By, Cari Desiderio
It took me a number of years to understand why I am a person who thrives in the midst of what many deem crisis. Consistently for my last four companies I have managed to be an integral team member in some major change. Significant resource reductions and a call for a new method of operation, rolling out a new system that radically changed how our practitioners did business, moving a facility, starting a new process from scratch that many people are not comfortable with, and so forth. For some time I honestly thought I must be a little “weird” or “off” to kind of get my energy in the midst of leading serious changes that were not always that popular. I remember back to my first formal training on how to lead through change. My boss Leslie sent me to class downtown Chicago and taught me how to project plan with the consultants and design blueprints for change. She was great because it was under her leadership that I learned the criticality of making sure people were valued and respected through the process of change. It was here that I (well not me but a medical director) coined the phrase “blueprint for success” which served a nice euphemism for blueprint for change. I use this phrase to this day. From working sessions to create tools to support peers through change and to learn to encourage one another, to finding symbolic ways to mourn and bury the past and forge forward into the present, to intensive sessions mapping out the project steps to get to new states, I have found many creative ways to help people move forward into the new corporate terrain. Every change I have led, there has been a sense of immense accomplishment at the end.
I soon realized that it wasn’t so much that I was dysfunctional to enjoy what many deemed the hardest seasons of career. Rather, I got my energy from a challenge and from navigating the muddy map of human emotion and motivation to shine a little flashlight and guide a pathway to future state success. The thrill of arriving at the new state post change, and seeing the possibilities with the new structure, the new system, the more efficient resources that can fund new break through, was like a high to me. Still is. Give me messy, confusing, team disrupting change. It is a challenge. People come out stronger through change because they create a new destiny for themselves. Change management is probably a little cliché of a term by now. But being part of the architectural team for a future state is really what change is all about.
And so, let’s get back to the title of this blog. When leading change, let intuition guide you. While it is critical to have adequate project management staff and tools through change, this is not the center of it. I remember back to my time in healthcare when we paid I hate to think how much to an outside firm that sent us an army of project management professionals to map out our project into a document with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of task assignments. We would religiously get on calls to check status. All important things mind you. But the black and white linear thinking of this team is what I remember most. I might as well have been talking to robots. They were more concerned with checking the task completed box than attempting to provide me insight into how to manage the screaming employee that just visited my office. In reality, our team needed some human touch and time and talking and motivation through the change. As much as the spreadsheets did organize us, it was the team training and team building sessions and the investment to fly team members from our 27 state territory in to meet and learn and work through the change, together, that lit the change fire ablaze. And there is not really a very good math formula to help you get through tough conversations with people. There is no engineering approach to motivating change champions and igniting a sense of pride in accomplishment that helps people get through the tough stuff. Rather, this is about emotional intelligence. There is a lot more gut instinct and people intuition in change than there is project management.
Change is the new world. The organizations that survive and thrive are the organizations that are ever focused on the future. They are full of leaders who inspire employees to dream and then make their dreams reality. Building dreams typically requires leaving the current state behind. The future is all about new, scary, exciting, break through stuff.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams