Blog Archives

Thriving on Chaos – Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

As we’re more than half way through 2021 and those of us in Australia enter a new financial year amidst lockdown, the covid chaos of the past 18 months remains a challenge. 

Like many, I recently moved to a home office after selling my business premises. It took ages to clear bookshelves as I fell into the trap of glancing over highlighted passages of books that had helped my career; and couldn’t bear to part with copies signed by authors I knew. Since my days as an executive with IBM, I admired the no-nonsense, energetic delivery of former McKinsey management guru, Tom Peters who wrote the New York Times #1 best-seller, In Search of Excellence.  We met at a conference when I started out as an author and speaker. Over 20 years later, I dusted off his lesser-known tome; Thriving on Chaos. Although written after the 1987 stock market crash, the title is equally relevant today.

Catherine DeVrye and Tom Peters
Catherine DeVrye and Tom Peters

The inside jacket flap states:

“Everywhere and every day, managers confront shattering and accelerating change…in a chaotic new world.”

Hmmm, sound familiar? I haven’t had a chance to re-read the entire book but some chapter headings are just as applicable today in what Peters labelled:

Prescriptions for a World Turned Upside Down:

Inset: Thriving on Chaos book by Tom Peters

Not every chapter is as relevant but most sound practices stand the test of time. So too, I’m reminded of Peter Drucker who, in 1954, published The Changing World of the Executive. Although that was decades before I attended Harvard University, his legendary quote was prominent in our leadership curriculum:

  • Achieving flexibility by empowering people
  • Use self-managing teams
  • Learning to love change
  • Reconceive the middle managers role
  • Decentralise information, authority & strategic planning
  • Master paradox

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Yes, change is constant. In my own book, Chapter 14 of Hot Lemon & Honey – Reflections for Success in Times of Change is titled:

“Change is inevitable. Learning from change is optional!”

Peter Drucker passed away in 2005, aged 95 and Tom Peters turns 78 this year and still actively comments on Twitter with his trademark candour. Amidst some of the fads of self-proclaimed ‘thought leaders’ of today, don’t we need sustainable wisdom that stands the test of time?

Timeless! I love my Kindle but sorting through those physical bookshelves left me with a lingering sense of lingering déjà vu—that sometimes the more things change, the more they remain the same.

In this current age of covid chaos, will your decisions be based on a trendy whim or on sustainable wisdom? Will you be a victim or a victor of change? Those choices are entirely yours and I’m sure you’ll choose wisely.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The world @work

Challenging questions about change

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl

Have you ever wondered why the subject of change can provoke strong emotions?

Back in the fixed-line age of last century(!) when timed local calls were first floated by our national carrier, there was a tsunami of public rejection. Just five year later when Motorola and Nokia were offering us the new-new thing, that same ‘public’ jumped on board without questioning the fact that they would be billed on the basis of timed local calls.

I’ve heard individuals describe themselves in interviews as either good or bad at handling change. Typically it’s not as black and white as that, as we all respond to change differently, and how change per se is introduced to us, can impact our emotional and cognitive response.

  1. Do you understand your response to change?

When reflecting on your past responses to change, both in your personal and professional spheres, are you aware of what underpins your behaviour? A move interstate, a teenager pushing back, a new housing development going up next door, a relationship breakup, a new boss, a bad accident? In ‘work speak’, I’m alluding to our motivators, those forces that drive our individual and team responses to change that impact productivity.

This is a great question to ponder separately, not only when you’re interviewing a potential candidate for your organisation. Consider how you personally affect change in your organisation, how change affects your team, or broadly others in your workplace.

I often challenge candidates by asking: “When you do decide to embrace change, are you pretty loyal to that change… particularly when you are convinced it is the right decision?” I might also pose a behavioural question such as, “What is your best example of a time when you have embraced a significant change, only to discover that you might have been better off taking a more measured approach?” This is a great way of helping an individual recognise that of course, whichever way they manage change, it’s likely they handle it differently to others.

When you challenge yourself on this question, you might also find it helpful to consider how your motivations are orientated. For example, are they past, present or future orientated? What impact might that have on how you embrace change and help others embrace it as well?

  1. Talk it over or lose the advantage

When we remember that we each hold different motivators, it helps us to understand how we respond to change differently. Research such as that presented by Abraham Maslow and Deci & Ryan, also tells us that what you expect and believe are critical to your ability to embrace or reject change. Your experience, skills, knowledge and sense of self-esteem are also important factors.

Do you know what truly motivates you when it comes to change? What about your team members? Most of us think we know what motivates our behaviour and therefore, how to motivate others we work with. I wonder if we do really know, or just think we know.

Having insight into your own personality, in turn helps you to understand others, particularly on the subject of adaptability to change. At the senior leadership level it goes much deeper than personality profiling; research by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan suggests personality informs approximately 30% of how we are motivated at any given moment. Context is ‘king’ when we talk about change, which means deeply exploring the situation in our conversations with candidates or colleagues.

How do others rate you and your team when it comes to leading or embracing change? What assumptions might you or others be making, and how do these impact the wider organisation?

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Education, Slade Executive, The world @work

Hashtag fear less

We ALL fear change and that’s OK, says Marty Wilson. I was recently lucky enough to hear Marty speak at Mental Health in the Workplace, part of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce People in Business series. He gave an inspiring talk on change and the fear that comes along with it. It’s a theme that often comes up in the workplace when you are faced with organisational change or are considering a career change, but what I couldn’t help think is how do we learn to embrace change and see it for the good that it can be?

As if we were linked via telepathy, Marty turned to me (I am sure at this point he was speaking DIRECTLY to me) and provided some answers to the questions I was contemplating.

First he looked at the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word life:

The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change [my bold] preceding death.

Did you see what I saw? Yep, you guessed it. Continual change is a part of Life.

At this point I was thinking to myself, I’m good with change… right? I realised, not only was Marty talking to me (directly to me, again), he was talking about me. Yep, I’m not afraid to put my hand up and say, “My name is Candice and I FEAR change!”

Recognising your fears are part of the solution, Marty gave me a few tips on how to deal with them:

  1. Life is change
  2. Trust your instincts
  3. Be grateful for tough times
  4. Take more risks
  5. Make more mistakes
  6. Lighten-up

Marty followed-up with this gem:

“Imagine if you could choose to become someone who welcomes change and disruption as a normal and exciting part of business and life.” – Marty Wilson

So here’s what am I going to do: I’m going to stop imagining and start changing, change and innovation will now be my middle names. I am going to let go of the past and take a fresh approach, to work and life in general.

If I’m going to tackle the elephant in the room in my workplace, it’s our database. It’s a pretty large elephant, lives in the cloud, has a few wrinkles… I’m sure most offices have a database/system/process/technology elephant lurking about. It’s that shiny new technology that will help us to work smarter, not harder, but often feels like it’s programmed the other way around. So from now on, in my role as Operations Manager, I’m going to focus on what the technology can do for us, not what it can’t do (although a few magic tricks wouldn’t go astray).

Applying #FearLess in a broader sense, I am going to embrace all of the curve balls life throws at me, which are by dictionary definition, part and parcel with change. I am going to fear less about the doing and dive right into change. I’ll make some mistakes along the way, but that’s OK. I started last week by changing my commute from the 75 to the 48 tram. Big mistake, constantly overcrowded, can never get on, changing back today… Yep, I am all about the change now!

What changes are you going to make?

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Professional Support, The world @work