Eight Educational Experiences with Emotions

  • I am feeling joy.
  • I am feeling encouraged.
  • I am feeling… grateful.

The above three emotions were the result of a short future focused self reflection for me, using the Emotional Culture Deck (ECD). How are you feeling today? How are you really feeling? What emotions are you connecting with today?


I have been on a six-month learning journey and I’m reflection and future spying on the impact of the ECD to me and my approach professionally and personally. I have played the game many times now, with individuals and teams and I’m about to share its approach with a group of individuals who are not a team, but I want to see the ECD and the opportunities for it. As I prepare for this session – and I think there may be more – I thought it would be good to summarize my discoveries.

  1. People confuse their real emotions with those expected of them by others. There is often a belief that people are expected to show a certain emotion in a situation but want to express something else. Consider the challenge of a person who wants to laugh when fearful, or does not want to say how challenged they feel, for fear of belittling by others.
  2. Leadership teams often struggle to understand their organization because they lack the empathy to address the emotions present. This causes disconnects and a challenge to be successfully aligned.
  3. It is equally important to recognize the emotions you readily embrace and the emotions you don’t want to see but know are there. When you look at both sides of the coin, its easier to understand the why and how of the emotional responses.
  4. A focus on emotional responses to a situation, give you the power to accept, manage and direct that situation to a desired outcome. Emotion based action planning can be highly effective.
  5. Emotions are the fuel that energizes the culture of an organization. Culture is driven by the how and why of the relationships within an organization and understanding this network of pushes and pulls are part of the construct of the culture.
  6. Giving space to talk emotions can help build a psychologically safe space where it previously doesn’t exist. When people can talk freely about emotions, in front of others, in collaboration with others, and gently challenge choices with meaningful and respectful dialogue, then they are prepared to move to the more difficult conversations.
  7. Its ok to draw a blank! Sometimes you can’t find the right words to express an emotion and so going with the closest or more resonating can help to fine tune. Sometimes, you just can’t get the right words to express yourself and I’m ok with that.
  8. Never be surprised how much can be achieved in a short time when emotions are in play! I’ve undertaken 60-minute sessions and over half day sessions and found myself always surprised at the pace and amount of discovery happening through the time.

The ECD is an incredibly powerful tool that helps you build a great action plan, canvas or strategy for development of a whole range of areas. The past 6 months have been an amazing journey – great to connect (and reconnect in some cases) with some amazing people who think so cleverly about the human centred situation. I look forward to many more journeys with this little game, and fun times exploring its potential … now to hack the pack!

If you are interested in experiencing the Emotional Culture Deck, see our page here

Here are a few ways you can learn more about The Emotional Culture Deck:

  • Visit www.theemotionalculturedeck.com
  • Download a free Lo-fi PDF version of the deck at the website, click here
  • Complete The Emotional Culture Deck Online Masterclass course like I did here
  • If you still have questions, feel free to contact me here for a chat

#emotionalculturedeck #proelephantrider #ridersandelephants #emotionalculture

Misaligned Leadership & the Passive Resistor

Ever wondered how it would feel if you could box up all your emotions and hide them away? It’s strange how we are driven, led or even coaxed down pathways we wouldn’t normally travel, just because of an emotion? We can decide the excitement of the new is greater than the fear of the unknown.  We move the limits of confidence because of commitment, and we peer into the uncomfortable because of the joy the result may bring.

The Emotional Culture Deck (ECD)

If you have read my previous blogs, you will know that I am currently undertaking a deeper exploration of emotions and their role in achieving workplace cultural success. This journey is prompting me to go through a range of different activities with individuals and groups, playing with the Emotional Culture Deck (ECD) to discover and develop a range of activities.

I recently undertook one of these ECD workshops with a leadership team at a purpose driven non-profit organization.  They are not a large team, with a variation of skills and experience. I was exploring their leadership capacity and focus for the organization achieving its potential. As I prepared for the workshop I reflected upon recent conversations that had taken place between myself and the executive director. I had undertaken some leadership assessments as part of the bigger professional development journey for them. I was confident that all this insight into the team would make me fully prepared for the few hours we would spend together. I was very wrong!

ECD in Action

When it comes to emotions and discussions about their presence, not even I was prepared for the variation of responses within the group on the day. There were those that leapt at the chance to share while there were those that were a more reserved. Fortunately, I have many years experience in facilitation, and I was able to judge the group dynamic pretty fast, even with this being online. It quickly became apparent that one individual was out of step with the rest of the group and what I first thought was reserve was actually a passive resistance.

Exploring the emotions that leaders lean into and shy away from brings to the surface some interesting observations. There are people willing to sacrifice their own wellbeing for the greater good of their organization. Others, only want what is good for them. These latter people are often square pegs trying to fit in the proverbial round hole. They may lack a certain authenticity and watching their team dynamic is a confirmation of this. Unfortunately, the situation I was in today, showed our passive resistor to be disingenuous and lacking authenticity in supporting the purpose of their organization. A situation that I had to navigate, while still allowing the others to contribute in a safe way.

This was not an easy session, but it was a valuable discussion. The outcome of the experience was that the team discovered they were not the team they thought they were. The follow up required some difficult conversations and the resultant self realization was acceptance of poor fit and eventually a resignation by the misaligned individual.

This was the outcome of playing a card game. Yes, it was an emotional card game but an important one of reflection and candid conversation. The result of the commitment statements I concluded the game with, is a better organization, with a more cohesive and stronger leadership team. I’ll take that as a good result!

If you are interested in experiencing the Emotional Culture Deck, see our page here

Here are a few ways you can learn more about The Emotional Culture Deck:

  • Visit www.theemotionalculturedeck.com
  • Download a free Lo-fi PDF version of the deck at the website, click here
  • Complete The Emotional Culture Deck Online Masterclass course like I did here
  • If you still have questions, feel free to contact me here for a chat

#emotionalculturedeck #proelephantrider #ridersandelephants #emotionalculture

Opportunities, Emotions and the Benefits of Forced Choices

“Happy Birthday to me!” Yup! Its that time of year once again. As usual I choose this as a moment to reflect on the year that has been and the year yet to come. However, there was a tinge of frustration as this year was another birthday within the confines of Covid induced lockdown measures. I am not going wallow, as even though it wasn’t the celebration I would have liked, it was still a pleasant day.

My thoughts navigated across my pandemic experience. I’ve seen emotions in myself that lifted me and also disappointed me. I have seen others demonstrate almost caricatured alter egos as they wrestle with the bubble to the surface of their inner turmoil. Yet, for all of this I recognize the opportunities that the situation has presented me with and likewise seen others seize.

I’ve always been a learning sponge, and if you’ve read my last blog post, you will know that I’ve been exploring the important of emotions for organizational and individual benefits through the Emotional Culture Deck (ECD). I’m discovering knew and progressive ways to use it and over the past month or so I’ve undertaken several sessions with individuals using the ECD as I rekindle my love affair with its potential.

I undertook a leadership focused emotional exploration with a colleague, viewing the relatively recent leadership position they had taken on. One interesting insight for me came when we recognized that there are multiple layers of leadership engagement present. Leaders in organizations do not lead the same way for everyone and different lenses can reflect differently. Here we discovered disparity between immediate team and broader organization, and it prompted a deeper dive to discover the differences for both audiences’ expectations and emotional engagement. The key discovery of our conversation was to recognize the role of leader of the leadership team needs a nuance of approach compared to the broader group.

I’ve also introduced the ECD tor some individuals who are not leaders, but individual contributors and solopreneurs who kind of lead themselves and are led by others. Without sharing too much personal information, one individual had been on something of a rollercoaster ride of emotional challenges. Fortunately, the activity did not prompt too many dark memories, confusions, or general frustrations. However, the individual recognized how many emotions they choose to ignore, box away and generally avoid coming to the surface and this exercise made them and the moment of light was recognizing the power of owning these emotions was greater than the power of hiding from them.

I’m thrilled these situations brought opportunities of discovery for the individuals, but it also prompted me to do the same. I have been fascinated in the way we work together in a virtual environment yet still carry forward our values, beliefs, and general mindset. Patterns of thought that have been built up over many years outside of a virtual environment easily framing the virtual interactions. It has always been important to me that people find value from interactions that can release their potential. All the above interactions took place remotely, yet I successfully created space for them to discover their opportunities. Eighteen months ago, I would never have considered undertaking an activity like the ECD within a virtual environment. The lack of choice has forced us to adapt and evolve but also be true to ourselves in delivering our desired outcomes of facilitation.

The pandemic has forced us to consider things in new and different ways, whether it’s a birthday celebration, coaching session or client discovery meeting. This in turn has presented opportunities to explore new and different ways. Connecting this to your emotional response mechanism can be a very fruitful activity, to learn and discover yet more opportunities that would otherwise have gone by without exploration.

I leave you with some challenge points to ponder.

  • What have you done anew this past year to realize your potential?
  • What opportunities have you embraced during the pandemic?
  • Has this year heightened your emotions, or challenged you to discover them?
  • Are you a better person today then you were 12 months ago?

Here are a few ways you can learn more about The Emotional Culture Deck:

  • Visit www.theemotionalculturedeck.com
  • Download a free Lo-fi PDF version of the deck at the website, click here
  • Complete The Emotional Culture Deck Online Masterclass course like I did here
  • If you still have questions, feel free to contact me here for a chat

#emotionalculturedeck #proelephantrider #ridersandelephants #emotionalculture

Emotions Fuel Cultural Fire

How are you feeling today? I know we are just celebrating (or commiserating) one year of pandemic, but otherwise what is your mood today? Happy? Sad? Confused? Engaged? Challenged? How present have you been today? How disconnected are you now? Any other words or phrases come to mind to explain your feelings in this moment?

Emotions are funny ole’ things. We have them, we can lean into them, we may use them to our advantage, we express them through our actions, occasionally we shout out that we now own them, but it seems more frequently we hide, cover, stop, or push them aside. Are they good things to have or bad baggage? It does not matter, because you have them irrespective of whether you want them. You can’t choose to not be emotional, at best you can choose to manage the level of visibility or response you generate from them. Some people may be skilled at hiding their emotions, but really, they are just hiding the way the express them to others – it doesn’t mean they don’t exist – psychological conditions excluded.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been playing with emotional responses to change and bringing my somewhat limited experience with the Emotional Culture Deck (ECD) into play. I use it as reference in discovering or just identifying what that emotional response is for people going through a change or even just considering it. As I now embark on becoming a pro-facilitator for the ECD I am struck by my own preconceptions, those of others around me and some of the research that prompted the fantastic Jeremy Dean to develop this wonderous thought provoking little deck of cards.

I’m first reassured then intrigued to read in the Harvard Business Review article of January 2016 that, “Every organization has an emotional culture, even if it’s one of suppression.” It got me thinking – is emotion just and indicator of the culture or is it the driver that may inform the culture of an organization. Can we use it as an indicator of the organization’s maturity, progressiveness, or approach to employee engagement? If we challenge the referenced statement above to explore an organization of suppressing emotion, I am taken in two differing directions of thought. Is it describing a mindset that encourages emotions to be curtailed, avoided, and prevented or is it more about emotional expressions being held down and kept inside? I make the difference, not because I think either is better than the other, but to reflect upon the consequences of each within organizational culture.

Prevention tactics can cause individuals to associate emotions with wrongdoing, the removal of individuality, and the organization’s desire to have each employee be just a numbered robot in the big machine. It negates the person(ality) for who they are and does not recognize them for any individual strengths they may bring to their work. Effectively everyone becomes everyone else and in so doing nobody is really anybody – apologies for the mind pausing sentence!

Now if the alternate is to bottle up emotions and just not show them, this has a health impact on individuals. The challenge here is that emotional responses are contained, not the emotions themselves. The effects are then turned inward, and the folks can make themselves ill with internal wrestling what they cannot express.

Let us move away from health impacts and robots without emotions and bring a focus on to how these may represent the culture dynamic. Consider your perceptions or expectations of culture. What is a good culture? What is a bad culture? Do we say that a good culture is one that is driven by values and principles of equity and inclusion, of respect and appreciation, of opportunity and progress? I’m sure there are more words than that, but as with many people those words would align for me as a good culture. This leads our thought patterns to consider if “It is important for people to feel happy rather than miserable in their work” as per this June 2018 publication from Jochen Menges at the University of Cambridge who validates the comment with the empirical reference of “research shows that contented employees deliver better results”. I deduce from these statements that the good, positive, emotionally free culture is beneficial to organizational results because an embracement of emotions, demonstrates a focus on people and the culture needed to thrive.

I have worked with too many organizations that shout out about their culture, but it is just a conformist culture, devoid of emotional resonance and focused on task delivery with rewards given for compliant and monochrome response mechanisms. I am choosing to challenge the success of these organizations. The need to address the role of emotions within their entities and the potential evolution of their culture by working with the emotions they find.

I think organizations grow when they embrace the potential of their culture. I feel that cultural potential can only be discovered when emotions are made accessible, recognizable and the commitment is to work with them rather than against. Like all good change, success happens when you do change with people, similarly cultural transformation is successful when you work with emotions of all involved..

©2021 Rich Batchelor for Capillary Consulting Inc.

This is the first in a series of upcoming blogs as I progress through my Emotional Culture Deck pro certification.

Here are a few ways you can learn more about The Emotional Culture Deck:

  • Visit www.theemotionalculturedeck.com
  • Download a free Lo-fi PDF version of the deck at the website, click here
  • Complete The Emotional Culture Deck Online Masterclass course like I did here
  • If you still have questions, feel free to contact me here for a chat

#emotionalculturedeck #proelephantrider #ridersandelephants #emotionalculture

The Future of Change Management Lives Outside the Box

This ever-growing portfolio of transformation needs change professionals to keep adding capabilities to their toolbox, developing deeper intervention practice and broader approaches to engage in these new and exciting spaces. I do not use the word exciting lightly. I think that we are in exciting times for change, but this means that the way many people successfully deliver also needs to evolve.

Are you ready to see what’s outside?

There was a time when the primary focus of change management practice was rooted activities surrounding technology implementations. Times have changed. The focus for change support has broadened with an increase in activity for culture shifts, strategy development, organizational design, and workspace reorganization, to name but a few new spaces of change.

It has been many years since I did a technology implementation, but I speak to many in the change community who are still primarily doing this work. It concerns me that the desired approach of their organizations is a template driven project managed change management. This style doesn’t create a good fit for the change but rather forces a fit to an approach. I know many of these practitioners are frustrated by the confines this expectation places on them. There is a time and place for document driven change, but its not the panacea to all change. These practitioners want to give so much more than a few documents inside a project delivery. When you work in supporting people’s responses to the new, different, and strange, you want to have meaningful engagement with them that delivers solutions to their pain points. This means expanding the offerings you give to meet the greater needs and expectations being placed.

It was approximately 4 years ago that I was at a change management conference and I said organizational design is part of change management. I pushed for someone to come up with a case study or paper at the following year’s conference, I think I even offered to buy them a drink if they did. However, it did not happen, and I am still to see an organizational design reflection at a change conference. I have taken an organizational design journey of discovery these past few years. Adding to my existing knowledge and bringing myself up to date with current practice and approaches in the organizational design space; I found the commonality is significant. The activities needed for organizational design is definitely overlapping and complimentary to change management and no more or less than I see with project management or organization development. I do strongly believe that change professionals need to add the organizational design skillset within their portfolio to better meet the needs of their clients or leadership expectations. There is no gain to be had in helping to implement a change with the confines of a badly shaped organization.

I have been a coach for many years and have been utilising the skills throughout my change engagements. I truly find that taking a coaching approach helps me to build trust, find the true cause of responses and understand the needs of anyone experiencing change. In the past couple of years, I’ve seen more connection between coaching practice and change delivery, but its still evolving. I recommend that coaching skills are developed for every practitioner to understand their communications style, language choices and engagement techniques. Coaching is often seen as a 1-1 arrangement, but every organization is made up of individuals and the best way to change an organization is to change the individual’s relationship with that organization.

Where will you find your next tools?

I am fascinated to see how other disciplines and areas of practice influence the future of change delivery in the coming years. I’m intrigued by the potential for ergonomics and physiotherapy are going to influence the how we approach changing workspaces, particularly given the impact of Covid-19.  I am excited to see the evolution of Agile and agile within change, the links to process improvement practices and continued connect to the learning and development space. Neuroscience and psychology have long played a part in explaining change responses, but now we seem them being flipped to work on supporting others through the change. There are more than just these area that can connect to change management, but these are just the few that come to front of mind.

If you are interested in learning with me to gain deeper skills in change delivery, organizational design and coaching for change I have a number of advanced courses coming up.

The Certified Change Leader includes agile, strategy, culture and more – read more here: https://capillarylearning.com/qualifications/certified-change-leader-ccl/

Understanding Organizational Design provides a foundation in the practice and good examples to gain the fundamentals – read more here: https://capillarylearning.com/workshops/understanding-organizational-design/

The Delivering Organizational Design Program guides you through the practical requirements with assessment tools, formulating plans and real time activities to practice – read more here: https://capillarylearning.com/workshops/delivering-organizational-design/

Developing Coaching Skills for Change is a robust workshop that helps align change and coaching practice with an easy to follow approach and plenty of opportunity to practice – read more here: https://capillarylearning.com/workshops/developing-coaching-skills-for-change/

Change Practitioners should now be supporting Change Recovery

I am very aware that change has significantly affected everyone this year. It’s been a tough 2020. The conversations I’ve been having, discuss how so many organizations and individuals have been pushed sideways (and many other directions) by the impact of Covid-19. We need to start thinking how we recover, reshape and prepare for the after-effects of this massively disruptive change!

Like many businesses, my springtime pivots probably looked like pirouettes! Far to much reaction and not enough proactiveness. I recently chatted with a business owner who said that their biggest pivot in 2020 had nothing to do with the lay-offs and reduced revenue, but actually their personal realization that now its time to focus on what I need to survive this. He no longer has the freedom to try out and spend on the hope that it works.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and realise that maybe its also time to pivot how we apply our change skillsets. The need is no longer about delivering change but how to make the right responses to the changes, how to sustain the impacts and how to move ahead in supporting businesses recovering from the aftermath of change. There will be needs for further changes to do this – consider organizational shape and size, process and workplace modifications and a whole raft of needs to refocus direction. Organizations are now going to need change practitioners to help them move forward from the change and not sit back hoping for a return to what was before. That isn’t an option!

We are fortunate to be well supported by government financial plans here but these will not last forever and by the fall of 2020, like many other businesses, will have to be self-sufficient and ready to move forward with our new approaches. Capillary has refocused a number of activities to be better placed for this time. We have we reshaped functions and roles, flexed strategic plans for new priorities and are in the midst of designing a number of more efficient processes to compliment more virtual working and a new kind of physical workspace in the months ahead.

In doing this for Capillary I realized these are things we’ve being doing for years as part of our consulting engagements. And is something we can offer other growing organizations at this time of challenge.

I have created a business recovery program that brings all these tools and techniques together. With two fixed price options, businesses know how much they are spending and what they are getting. The cashflow is tight right now and gone are the days of open-ended consulting activity. If you are a growing or developing organization that needs help in building your recovery strategy, let us help you. More information can be found here: BUSINESS RESTART PROGRAM

If you just want to talk about options or you are struggling to find your way clear of the current disruption, just get in touch and lets have a conversation – for free! I want to see us turn the negative impact into positive opportunity and reflect on making the possible come true.

Daring to look to the future … New Decade, New Directions and New Dimensions Ahead

I recently shared my thoughts on the change space, via video, with the audience at https://www.forandringsledning.com/konferens – a Swedish change management conference held earlier in February. You can see my video here: https://youtu.be/4zo1q4aTi0o  but the big question that came from it was whether you do hard or soft change management? I have to thank a conversation at a Spark Conference with Luc Galoppin a few years back for making the challenge of hard and soft change approaches drill into my subconscious as I consider the future of the space. Do you need a digital scale? The professionals from scaleszen are ready to give you best advises to find the best scale.

Now I’ve never been afraid to challenge the term change management as counterproductive to the purpose of the activity. It really is a sucky term, but it’s probably the most familiar term we have. Now in 2020 and beyond, I think it will stay around and continue to be challenged by terms like change leadership – because the behaviours of successful change management are found in leadership behaviours. We also have the continued stand off with project management, use of the terms change communications, change delivery, transformation and implementation coming into the mix and still forcing confusion. My sense is that there will be a divergence of approach into those that do tactical, operation change management activity and those that develop change strategy, advisory approaches and facilitate interventions. I think at the core of this is that as now, we will continue to have technology-based change and non-technology-based change.

Technology changes, whether by traditional or agile approaches in project management, will be very operational and tactically delivered and I feel the change management will align. This worries me a little because of all the tall of implementing digital transformation. Too many times I am seeing this used as a framing of “big tech roll-out” or “lots of new apps” or some other term that relates to organizations throwing a lot of technology out there. We have to realise that digital transformation is a cultural journey for people to embrace, adopt and adapt to new technologies and the tools they bring – not just the deliver of such tools. If you are looking for the latest coupons and offers available online, in Coupons Collector you can find a wide range of coupons that you can uses to buy what you need.

I’m writing this as we are now into a deep and unnerving time brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. With many people in quarantine and everyone recommended to practice physical distancing and stay at home, we have entered a period of disruptive change unlike any other. I saw the graphic below posted across LinkedIn and someone should be credited for it, hats off to the recognition. However, forced use of technology is not the same as a digital transformation. I’ve been supporting several organizations who employ people using virtual workspaces for the very first time. What we are seeing is the digital equivalent of learning to swim by being thrown in the deep end of the pool. Its sink or swim time! Get with the tech or go back to sleep! The way we work is going to fundamentally change going forward but lets remember we need physical interaction and we are not going to be plugged into the matrix for ever more. I do see us embracing these digital opportunities and blending them with traditional and progress techniques. I’m loving the exploration of opportunities but I’m also self checking to remember the majority are not at the front of the adoption curve like myself. I am still having conversations with people who are getting excited over seeing people in other places and being able to talk with them through the magic of the interwebs!

So what else can the future hold? I honestly don’t know if I dare predict given the current state of the world. For me, I am moving workshops I thought could never be delivered online, into an online space. I’m challenging coaching clients to meet virtually and recognize their own limitations in success and most of all, just reminding people that change is always changing – so we better get used to it.

As part of my commitment to support others through this challenging time. See opportunities for free learning here: https://www.capillaryconsulting.com/coping-in-a-crisis-resources-dedicated-to-support-you-through-these-difficult-times/

2019 was my VUCA-filled Culture focused extravaganza of change!

I’ve started this blog post 3 times already but playing with the ups and downs of the year is a big challenge. We are now halfway through January and I am ready at last to reflect objectively on the year… A year of first time awards, recognitions and achievements but also a year with the unexpected thrown my way and some true VUCA (more about that below) experiential learning moments.

I want to start with my observations of the change space in 2019. Some of this is manifestation of stuff that started in 2018 and earlier years but there are two areas that have bubbled to the surface for me this past year – Culture and VUCA.

Culture I saw come back into the change space properly after many years of being a sidebar or peripheral consideration. Occasionally a topic talked about by the strange touchy-feely people and not those “driving” change forward! The idea that change is only “driven” successfully when following a process or set methodology has always been an anathema to me! Now I must confess that the work on Toronto Change Days has prompted the culture conversation to come to greater prominence. The 2019 theme for the event was Living Values and so it really encapsulated a lot of culture focus. Now the idea, that the way people behave, will influence the success of a change initiative, is finally taking root and I’m pleased that the bigger, more holistic views are taking shape around this. There’s still a lot of work to be done in the culture space – shaping, changing, even identifying it style, needs to gain some maturity but like so many other aspects of change it starts with a willingness to bring it to the centre of the conversation is fantastically important. Hat’s off to evangelists in this space like Jeremy Dean, Hilton Barbour, Jackie Lauer and Tynan Allan

The other subject is VUCA (Vulnerable, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) which as a term is finally having a renaissance moment these last year or two. After a rise to prominence several years back, the term went into the lower levels of conversation for several years. I think that the increasing pace of the unpredictability of technological evolution and the continuous flux of society this past little while has brought a need to label and after some early reference to disruption and disruptive change – and attachment to the 4th industrial revolution, describe this state of existence seems to have settle on the VUCA term. Now it was 2 years ago I was fortunate enough to engage with a deep dive on this work and my thanks to Rik Berbé for the great work he’s been doing in promoting the benefits of recognizing and working in the VUCA space. This has been my theme of public speaking engagements in 2019 and with a little help of some Lego® , has been a great sharing experience over the past year.

The year also included some great learning for me. I set myself the challenge of learning at least one new thing each year and 2019 was the Emotional Culture Deck early in the year. This was a great experience that made me realise that we have so much potential from understanding the nuances of human interaction and the emotional drivers for everything we do. I had a busy year professionally and was fortunate enough to attend the ACMP “Change Management 2019” conference in Florida – and captcha some R&R time too! I was thrilled to be included in their Ignitors group of “experts, gurus and luminaries”, moving the needle on the discipline of Change Management, with many good friends and heroes of the space in that group too. I’m also pleased to be part of the community reviewing the Standard for Change Management.

My learning continued with a trip to the amazing Berlin Change Days which was a precursor to us hosting  the second Toronto Change Days non-conference. With a theme of Living Values we knew it was going to be a challenge for participants to feel safe to explore their values and I tip my hat to the honesty of the participants, facilitators and volunteers who jumped in to make this an amazing experience for all. I was particularly thrilled to see the event be featured by Forbes Magazine as one of the top 5 conferences in 2020 for educators and entrepreneurs.

Although the start of the year was bumpy for Capillary with clients suddenly ending engagements and continued fall out from the government changes in the province.  I’m thrilled that we roared back in the latter half of the year. Its personally very reassuring to see people embrace the learning style and content we offer and provide great feedback on the experiences. We delivered in new locations – taking the experience to Sudbury and Ottawa as well as delivering in the UK, all places we will return to in 2020. I also finally addressed some of the challenge pieces posed by Certified Change Agent Attendees – where do I go to next? 2019 saw me launch 2 new  workshops – the first was a connection of Lego Serious Play and the change space, with my Certified Lego Serious Play Change Facilitator credential, but the second was perhaps even more impactful as I launched the Certified Change Leader credential – a deeper exploration of change management, leadership, culture and more!

I wanted to end my reflection of the year on a high. This was the first year I was invited to pitch the company at an international conference, having been nominated for an award. In September I was invited to the International Trade Council Go Global Awards to give short overview of the company as we were shortlisted for an award. And yes, we won the award for 2019 Business of the Year – Professional Services a truly amazing achievement for us!

This blog post is the first of a series of three January entries, reflecting on the past year, past decade and future of the community we serve!

Be Agile, Be Ready, Be Bold and Change!

For some time, I’ve been having this conversation that an agile organization, is an organization that is much more resilient and ready for change. Although I’ve had my Agile journey’s of discovery, I must admit that I’m surprised that, so few people get this. Being agile is about a mindset. Its about culture. Its about people. Its about having the presence of mind and personal self awareness to flex, bend, move and work with a change and not try and snap.

When we consider determining how ready an organization is for change that’s coming, we often think of readiness for a planned change and revert to out tried and tested process. We get “that template” printed off and start ticking boxes and assessing change readiness with some magic formula that then presents us with the planned activities we need by some systematic gap analysis. Its all very dry and functional in approach but it’s the best we must work with. At the start of any change event, we have to assess change readiness. But what if we didn’t?

How about an organization that never needs more than a confirmation of change readiness? An assessment that is nothing more than a short conversation? And no need to create a change readiness plan of action. It may sound far fetched but its not. When you build agility into the workplace culture, you build readiness into the DNA. Now there may be a little work to confirm specific details of each change, but Agile organizations flex to accommodate the changing needs and the people who work in them are up for the challenge, with higher levels of resilience and capacity.

Are we being agile?

Now what about unexpected change, you know the disruptive kind of change? Yes, the changes we face living in a VUCA world! Building organizational agility supports the successful negotiation of these types of changes too. In fact, being agile, supports the resilient mind that doesn’t panic when the unexpected arrives, but stays calm and carries on when it is presented to them.

Now becoming an agile organization requires dedication and hard work as that is a change in of itself.  However, the hard work pays off time and time again on all future change initiatives. So my challenge to you is to find a way to develop your organization’s agility and make all those future changes less painful.

This article is part of the 2019 #ChangeBlogChallenge on the topic of Change Readiness in Quarter 3. Click here to see what other change thinkers say about this topic.

Communications – sometimes…

Sometimes the role is confusing… Sometimes we mess up… Sometimes our communications fail… Sometimes we get it right… Sometimes we just don’t know… Sometimes we communicate late… Sometimes we are amazed that we can juggle it all!

I’ve been amazed by the number of conversations I’ve had with clients, colleagues and more, who think that change management is just about communications. Please understand there’s more to it than just telling people what is going on!

I want to tell you a short story here. Around 9 years I was approached to undertake an engagement with a grocery chain. However, whether the fault of the company, hiring manager or HR person I was speaking with, there was a lack of understanding about the role. I was repeatedly asked if I’d come in and tell people about the change and make sure they do it. Now the first time I was contacted, I explored the words with he HR person, but effectively they thought my role would be to be the messenger of the change, so the leadership didn’t have to be, and my purpose was to make sure all staff complied. I was horrified! And when 3 months later the same company contacted me with the same request, I had the response ready, a short sharp “NO”.

I reflect on this situation many times and hear of many colleagues having similar conversations with potential employers and clients and it worries me. Understanding that there is more to enabling change than communications is huge for many people, but realizing that the communications element, which I readily admit is fundamental to the success of sustained change, is more than telling, is vital for them to understand the need of change management professionals.

I’m not a conformist in my approaches to supporting change, but there are simple things to consider when communicating about a change and these are so often overlooked. I want to just give a few tips from my experience that should help:

  1. KISS – Keep it Simple Stupid. I have worked with many organizations and I find that with all those entities they love a good acronym. So many acronyms, there could be dictionaries devoted to them! Avoid the use of acronyms where possible or at least explain them – not everyone knows what you know.
  2. Concise messages. Don’t write a book in an email. We have all fallen into this misconception that email is a time effective method of communications. Well, guess what, that’s not always the case! If you have that much content, demonstrate your leadership, confidence and capacity to engage with people and have a face-to-face conversation! If I see another manger spend an hour writing an email, followed by 2 hours of CC all replies ending up with an in person meeting, I shall have to temper my urge to scream at them why didn’t you do that in the first place!
  3. Transparency & Timing. Too many people feel they cannot say anything about a change until they know everything. I’ve news for you, you will never know everything! All this achieves is a space for rumour, gossip and untruths to formulate with people, while they wait for the truth and then we spend way too long undoing all these falsehoods. Of course the real reason for this arising is the avoidance of difficult conversations. My experience says that people respect early notification of change in preference to late notice. There will be challenging questions presented with either option but the early deal is far easier to manage than the late response.

I have a final response to my tips and its simply saying you don’t know when you don’t know. Its ok to have that response! It may be uncomfortable, but it gains valuable respect from people when you are open about your lack of knowledge. It will also let you gain insight into the focus of their thoughts so you can prepare what needs to be said next time!

As I close this post, I just wanted to acknowledge that this is being published outside the 3 month window for the communications theme of the change blog challenge! Sometimes we don’t manage to communicate on time, but we reflect that it has no detrimental effect on the outcomes, so its OK! I decided that applied for this content!

This article is part of the 2019 #ChangeBlogChallenge on the topic of Change Resistance in Quarter 2. Click here to see what other change thinkers say about this topic.