Week in Review | Managing Change

Last week was a big week — my company acquired one of our competitors, the team successfully hit a milestone that was critical to the business and general moral, and I’m excitedly preparing for the Inbound conference next week.

In the time between work and life, I had the opportunity to hear, read, and see some really interesting content and within it, there seemed to be a theme — change. If you’re dealing with change in your career or in your life, check out the resources below.

Let Your Ears Be Inspired

One of my favorite podcasts is The Growth Podcast by Hubspot. Recently, the show featured the CEO of The Ghostery, Scott Meyer. Dave Gerhardt spends time talking to Scott about how to build a team in a fast-growing company. The primary takeaways from the show were:

  • The importance of exuding calm as a leader — your team is always watching you and amongst chaos and change, it’s critical that you maintain a sense of control and certainty.
  • Scott related that he imposes two requirements for his employees, 1. As a Ghostery employee, you must take your job seriously, but not yourself and 2. You must think that what the Ghostery does is really cool.
  • Employee satisfaction is one of the primary drivers of business success. That satisfaction frequently comes from the feeling that an employee matters and that if they didn’t show up to work or if their company was out of business, it would have a large impact. The takeaway for me was a reminder to make my team feel important, because they are and to commit to work that matters.

The other podcast discovery this week was the show, Longform. I listened to an incredible interview with Renata Adler, author and writer for The New Yorker. It was an enlightening discussion about what it was like to work as a writer for The New Yorker through the 60s, 70s, and 80s and her experience going into war zones and to places like Selma to report as a woman during those decades.

One of the most interesting characteristics she expressed about herself was her failure to understand the gravity of the situations she was in. As a result, she was able to experience and report on terrible situations, war, death, racism, without the limiting constraints of situational awareness. Sometimes ignorance isn’t just bliss, it’s opportunity. She is a charming and intelligent person, who was a delight to listen to.

Leading Change Through Stories

This past month, I’ve been reading Made to Stick. It’s a good book, full of examples (maybe too many examples) of how to create messages that stick. While enjoyable, at times this was a tedious read until the end where it got really interesting and the lessons, useful. To summarize, here are my primary takeaways from the book:

  • The Communication Framework, an idea has to make the audience:
    • Pay attention. You can do this by using unexpected angles or anecdotes to surprise the audience or create curiosity.
    • Understand and remember. Providing concrete language and examples is an effective way to create memorable ideas.
    • Agree and believe. Illustrating credibility is critical in order for your audience to believe in your message.
    • Care. When articulating an idea, appeal to the emotions of your audience and focus on individuals vs abstractions.
    • Be able to act. Drive action audience with an inspiring or challenging story.
  • Three basic story plots to use to make ideas stick:
    1. The Challenge Plot. These are stories of underdogs and focus on the triumph of sheer willpower over adversity. These plots inspire people to act.
    2. The Connection Plot. These are stories about people who develop relationships that bridge a gap. They inspire us in social ways and make us want to help others and be more tolerant.
    3. The Creativity Plot. This type of plot involves someone making a mental breakthrough and attacking a problem in a creative way. These stories make the audience want to do something different, to be creative, and to experiment with new approaches.

When faced with a situation where you need to convince your audience of something, maybe to make a change, you can employ these stories to create buy-in, inspire people to act, and focus people on finding solutions.

After reading the end of Made to Stick, I realized how closely some of the lessons tied in with a Harvard Business Review article I’m reading, Leading Change, Why Transformation Efforts Fail.

This article takes the reader through a series of examples of instances where change initiatives failed. On a more useful note, it also covers the “right actions” that should be executed at certain stages in a change initiative.

The stages express the most important components of successful change. They are:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency
  2. Form a powerful guiding coalition
  3. Create a vision
  4. Communicate the vision
  5. Empower others to act on the vision
  6. Plan for and create short-term wins
  7. Consolidate improvements and produce more change
  8. Institutionalize new approaches

What I found was that reading both of these pieces together inspired me to use stories more often when working to communicate and inspire action toward change. There is power in stories and if you can use the lessons from Made to Stick to create a sense of urgency, create and communicate a vision, and empower others to action, you can expect a higher likelihood of success.

Current Events

I’m sure you’ve heard about the migrant crisis. For a helpful summary and insight into the challenges that Europe is working through to figure out how they can support the thousands of people fleeing Syria, read this New York Times article. 

Lastly, while a bit behind, I read an excellent article by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker (August 24, 2015 edition) that digs into the economic and social impact that Hurricane Katrina had on its victims. In this situation, it appears that the change driven by Katrina, possibly had a positive impact on the victims of the event.