It was predictable. During the first day facilitating a meeting with a group of leaders gathered around issues of change and transformation for their sectors, we spent most of it presenting and analyzing the “thing”.  Basically the “thing” refers to processes, the how to’s of getting from point A to B, intensely discussing all sorts of intricate moving parts:

….with little or no reference to the people affected. Hmm…

Where does the human variable come in? At the very end of the day, an hour was set aside for people to digest a boat load of information, ask for clarification, and discuss the impact on individuals and their teams.

How to balance out the “thing”

I started asking questions about their awareness of the changes to come, who was impacted and how, and how it impacted them personally. I also invited individual leaders to reflect on their level of support for the way forward.

Gone were the clinical conclusions and technical brainstorming.  The focus shifted to observations, thoughts and feelings about people.

By the time we reached  day 2 – we started hearing feedback like:                    

– “We’re burning out”

– “I don’t know if I want to make the transition to the new state”

– “Teams were like family and now they are being torn apart”

– “The old ways were comfortable, like slippers, the new ways are asking for skills we don’t have”“I’m shell shocked and I don’t know how to communicate this to my own staff”

– “We don’t fully understand the impact of this reorganization, how can we explain it to staff and client?”

– “We need help in making the shift”

– “What tiger teams can we put in place to put the new processes to the test?”

Poignant stories were shared contrasting the old to the new. Individual leaders were realizing that a chapter was ending while the new one was still being written. Voices were raised, laughter could be heard; emotions were surfacing.  Finally! Humans connected and the genuine conversation could begin.

Now they could freely acknowledge the human impact of change and engage in a lively exploration of actions mitigating the effects on people.

We ended the second day with a leadership team buzzing with life, on a mission to help their own teams move through a change.  People matter after all.

How do you prioritize people instead of the “thing” in your workplace, or at home? I look forward to your answers in the comments section below.

1 thought on “Why it isn’t enough to just talk about the “thing””

  1. Good question. For me, it would be based on needs, whether it is the workplace or home. What are the priority needs of individuals or groups/teams within sections? Are there different levels (hierarchies) of needs? Then individuals or teams would have to priorise their needs. Based on their discussions, some “things” might surface that are not as important as others. So, it is like peeling away the onion skin! Anne Clarke

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