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Are You Wondering the Secret to Successful Transformation?

Do you have a belief that change is hard and takes a long time? You are not alone and yet, that belief is at the root of paralyzing inertia when leaders seek a new vision and want their workforce to change to fulfill that vision. 

In this blog I tackle the role that judgment plays in creating what a colleague of mine calls, “stinking thinking.” By definition, that type of thinking gets in the way of even the most compelling vision you express. Why? Ease with inviting change and doing so quickly, begins within each person. Learning to replace reaction with responses that are more thoughtful and genuine is something we can do with every breath. I offer four steps to begin the process. Give it try! 

Learning how to leverage judgment provides a unique competitive advantage for transformation; personal, professional, and organizational. Did I just activate your skeptic? If you genuinely believe you excel with leading change, stop reading. Otherwise, let’s briefly explore the relationship between judgment and successful transformation.

Leaders play a crucial role in leading transformation within an organization, and all too often, negatively, by their absence in the conversations about change. Sometimes this results from assumptions about what people understand and buy into and other times it’s simply fatigue in repeating the same message and feeling frustrated that others are not picking up the charge. Harvard professor, John P. Kotter, published a book in 1996 entitled, Leading Change. I read this immediately as I had just left my corporate officer role and began my entrepreneurial career that continues today as a vanguard thinker, speaker, author, and professional coach. I was thinking about him as I sat down to write this blog, realizing just how much of his predicted and massive change through the lens of 1996, has occurred and how the “common errors” he offered leaders to address are still operating in organizations of all sizes and industries. 

8 Common Errors to Organizational Change

The question for me now, 28 years later, is why leaders aren’t choosing to learn and address these common errors. None of these errors is outside the influence and capability of a leader. Perhaps that’s the problem, because I find leaders often overlook the obvious, unconscious autopilot with their beliefs and actions. It is those beliefs and actions that generate destructive inertia, in themselves and others who pay greater attention to action and words. First the workplace witnesses leaders to determine if their actions and words are congruent as a sign of integrity. Next, the workforce surfaces concerns and make requests that the organization, “walk its talk.” When organizations don’t, we see the result in abysmal levels of engagement recently reported at year end 2023 by Gallup at only 13% of the workforce highly engaged and more than 60% quietly quitting on the job.

The scope and scale of organizational change that today’s leaders face surely feels big and maybe daunting. So start small, focusing on self-change first, to learn how to notice what to change and what to access internally to motivate energy that breaks through inertia.

Think of a time when you felt judged by another. Picture that moment vividly in your mind's eye. How did you react? What emotions arose within you? Did you feel a surge of defensiveness, a tightening of your chest, or a pang of self-doubt? Maybe you felt anger or sadness, frustration, or disappointment. Feelings become the threads that weave into the tapestry of our experience. As that weaving occurs over time, we adopt unconscious habits and preferences and embody a mindset in our daily lives that influences how we show up, how we interact with others and how we make decisions. However, rarely, unless something breaks or a failure occurs, do we choose deliberately and see situations as they are, not as we remembered or prefer.

Here are a few tips to adopt a new practice in leading change for self which is a great place to start before tackling large scale organizational change.

  1. Take a moment now to observe those feelings of being judged with gentle curiosity. Notice how they stir within you, like ripples on the surface of a calm lake. Allow yourself to fully feel them, to acknowledge their presence without evaluation or resistance. This is the first step towards transformation—to sit with your emotions and allow curiosity to activate.
  2. As you sit with these memories and emotions, remember that you hold within you the power to choose your response. You have the ability to transform the energy of judgment into something more empowering and liberating. Take a deep breath, hold that for a second or two and then, use your voice to exhale the weight of those past judgments.
  3. Now, imagine yourself opening a door—a door that leads to a place of growth and self-discovery. Step through that threshold with courage and intention. Leave behind the shackles of judgment and embrace the freedom to create your own narrative.
  4. In this new space, the memories of judgment become catalysts for growth. They become opportunities for self-reflection and understanding. Through introspection, you may discover the patterns within yourself that attract judgment from others. You may uncover hidden insecurities or fears that need healing and nurturing. This step identifies what and with whom you want to transform your daily presence and interactions.

As you reflect on this transformational journey, remember to embrace self-compassion. The process of facing and releasing judgments can be challenging and, at times, uncomfortable. Be kind to yourself as you explore the depths of your own being. You are on a path of growth, and growth requires patience and tenderness. Remember that feeling judgmental is not a life sentence, but rather a call to rise above. It is an invitation to explore the vastness of your own potential and to transcend the limitations that others may try to impose upon you. As you emerge from this reflection, carry with you the wisdom of your experiences. Let the memory of judgment be a reminder of your own resilience, your capacity for growth, and your ability to transform adversity into your unique opportunity for something more and better. As you strengthen your own capacity to invite change, then begin to turn toward your workplace relationships and be a model for what’s possible versus what’s not.

Janet M. Harvey, MCC

Experienced with individuals at the Board of Directors, “C” Chair, Executive and Senior Management levels, Janet assists executives in adopting effective habits of perception and behavior to lead and accelerate corporate strategies. Typical engagements address executive development in the following areas: articulate and inspire through clarity of vision, enable respectful challenge, debate and catalyze synergy for strategic business choices, risk/reward critical thinking about investments and shareholder value, plan leader succession and architect sustainable cultural/strategic change.
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