Sarah wanted to share the intentions and actions Janet has committed to that helped us shift as a team and keep our "North Star" clear during times of uncertainty.
Let us start this story with the current situation in business.
The US Workplace Environment post-Covid has unprecedented resignations dubbed “The Great Resignation” and the ongoing lowering of discretionary productivity and languishing morale called “Quiet Quitting.”
This field report is intended to tell the evolution of inviteCHANGE CEO Janet M. Harvey, MCC, and to provide elements for learning to transform indicators of dysfunction and the stressors in the work environment. There are key markers from 2018 to the present moment in her leadership journey:
What leadership strengths will we explore on this tour? Openness, humility, deep trust, learning orientation, and curiosity.
Near the end of 2018, our CEO, Janet M. Harvey, MCC, was showing signs of strain. The business was being tested yet again by market conditions and the velocity of student registrations and enterprise solution contracts were not near the goals set at the year’s outset. There were payroll and bills to pay, and the team was not clicking on all cylinders in a way that assured needed success to keep the business stable.
What happened next was dramatic—a major shift from the potential downsizing into the largest grossing year in the inviteCHANGE business; from stymied frustration into a challenging, demanding, creative, originating, learning opportunity. An RFP emerged during the 2018 holiday that changed the trajectory, the team size, the magnitude of impact, the systems, and the website and even impacted our collective and individual frequent flyer miles (stay tuned for the travel).
While a request for proposal with Microsoft, which later became the largest contract in 2019, was submitted and approval was pending, the revolution in conversations had already begun inside our CEO. There was disappointment in how the sales team had been performing and in how it was being managed by her. After 30+ years in the business world, she was more than aware that emotional pressure does not sustain nor produce the desired results or job satisfaction. It was time to dig deeper and find new ways to move forward.
As CEO, Ms. Harvey shared in my interview with her last week, the call for “thinking bigger” came into the landscape. Necessity plus complexity required a level of trust never required. Janet had been able to know how many yards there were to go for a field goal and just how many timeouts were left (couldn’t resist a football metaphor here). As 2019 unfolded, the sheer size of the team (125 ICF Coaches in 6 countries with 5 different languages), indicated to her that she must lean into the 15 coach ambassadors, the technology team, and the Customer Care team leaders. There was no way to have a “finger on the pulse.” The environment required a collective and collaborative trust, one that ran deep.
Her role was also evolving into something very different, and she recognized it swiftly. Keeping the “North Star” clear and the Generative Wholeness™ “why” in plain and consistent sight and practice, was her mandate. She went about removing the interference, expressing gratitude and enthusiasm for this dynamic, international team. She also added her intention that it “be fun” to experience this epic engagement with worldwide leaders. How exciting to see their progress and positive impact. By the fall of 2019, Janet brought the inviteCHANGE team to the ICF Converge Conference in Prague where a live workshop was delivered for the global team of leaders from Microsoft the day prior. By the time this occurred in October, the team had jelled to a level of organic and spontaneous bliss (an iC core value) while greeting our alums and making new connections with future alums and colleagues in our global community. A strong team pride emerged. In Olympic terms, it felt like gold.
Janet’s ingenious and generous reward benefitted the team. They were seen and experienced being part of something larger. The 2020 lockdown/pandemic was not enough to stop this synergy and energy, rather there was “presence, grounded center, and compassion for the suffering.” The team ideated and rallied to create webinars for resilience and gratitude. The global influence permeated every Zoom gathering and the vulnerability of participants created connection and education about the challenges unique to each country present. That fall of 2020, coaches, tech, and Customer Care continued to expand adapting, adjusting, and assuring one another that we would take a scheduled live conference event in Florida, and switch it to virtual (a place of confidence since 2007). We were committed to providing an experience to activate leaders and coaches to move ideas into action and create a positive impact on Climate Emergency, Healthy Communities, Human Trafficking, and the Racism Crisis. The momentum carried the willing team into the Be. Choose. Cause. Global Leaders Conference 2020, gifting those who spoke and attended a collective mandate to “Lead Well, Do Good, and Drive Change.”
The world still did not have a vaccine and the deaths were touching members of the community. Janet’s tenor and pacing continued to change over the months as she brought empathy in larger doses at every meeting. The agenda was important yet secondary.
“Relationship becomes a higher priority the more ambiguous, complex and uncertain the atmosphere.”
“What was most important was having a place to process, create safety and invite belonging.” Work would not get done at the quality that was satisfying by ignoring the individual and global impact of Covid. In fact, trends were showing that those CEOs and leaders who were strident and pushing through, were losing talent and productivity.
I observed a significant shift in company culture in 2019 where most all evening and weekend emails disappeared, freeing up energy to rest and restore. It also made the emails during the day more significant and actionable. I watched in wonder as an hour-long meeting had a 45-minute check-in with team members sharing their anxiety, health status, sadness, confusion, brain fog, adventures, judgments, reactions that turned into learnings, fears, joys, and more. The paradigm shift with this point of intention and attention was thrilling to me—productivity was not stymied by the change in meeting focus. People knew there was work to be done and once people were able to process, feel seen, and heard, they achieved their part and many times more.
“A sense of humility in the face of cascading crises reminded me that ‘not all of it is mine'. It’s not business as usual—the environment has changed. Even the fundamental workforce agreement—effort for a paycheck—has moved to the bottom of the top 10 employee criteria for a great place to work, replaced with criteria more focused on personal and professional development and relationships, for example –
After 30 years in businesses worldwide as an executive and entrepreneur, Janet’s openness to change while reading the compass of the times is a well-honed skill. Adopting these and practicing them, especially in times of distress, must prompt leaders to pay attention and be willing to “first break your mindset so that you CAN fix it.”
Here are seven key elements for incrementally, organically changing your leadership and/or coaching leaders to move from being stuck (defined as “business as usual or a preference for business to go back to what it was” – see “Invite Change Lessons from 2020: The Year of No Return”) to choose to be generative:
“What was the internal journey for you and how did you make it happen?” I asked.
Janet referenced Humble Leadership by Edgar Schein, father of Organizational Psychology from MIT, Sloan School of Business, and how much his work had influenced her. “I’ve learned to not take myself too seriously, stay connected to what matters most, keep my purpose, mission, and values front and center, and continuously seek alignment despite the turbulence that occurs.”
“As CEO it is essential, I care for my well-being and be in alignment with my purpose, listening to myself prior to moving forward.” She’s the owner and where the buck stops, literally. She’s cognizant of the day-to-day while holding the mission of “Cathedral Building”, the legacy of the work inviteCHANGE brings to the world. She also spoke of how every organization, even stapler producers, contributes and everything serves when we are in service to healthy, harmonious, conscious acting and living.
She claims her humanity tells her that she’s “ordinary,” and acknowledges the impact it all has on her, too. When I probed about her own curriculum and putting herself out on the ledge of learning, there have been many stretches in the past four years. From the Be.Choose.Cause conference ideation to public delivery, learning how to and then writing a book, learning how to and delivering a TEDx Talk, practicing her signature keynote, and tending to her self-care with Ariana Huffington-level sleep quantity and quality, physical workouts, workshops such as Warriors for the Human Spirit, and tending to family and friends. Make yourself the priority, she coaxes.
"What’s your #1 job now, Janet?" I asked.
“Generative Wholeness™ and seeing my team as ripe with ideation. Sometimes that takes discipline to see it early, to even anticipate it whenever possible so I bring creativity to the forefront with curiosity, acceptance, and assurance that action will occur. Why? Because inaction breeds fear. I’m also keenly aware of hidden biases I may have and work to vet them. If I show up to a meeting with a bias I haven’t exposed, that creates manipulation. What invariably happens is there’s pushback from the team. It can frequently show up as silence. I know I’ve just created that impasse and then it’s time to clean it up.” I shared that I’d seen her in action doing just that and it is an example of humble leadership. It works. It inspires.
As I reflect on the premise of this field report, there’s awe for the journey, for the time to reflect and reframe, and for the learning, leaning and leading, inviting us to be a stronger, resilient, and persevering team (that has fun) throughout the crises in recent years. From reading the compass to reminding us about our North Star, many thanks to our CEO Janet M. Harvey for her abiding trust in this team and community.
Sarah passionately and practically pursues the development of leaders through intentional, organic growth. She emboldens leaders to create an environment where management is expansive, willing to move with agility beyond comfort zones, and to champion the individual and collective genius within the organization. With teams in transition she inspires connection, realignment and forward progress within the awkward movements of the changing landscape. Her belief is that coaching is as essential an element for an organization as the product or service the company produces. “An employee who grows personally, grows professionally” and coaching seeds growth.
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