-change world is only one of the ways we can remind people about the new world and keep them engaged in it.  Adding visible signs that things have changed is very powerful too.  Maybe it’s renaming some of your meetings, maybe it’s putting up posters or redecorating your workspaces, if you still share them, maybe it’s the virtual equivalent like a new template, screen savers or video call backgrounds, you will know what is going to work and be appropriate in your environment.

As you and the team work through the fine details of how you are going to work and perform as a team going forward you get to one of the most exciting parts of any change programme - the part where people start to come up with ideas about how you can make things even better.  

If as a leader you are able to encourage this you will be able to engage the whole team in accelerating your performance and truly delivering the vision you have been describing.

Summary & Taking Action

In this episode I talked about how when we are leading change, we need to keep doing the things we would normally do as a leader but change is what we focus on within that. AS well as the things we need to keep doing, we need to put additional emphasis on different things as we move through the change process and we split that into three main phases. 

The ice-cream brain phase where our aim is to get people to accept that change is happening, the messy middle which is all about getting people to process the changes and answering the questions they have to the best of our ability, and finally, the building productivity phase where we focus on making a new reality work.

The things I share are based on my experiences and some will be more relevant to you than others - it’s up to you to decide what you take and apply from this podcast.  That’s what curious choice leadership is all about - getting curious and building our understanding then evaluating what we find and making choices about what’s right for us and our business.  

And the questions I would like to leave you with are:

If you think about any changes you are leading at the moment, which phase are you in and are you focusing on the right things?

Leading Change – What Leaders Need To Do Part 1

Leading Change - What Leaders Need To Do Part 1

In the last episode, we looked at how we as individuals experience change and the process we go through.  In this episode, we are going to start to look at what we need to do to lead others through this process with us.

Are you ready?  Its time to get curious and make some choices!

Leading Change Is Our Only Certainty

About the only certainty, we have in our working worlds at the moment is that we are going to be operating amid rolling waves of change for the foreseeable future.

Part of me finds that really scary, I love to plan and to know what’s going to happen and like most people that means having a degree of certainty in my world, but a bigger part of me is excited to see where people decide to go with all these changes - how we can make our worlds a better place.  

We have this amazing opportunity to make our lives and our work better and we can do that by making a series of choices, some small, some large as we design our way out of the current situation.

And that is going to take a concerted effort and great leadership to stop us just falling back into old ways.That’s where you as a leader come in.  

But what do we as leaders actually need to do?

Leading Change Is Hard

Firstly we need to acknowledge that it’s hard and we are going to be doing something difficult and that it’s OK to ask for help.  Change isn’t easy and it’s inherently full of emotions because we are human - and that is a wonderful thing and something we need to consider as we plot our course. 

We also have to keep in mind that we are experiencing the changes as well as leading them.  And since we are experiencing them, we are going to have good days and less good days.  That’s going to act a bit like a multiplier effect when we are interacting with our teams - when we are having a good day we will find it relatively easy, but when we are having a bad day the effort required to lead and support others is exponentially higher.  That’s why understanding and managing our reactions and emotions is so critical.

Some Of What You Do Stays The Same

And yes, spoiler alert - all the things we do as leaders we still need to do while we are leading change. 

We still need to shape an exciting and aspirational vision for people, translate that into a plan that we then make happen.  We still need to review our progress and make any adjustments to what we are doing as we are going along.  We still need to model what we want to see from others and we still need to create a working environment where people can add value and feel valued. And we absolutely need to support and serve our teams and maintain the relationships and trust we have with them at a time where all that is challenged by the very process we are going through.

What Changes When You Are Leading Change

While all that stays the same, what’s different about leading change is that where we focus our energy and effort needs to be different, and there are some specific things we need to focus on doing as we, and our teams, progress through the change we are dealing with.

We know that adapting to change is a process people go through from panic back to performance.  And it’s not realistic or even sensible to expect a team going through change to perform at their best.  Part of their capacity is going to be taken up by the change process and by thinking about what is happening.

To help us work out what we need to actually do to help our teams process the changes they are experiencing it’s helpful to break the change process into three phases, as we need a different focus in each phase.  When they first find out change is coming people will avoid acknowledging change is happening and will do everything they can to hold onto the status quo.  A bit like the band there is an easy familiarity about how things are that we find comfortable even if we don’t actually like it.  

Once people have accepted that changes are coming they plunge down through anger and frustration to despair and onto bargaining where they are trying to work out what the change means for them.  We tend to spend some time spinning around in this part of the process almost like we are in a washing machine.  This is the messy middle of any change process.  Only once people have started to work out what the change means for them and that there is no going back can they move on to becoming a fully productive team again.

If you want to know more about this do check out the last episode.

As you would expect with a complex process like this there are some things we need to do throughout the process and some which need to be adjusted with the different phases.  In this episode, we are going to focus on the things we need to do through the whole process, and in the next episode, we will look at what we need to do differently through the different phases of change.

Focus On Relationships When Leading Change

Underpinning everything that we do will be maintaining and building our relationship with each of the people in our teams.  Keeping this in mind each time we interact with them, will help us have good and productive conversations with them, to know when they need a bit of extra support and to help them move through the change process. 

Being curious about them and their experiences as you all work through the changes will enable you to make great choices together.

We never know what someone else is thinking and it’s very easy to end up in a bit of a pickle when we do, for example, I used to manage a lady with a gorgeous smile who always listened attentively, so when I was talking to her about some changes we were implementing and that smile disappeared I assumed that she was really not happy about them.  Turns out she was actually really excited about them and busy working out how the changes could help her solve a problem she was having with a piece of work and I will leave you to imagine the very confusing conversation we had until I worked that out!  

I’ve also found that most times you talk to people about a change that is happening, what is worrying them is not something you thought would worry them or even something that has particularly been considered.  To help me stay curious when I’m having these conversations I now play a game with myself to see how many people can surprise me with their reaction.

How well we listen to people is the other key factor in this, we need to be careful we are not just listening to hear certain things that we then reply to or correct, we need to be listening better than that, we need to be listening to really understand the other person’s perspective.

As well as providing us with valuable information on how to help someone progress through the change process and maybe giving us some insights and things to think about that we had not previously considered, listening to understand will deepen the relationship we have and build trust.  Feeling understood is a very powerful thing, even when what we want can’t happen or the other person doesn’t agree with us. And it’s a great way to help someone else through change.

When You Are Leading Change Talk About What's Changing And Why

One of our key roles as leaders is to shape an exciting and aspirational vision for people to work towards, sharing what we are aiming to achieve, why that is really important and the things we are going to do to get there. 

When it comes to change we need to double down on this.  People need to understand what is changing and why, they need to understand what you are moving towards.

If we think about the changes that came with going into lock-down for Coronavirus, for most of us the why was pretty clear and shared very consistently - to save lives.  We also heard lots of messaging about what was going to change - it varied depending on where in the world you are but for example, here in the UK we had to stay home, our workplaces would be shut, non-essential retailers were to close, and we could only go outside once a day and in very specific circumstances.  Since every part of our lives was impacted we needed our leadership to keep giving us those messages very consistently and in lots of ways for everyone to understand the changes.

It was further complicated by the fact that we didn’t know, and still don’t know the endpoint for these changes.  And while hopefully most of the changes we end up leading won’t be this extreme there will be a parallel - we often won’t know the full picture and all the details when we first introduce the changes.  

We will, however, know why we are changing and what we are moving away from.  We should be able to outline the key things about what to expect after the change we are implementing.  As you describe the new vision for people you need to push them away from how things are by highlighting all the things that are wrong and at the same time describe how things can be after the change creating a pull in that direction.

While change is happening, more than at any other time, you are going to find yourself not knowing all the answers, so it’s time to get comfortable with not knowing and with the uncertainty that brings. 

It may not feel great but as you do you should start to find some benefits that will far outlast the change.  The uncertainty will help you keep an open mind and keep learning, it will keep you open to new and potentially better ideas, it will build the respect & trust of your team and if you have ever had a tendency to micro-manage or control everything it will help you break that habit!

Summary & Taking Action

In this episode, we have covered

OK, so in this episode, we have started to talk about what we as leaders need to do as we lead through change.  We have talked about how much of what we do as leaders stays the same, how some of the skills like how we build relationships and how we listen become even more important.  We’ve looked at how through the whole process we need to bring the vision of what it’s going to be like at the end of the change process to life for people, and that in doing that we need to be comfortable with uncertainty. But by it’s very nature the change process requires different things from us at different stages and we are going to be digging into those in the next episode.

The things I share are based on my experiences and some will be more relevant to you than others - it’s up to you to decide what you take and apply from this podcast.  That’s what Curious Choice Leadership is all about - getting curious and building our understanding then evaluating what we find and making choices about what’s right for us and our business.  

And the questions I would like to leave you with are which of the key things we do throughout change are strengths for you, and which are you going to work on either for the change you are leading at the moment of ready for the next time you find yourself leading change?

And the questions I would like to leave you with are:

Which of the key things we do as leaders throughout change are strengths for you and which are you you to to work on either for the changes you are leading at the moment or ready for the next time you find yourself leading change?

How We Experience And Process Change

How We Experience And Process Change

In this episode, we are going to look at how we experience and process change.  Understanding how we are reacting, and how others could be reacting, gives us a foundation to lead through change and to lead with empathy in what are often emotionally charged environments.

Are you ready?  Its time to get curious and make some choices!

How Good Are You At Managing Change?

We all like to think we are great, or at least good, at change. It’s become something of a CV cliche and I’m not sure I can remember the last time I read a CV or application that didn’t make that claim.  And it’s probably not surprising since making changes is intertwined with the role of a manager and of a leader.  Even if you are not leading large scale change programmes, every manager is tasked with making something better, making either small incremental changes or large leaps.  

But how good are we really with change?  Our recent experiences with changes forced on us by the pandemic give us a lot of clues, and reflecting on your reactions is a really valuable exercise and one I would encourage you to do.

But it can seem too big and unreal to be applicable to our work and the changes we lead so let’s try a little experiment or two.

It’s not a secret that I’m a huge coffee fan and ready access to good coffee is something I take seriously.  When I moved house my kitchen was far from perfect but it was the room which needed the least urgent attention, so getting the coffee making station set up was one of the first things I did.  The mugs went in the glass-fronted mug cupboard and the rest by the power sockets, at the opposite end of the room, and so it stayed with me walking up and down the room each time I wanted to make coffee - until eventually, someone suggested I moved the mugs nearer to where I make coffee, and since it seemed like a good plan I did.  

Now, it's only a small change, and one I had instigated but two weeks later I still found myself walking to the mug cupboard and getting grumpy as I wondering where the mugs were.  So if you want to see how good you really are with change try rearranging your kitchen!

Or maybe if that feels a bit drastic, try moving things around on your desk!  Or here is a fun one to try - most people who wear trousers always put the same leg on first, so next time you put some on notice which leg it is.  Then the next time try putting the opposite leg in first and notice just how disconcerting it is.

When you have tried these ask yourself if you still think you are good at change!

Ice Cream Brain

Here is the thing to remember, no matter how much experience we have with change or leading change, we still experience the emotions and the process involved in change when it happens.  

Think of change a bit like ice cream, sometimes when you eat ice cream you are going to get that ice cream brain freeze - you know the one where you head hurts and you have to make a real effort to keep breathing and you literally can’t think of anything apart from how much this hurts.  It can happen to anyone no matter how good you are at eating ice cream, or how often you eat ice cream, trust me I’ve checked this theory for you!

When it comes to ice cream brain freeze you just have to wait for your brain to thaw before you can do anything else - and it’s the same with change.  It can become the main focus of your attention and the attention of the teams around you, and we are still just at the start of the process - knowing change is coming.  

Sometimes we slide right through this initial panic phase, sometimes it takes a little longer.  What’s happening is that our brain is overwhelmed by the fight or flight reaction, we may get into hyper-productive mode, pushing to get things back to how they were, or we might push the change away and deny it is happening.  Either way, we are at the top of the roller-coaster that is the change curve.

The Change Curve

The process was first documented by the psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who studied grief extensively and broke it down into five key stages.  Those five stages have also been found to apply to change, which often initially feels like a loss too, even when it’s a positive change, we grieve for the things that are stopped or lost because of the change.  

The five stages are often displayed as a curve, a kind of lopsided smile, starting high on the left-hand side with the first stage which is denial. We then swoop steeply down through anger and frustration, the second stage and into the bottom of the curve - where we find the third stage depression.  Next, as we start to move gradually up the other side of the curve comes bargaining, that bit where we try and work out what the change actually means for us and how we can make it work until finally, the curve flattens out and we have accepted the change and can start building on it and performing again.

Now that all sounds very calm and ordered but we know from our own experiences that it often doesn’t feel that way.  We swing around on the curve taking two steps forward and then maybe one or two backwards again and there is a definite period where we spin round the bottom of the curve almost as if we are in a washing machine.

Right from the start, we are all going to experience different reactions to the changes that are happening and we are going to progress through the change curve at different paces.  As leaders, we need to recognise that and we need to get curious about our own experiences of change so that we can learn to manage ourselves through future changes and so we can authentically lead our teams through with us.  

We are going to look at what we need to do to lead others through the change curve on the next episode, and for now, let’s focus on understanding how the process impacts us.

The Kubler-Ross Change Curve

How Can We Move Through The Change Curve?

We know the process consists of going from denial, through frustration and anger to depression and onto bargaining, round the loop a few times and then ultimately out the other side to acceptance and finally back to performance applies in the workplace.  It's not realistic, or even a good idea, to expect a team to perform well while they are going through change.  The goal, while change is happening, is to process the change effectively.

So what can we do to move ourselves along the curve?  Well, there is no one easy answer - it depends on you and it depends on the change.

There is however an important concept which provides the foundation for the right answer for each of us, and which as a leader makes it much less frustrating when leading others through change.

Put simply the concept is that while you can’t control what happens to you, you can choose how you react.  It may not always feel that way, and sometimes our responses to things have become so automatic that we don’t see any alternatives, but we always have a choice.  We won’t always like those choices and the consequences that follow them, but that choice is always there.  

If we take the example of changes at work, if you don’t like them you could choose to try and make the changes better, you could try sabotaging them, you could choose to do nothing, or ultimately you could choose to leave the company. The consequences of your choices will vary depending on how you react.  You may not see them all as choices even, but what is really happening is that your brain is discounting them because of the consequences even before you have acknowledged that they are an option.

Avoid and Abdicate or Curious Choices

So how does this work in knowing you have a choice and that you can choose your reaction when you are faced with change?

Well at any point in time you can avoid and abdicate or you can get curious about your situation and make choices.  Let’s work each of those options through.  

When you take the avoid and abdicate route what happens initially is that you wait and see what is happening, and sometimes that can be a good thing if you have an ice cream brain freeze caused by the change doing nothing while it thaws is a good choice to make.  However, if you continue to avoid and abdicate you will find yourself saying things like ‘I can’t do this’ and making lots of excuses about why you are not engaging with the change.  Ultimately you will start blaming others and taking no responsibility for what is happening.  You will become a victim of the change.

In terms of what is happening on the change curve, people who get stuck in avoiding and abdicating are going to, at best, get stuck at the bottom of the change curve.  If you think about the changes you have experienced I’m sure you can think of people who have ended up appearing to be victims of change.

Curious Choices to Accountable behaviours

The alternative is you get curious and make choices.  This starts with recognising that the change is happening, and investing time in getting to understand what is changing and why.  Maybe this will lead to finding some positives about the change, and while it won’t stop you going down the steep slope of the change curve, it will speed things up and it will enable you to move through to embracing the change sooner.  

As as you embrace the change and keep exploring what is happening, the bargaining and acceptance phases of the change will have more positive outcomes more quickly.  By getting curious and making choices you will be finding solutions and making things happen - things will be happening because of you - and that is what we as leaders want and out teams need!

If you think about either yourself or people you know and how they have responded to change, you will probably find examples of this in action.  And if you want an external example, take a look at how the different world leaders communicated about what was happening with Corona Virus.  You could compare Jacinta Ardern’s ‘So this has happened and this is what we are doing’  approach with Donald Trump’s ‘Blame China’ approach.

Summary & Taking Action

In this episode, we have covered

How good are we really at change?  It’s something we put on our CV’s but no matter how much change we have been through we can still get tripped up by it, and we can still get an initial Ice cream brain when there is a lot of change going on.  If you try one of the little experiments I outlined earlier and reflect on your personal reactions to the Covid Pandemic you can see how you react to both small and large changes.  We are living through a huge immersive experience of change at the moment and its an opportunity for us all to learn a lot.

We looked at the Change Curve, how our reactions change over time, from initial denial, through frustration and anger, depression, bargaining and then acceptance.

And then we looked at how we can choose our reaction to the situations we find ourselves in, we can avoid and abdicate ending up as a victim of the changes, or we can get curious, make choice and end up leading and making things happen.  The choice is yours.

The things I share are based on my experiences and some will be more relevant to you than others - it’s up to you to decide what you take and apply from this podcast.  That’s what curious choice leadership is all about - getting curious and building our understanding then evaluating what we find and making choices about what’s right for us and our business.  

And the questions I would like to leave you with are:

What have you learned about yourself and your reactions to change?  

And then how are you going to apply what you have learned?

Welcome to the Curious Choice Leader Podcast

Welcome to the Curious Choice Leader Podcast

Hello and welcome to the Curious Choice Leader Podcast!  I’m thrilled you have joined me for this first episode where I’m going to introduce myself and the Podcast to you.  

I’m your host Bekka Prideaux, I’m a leadership development coach and consultant and I work with technical experts and business owners who, like you, are brilliant at what they do and want to keep doing it. but their success means they now have a bigger role and a team to go with it.  Now they are facing a new challenge - leadership!  And it’s a challenge that keeps changing and growing.  Studying leadership is all very well but what are you meant to actually do every day, knowing you want to inspire your team doesn’t help you know what to put on your to-do list!

About The Curious Choice Leader Podcast

I’ve been wanting to bring you a podcast for a while, to talk about leadership and to share practical hints, tips and ideas that you could apply to your situation and take action on right away.  I was planning to launch at early in the quarter, but then the world turned itself upside down and it didn’t feel right or even that important so I pressed pause and focused right in on how I could support my family, my clients,  my work friends and my friends, making sure they all had what they needed to feel safe, secure and able to function.

Suddenly I found myself having an experience I hadn’t had in a long time and certainly not to the degree I was having it.  Not knowing how to function or what to do for the best, even the basic things we had taken for granted like knowing how to get food supplies didn’t or couldn’t work.As someone who has lead many major change initiatives and worked on countless change programmes now, I found myself the one who was having change done to them and it wasn’t good!  I felt lost, angry, hurt, sad, frustrated, unproductive, rebellious, scared, helpless - the list goes on - if it’s not helpful or good you name it I felt it!  Yep almost without warning, we were all slap bang in the middle of a huge immersive learning experience about change.

There were some conversations I found myself having over and over, digging deep into that change management experience and when I paused for breath and gave myself a little time to think I realised that actually the one thing we do know about our future is that we are going to be dealing with a lot more change.Here’s the thing, these the experiences we are having now can make us better at dealing with change and leading others through change, if we press pause, review what has happened, reflect on it and use those lessons as we reset and go on to whatever comes next.

So no, this isn’t the podcast I was planning to bring you, those topics can wait, they’re still great topics, but I hope it’s a podcast that will serve you well and help you as you lead through the changing world we are all experiencing. It’s not going to be all about Covid, there is an overwhelming amount of Covid talk as it is, but the changes Covid has forced on our lives are a shared experience and one we can all grow from.  It is going to be about what we are learning about leading change and how we can apply those lessons.

Leading Change

I think everyone remembers the first time they had to lead a team through change - I know I do, the memory is vivid and not that pretty! The opening felt a bit like a bad horror movie.

Imagine the scene, it’s a run-down office of a small manufacturing company, the machines pounding away menacingly in the background.  A nieve girl walks into the bosses office and asks what she thinks is an innocent question - she was not expecting the reply she got.  The boss told her that the computer systems implementation that needed to be completed by the end of the next week was in chaos, and it wasn’t just her training in how to use it that was off track.  

The internal project manager had just been sacked for fraud and the police were due any time, the external project manager had been rushed into hospital and wouldn’t be back and no one else knew what was happening.  Having asked how she could help, the girl found herself wrestling computers, wrangling people and making friends with the project management monster, and before she knew it she was leading this and many more changes.  

And yes, with the support of an amazing boss, that girl was me!Not that I knew it at the time, but my desire to learn and the curiosity I brought to what I was doing turned out to be a real asset.  By talking to people and gathering information I was able to find ways to make things work, make smart choices for the company that people understood and help people transition into a new way of working.

Years and years of leading change and working with leaders later (just over 30 years if you need to know) those core skills of being curious and making choices are still at the heart of what I do and what the amazing leaders I work with do day in day out as they take their businesses and their teams where they need to go and as they do it in a way that works for them.

My Hopes For The Curious Choice Leader Podcast

So, this show is dedicated to helping experts like you become the leader you want to be, to create working worlds that work for you, your business and everyone connected with it, either in your own business or as a leader in an organisation.

We know there is more change coming, it’s about the only certainty we have at the moment, so I’m going to be sharing the lessons I’m learning for myself and from discussions with my clients, I’m going to share hints, tips and ideas that you can apply to your work and as you lead through change and changing times.  My hope is that this will challenge and grow your thinking and encourage you to step into your leadership.

The things I share will be based on my experiences and some will be more relevant to you than others - it’s up to you to decide what you take and apply from this podcast.  That’s what curious choice leadership is all about - getting curious and building our understanding then evaluating what we find and making choices about what’s right for us and our business.  

Now that you know what you might be in for, join me on the next episode and let’s get curious and make some choices.