CEO Blog Takeover: Embracing Change
In January I talked about the importance of change adaptability in achieving our DHG mission and strengthening the change “muscle” within ourselves. Establishing change as a core competency is top-of-mind for us, so much so that we have welcomed Jeff Outten as our Director of Change Management. He has been a friend of DHG for many years and has helped guide us through many new initiatives and opportunities. We are excited to welcome him to the DHG team and look forward to the innovation and growth that will result from his leadership. I am pleased to have Jeff join me this month to share his vision for change at DHG.
In January’s blog post, Matt focused on our change strategy and its linkage to innovation and ONE DHG. Fast forward 90 days and I’ve been invited to do a blog takeover with a deeper dive into what change means for us individually and as a firm.
On January 2nd of this year, I embarked on a journey which represents a major change in my life (more on this later). After more than 30 years of running a boutique consulting firm focused on strategy, change management and leadership development, I joined DHG, a longtime client, as Director of Change Management. Here are many “lessons learned” related to change and change management that I have harvested from my time spent consulting with companies of all shapes and sizes - and here’s what I know for sure as it relates to DHG and to each of us:
Change is HARD
Change is hard because it taxes both our rational brain and our emotional brain. Here’s the thing - logically we can often understand why a change is needed or important. Yet, simultaneously, our emotional brain focuses on the discomfort that comes with letting go of behaviors or patterns that have, over time, become comfortable or even habitual. There is also the discomfort that comes from engaging in new behaviors that requires us to stretch outside of our comfort zone. Chip Heath and Dan Heath, aka The Heath Brothers, offer a great analogy in their book on change, Switch. They say the rational mind wants a great beach body but the emotional mind wants the Oreo cookie. Ouch!
Not changing is even HARDER
Given the tremendous shifts and challenges facing our industry in the next few years, we must develop our change muscle to most effectively and efficiently address the challenges and opportunities coming our way. So the question becomes: How do we help the rational mind build its case for change while motivating the emotional mind to embrace and adopt new behaviors? The answer is not as complicated as we may think…remember change is hard but not necessarily complicated.
- We move towards adoption by focusing on WHY we are making the change. At DHG, we will always come back to our Mission. Every change initiative we undertake must help us build valuable careers with our people and/or help our clients achieve their goals. If not, we will not invest in it.
- We need a road map or a detailed plan and an understanding of how we get from here to there. When we have a clear picture of what the end game is, what we are building and we have a defined plan to get there, it creates clarity for the rational side of our brain and boosts the confidence of the emotional side.
- We must understand what our specific role is in the change … how I contribute, how I add value. And…perhaps most importantly, we need to identify the “WIIFM” for all of those affected.
- Our logic and emotions are best engaged when we are given an opportunity to provide input into the change plan. At DHG, we intend for change to be a team sport. We believe that a collaborative approach to building change strategies will allow us to improve the quality of our solutions while deepening our understanding of what will be needed to culturally embrace a change.
- We manage change best when we shrink it down to manageable “chunks” and celebrate small wins along the way.
- We will always be more successful when we create an environment where change is expected and supported. The situational issues related to change are important to understand to make sure they are not distractions or barriers to change, and instead, fuel the change.
Let’s be honest
2018 and 2019 are going to be opportunities for growth at DHG on the change front. With the roll out of new tax technologies and processes, the impact of Tax Reform, our innovative new audit methodology, and expanding advisory service offerings, many of our team members will experience significant change. On top of that, we’re embarking on changes to our processes, systems and behaviors to help us align as ONE DHG. There is a lot going on! During this change heavy period, we must stay focused on our business goals and objectives while simultaneously managing the variety of changes that surround us. My bet is that we will emerge from these transitions better, stronger and with an enhanced Change IQ – a stronger change muscle - that will give us a sustainable competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent and in serving our clients in surprising and pleasing ways.
In my new role at DHG, I’ve been referred to as the “Change Guru” or the “Change Expert,” but I can tell you that some mornings I wake up in a new apartment in Charlotte…my family still in Greenville, I get dressed and go to a new office (I wonder how many of my former clients realize how many conference calls I took in my sweats!), I say good morning to my new direct leader…which is interesting since he’s my first in 30 years, and I feel that emotional brain stirring. And then I look at this picture which hangs in my office and I am reminded of all of the reasons I wanted this change and to be a part of the DHG team. Her confidence and enthusiasm, her belief that she can be the change, challenges me to believe in all that is possible for us.
So sometimes, my friends, it boils down to our mindset and what we believe.
If we believe that we make changes for the good,
If we believe it’s our responsibility to embrace and advocate for change,
If we believe that it’s important to be thoughtful and purposeful about how we communicate with one another regarding change,
If we believe that it is not only OK but expected that we ask for help when we struggle with change,
If we believe that together we can accomplish anything,
then I believe there are great things in store for us.