My biggest failure in Change Management
Early on in my Change Management career, I faced an enormous challenge. A critical stakeholder on a project I was working on just wouldn't have a bar of me! Here I was being my usual friendly, bubbly, helpful self, and it was like there was this wall, this block, this shield up. There was so much friction with this stakeholder. It was super awkward for me, especially as I'd been getting good feedback from almost all my other stakeholders. I had tried a few different strategies to bridge the gap, and it felt like a big failure on my part.
And so my leader at the time had a chat with her, to try and understand what was going on. And it turns out, this stakeholder took my positive and optimistic personality and just assumed it was fake and sarcastic. That was the lens she was looking through. So my leader had to explain to her that: "Uh, no, that's actually just Lata's actual personality. She's a coach, and she truly is just that positive and optimistic!" And that stakeholder then understood and felt a bit more comfortable in the fact that I wasn't taking the p***. I won't say it was completely smooth sailing from there, but the winds of trust definitely picked up.
The woes of being Lata
Now, this isn't the first time my confident and vibrant personality has gotten me in trouble. OH NO. Earlier on in my career, I was reprimanded for being "too authentic" (true story, seriously). But in the world of Change Management, it raised a really interesting conundrum.
Change is complex. It's scary. Tensions are high. Lots is at stake. People are stressed. And often it's not the impacted teams; instead, it's the people running and delivering the project or solution, who are working around the clock with multiple work streams, resources and dependencies to try to get this thing launched.
Change Managers, on the whole, tend to be a positive, optimistic bunch. They care about people. They care about the change. They care about the success of the change. And they are often coming up against people in the project and in the business who are tired, cynical, anxious and/or afraid. And may even be wondering why Change Managers are there at all.
So what do you do? Do you calibrate on fear and meet stakeholders where they are? Or do you take the high road and stay bright, energetic and optimistic about the change and the future? In all my experiences since that first challenging stakeholder, I'd always choose the second. Because you can race to the bottom with the project and the business. But then everyone is down in the dumps. And in that place, it's harder to problem solve, brainstorm, fight fires, inspire people, keep yourself and others calm and focused, and pave the way for a successful change.
Err on the side of you
If your true personality is to be positive, optimistic, caring and supportive, don't lose that in the face of a challenging change or a sticky stakeholder. Lean on your resources to keep your spirits up. Whether that's your leader, your partner, friends, family, pets. Or a community of passionate Changies who believe in the same things you do and trust in a brighter future. It's so nice to "come home" to people who are like you and celebrate the joy and power of Change.
They say misery loves company. Joy does too.
If you're looking for some good vibes to help cope or bounce back from a challenging change or a sticky stakeholder, join me on my free Change Tools Masterclass. Session 2 is coming up on Tuesday 24 August and if you don't leave feeling more inspired, I'll eat my hat. I just need to buy a hat... it's hard to get anything to fit over all this hair...
Register your free spot here, and be quick as we've almost reached capacity!
Lata Hamilton is a Change Leadership expert who is passionate about helping others make the career change to Change. She also plugs her free online workshops in her blog posts. Like this one: register for her free Change Masterclass here.