Transcript: The 5 Secret Powers of a Change Superhero

Hello, and welcome to our first HR Uprising Podcast.

The HR Uprising is aimed at forwarding thinking, HR learning, and O.D. professionals. We want to elevate the way that HR is perceived in their organisations by delivering real lasting value. So, hopefully, that’s someone like you, but there are other people from other professions listening, you’re very welcome and I hope it will also be of interest to you.

Now, more about the HR Uprising. What are we all about?

  • Well, it’s for professionals who want to stand up and make a difference.
  • We believe in learning through collaboration.
  • We believe in evidence-based action, and helping each other to have the confidence to rise up in their careers.
  • We know that actually, even though L&D might be within our job title, we don’t always have time to prioritise our own development.

So, I’m hoping that having useful information as a podcast, as per this series, will be a flexible and digestible way of freshening up your thinking. Certainly, it’s something that I find that I can learn from. I incorporate it into my daily routine, walking the dog, driving to work. And we will try to make the content as useful, but also entertaining and involving. Any references or contact information that we mention in the series will be captured in the show notes so that, if it is something of interest to you, you can access it and you’ll also be able to access these things through our website at the hruprising.com. So, www.hruprising.com.

So, first of all, what sort of things are we going to talk about?

  • Well, we’ve got quite an exciting set of episodes lined up over the next few weeks for you. We’re covering things like demystifying O.D. That’s the topic that came up on my LinkedIn Group the other day and people don’t understand what it’s all about. So, we’re going to demystify it for you.
  • We’re going to talk about the talent management myth and wether 360 feedback actually work.
  • We were also going to relevance specialist topics, and then later on in the series, I’m very excited about this, we’ll be carrying out a number of conversations with episodes. And I’ve got a load of fabulous HR experts and colleagues from a range of industries lined up. I’m going to use those to get them to share their insights on what they think we need to do in order to rise up in our professions, and how we can learn from them.

So, today’s show is a really great place to start. As I said earlier, the topic is the 5 Secret Powers of Being a Change Superhero. But I guess it might be helpful, if I briefly introduce myself, your host.

So, my name is Lucinda Carney. I’m a Chartered Psychologist, but actually, I’m more of a professional in HR and L&D. I have more than 15 years of corporate experience as a Senor HR and L&D role, and a further 10 years as Founder and CEO of Actus Software. I’m the Lead O.D. Consultant to Actus and it’s through this role, I’ve been so fortunate because I’ve worked closely with literally hundreds of businesses from the NHS, education not-for-profit to global manufacturers and financial services firms.

This breadth of experience is what convinced me that it really was time to start the HR Uprising Podcast and also the community really. There are so many ways in which we all experience the same problems across sectors. I feel that, if we could learn from each other, from the comforts of our own homes, cars or while exercising, then that would be something of value.

The 5 Secret Powers of Being a Change Superhero

So, let’s crack on with this week episode, which is the 5 Secret Powers of Being A Change Superhero. Let’s start talking about what they might be because, for me, I was thinking how are we if we’re going to be lead change agents in an organisation. What skills and attributes do we need? I do understand that some of us are less comfortable with change than others.

But equally, I think it’s something that we can stand up. We can develop some of these traits and that’s really what leads me into my very first superpower because I think that, that main superpower all starts with courage. We need to have courage, a bit like the Lion in Wizard of Oz, where we are ready to stand up and be counted.

Superpower 1: Courage

Do you know what? Unfortunately, that might mean we have to ruffle some feathers. We need to challenge the senior stakeholders in our businesses if they’re not getting on board with the change if they’re not on message with it. All very often, you can get into a situation, and I’ve certainly been in it personally, where we’ve been asked to make something happen, yet some of the key resistors could well be the most senior people in the organisation. That means that we may have to personally take them on.

Now, I’m not saying, take them on in a battle there, but more subtly than that. But we need to be prepared to challenge that status quo, and actually, go in and have a conversation with them. So, I do remember in my corporate life, I was asked to put well through a tunnel change. I think it was a Tunnel Management Programme.

There was one particular Senior Board Member, and he was responsible for probably 30 percent of the organisation. I need him to buy into. What it was, I need his sponsorship. Otherwise, really, it wasn’t going to get off the ground. He had a habit of sort of just being quiet at the Board Meetings, and then it almost felt like, covertly undermining things.

So, I wasn’t a massive fan of him as a person, if I’m honest and that’s again why I think you have to have courage but what I did was, I went in and booked a one-to-one meeting with him and I talked to him through what my plans were. I was going to present this to the Board, and I asked for his feedback. I listened to him.

At the end of the day, these are people, he would have genuine concerns. He may have perceptions about me, or what it was that we were doing. So, I understood his concerns. I also explained why I’ve been asked to do it, and what the benefits of it were. I took some feedback from him. I remember distinctly actually because I had an image on the page, which was explaining what this strategy was and he said, well, if you turn those arrows around. So, literally, he just asked me to change the direction of one of the arrows. That’s all it took for him to get on board.

So, it was almost like, he didn’t have any real objections but I needed to sit down on a personal level with him to get that commitment for him not to undermine the project. If I’m honest, I wouldn’t say he was ever a champion. But it was about stopping him from blocking it.

So, you have to have courage, and you have to take people on a personal level. That reminds me of another experience that I’ve had, where I required courage, where we’ve been involved in say a change programme, where someone’s invested in some development. Then on this particular occasion, I remember a CEO attending some training and then saying well, I’m not going to do that, or that will never work.

Well, classic actually. You do wonder why on earth do they invest in these things in the first place if they’re going to say that and I suppose again, these people are people. What I have found since then, a really great way of avoiding that from happening, because it’s damaged the mutation once that’s out of their mouth, is getting to meet these people up front, and actually agreeing on messages. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be real.

But actually, if they’re sponsoring a change, then actually agreeing with them, and spelling it out, what sort of behaviours and language they should be saying when getting involved in training so they appear to be supportive and actually giving them a chance. Because remember, we need to get everybody on board with the change. Actually, Senior Managers and Directors are just as likely to have natural emotional reactions to changes than anybody else. Yet they are expected to just be on board with it.

So, I have found that it takes courage. You do need to stand up and you actually need to almost contract with people on a one-on-one basis, if a change is important enough to make sure that you get that sponsorship, that is so important to make things work. So, there’s quite a lot to talk about when we think about having courage as being a change superhero. Actually, the superhero analogy really works with this one.

And I have one final example here. I take this from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, which is really one of the bestselling business books ever. I was lucky enough to train on this for a number of years and there was one video on this. It was called the video, Stone. He was identified by Covey as someone called a transition figure. Being a transition figure is basically somebody who stops the continuation of negativity, by actually acting out of kilter with the culture.

So, an example might be in a real-world, where people are bitching about somebody, or they’re talking about someone behind their back and actually, you almost feel, because you are part of that group like you need to join in and agree with them. Well, a transition figure is somebody who, you don’t have to cause conflict, and say ‘you’re wrong’, or’ I disagree with you’, but they do not continue it. They actually say, I’m not comfortable with this conversation, or actually, I hold a different view, or I’d rather not discuss this.

So, transition figures, they stop the continuation of negativity, and that requires courage because it is like whistleblowers or something like that. You have to stand away from the culture. That is also, something when you’re trying to deliver change, often, it does require culture change. and that might mean you have to personally be very aware of how you behave, in order to deliver it.

So, I mentioned Stone. So, the story of Stone, is, he was actually a Ugandan football player about 20 odd years ago. There was a lot of poverty, where he was. There was a lot of violence, where he was and actually, being a football player was a way, in which, you could escape all from all of that. It was your ticket to freedom. He was an aspiring football player. He was very, very good.

But one day, someone struck him down from behind. He suffered knee injuries that he was never going to play again and many people would consider that, that’s something, where that was sort of triggered, that culturally would have resulted in lots of gang violence, where he would have turned around, because this wasn’t an accident. He was struck down intentionally by somebody because he was a competitor.

But actually what Stone did, was, he stood up and went, okay, you did what you had to do. He then threw himself into teaching other boys to be football players. Through that and it wasn’t just playing football he was teaching them to act in a way which was kind, which wasn’t aggressive. He led from how he would act within the community.

So, he stood apart from what was quite a violent culture and acted differently. And through that, if you imagine your ripple effect, which is so powerful, which is a change agent, his influence grew. It spread beyond his village. It spread to the other teams they were playing against. Actually, I always thought it’s amazing that I was sitting in the UK, listening to this story. It was actually influencing people all over the world. Who would have known it?

So, it’s the power of being a transition figure, requires a huge amount of courage and integrity but actually, the ripple effects can be huge.

So, that’s enough on courage. I think that’s made a number of points there about have we got the courage and how we might bring that to life.

Superpower 2. Connecting with strategy

My second superpower in terms of change is about connecting, but not connecting with people, because I’ll talk about that later. It’s about connecting with strategy. If we are going to be a change superhero, we must inspire people to want to change. It is important sometimes. Sometimes, you will have to change but ideally, we want them to see why there is a need to change.

I talk a lot about the ‘why’. If we are trying to create a reason for change, whether it’s behavioural, or we want people to make a business case or something, often we forget to tell people why and the why needs to be about looking up. This is The HR Uprising. I’m very much about looking up and being strategic and always saying by being strategic, is, looking up where the business wants to go, or needs to go so that it could be that actually, if the business carries along a certain trajectory with a certain set of skills, then in 5 years’ time, they won’t have a business.

So, it’s about helping people see the future, or to see the requirements of a strategy. Many of you have come across this analogy in change about the burning platform. That’s really about not just creating negativity about where we are currently. We can’t stay as we are. It is about creating urgency. So, actually, it isn’t an option for us to do nothing, because in 5 years’ time, we won’t have jobs in this area. Therefore, we need to be skilled. But actually, it’s about inspiring people as to why that future could be so much more exciting to do that.

That links to how we communicate it. So, for me, connecting with strategy, is, about inspiring people to look to the future, helping them to think about the future and the ‘why’ in terms of what’s relevant to them. So, the golden thread we often talk about that in setting objectives, making sure in terms of knowing what we’re doing, making those connections between the next steps and where we’re going.

Because sometimes, people don’t like those next steps but they’ll do them if the overall vision is taking them on the journey. If you think about, it is goal setting in many ways. If you think about doing things you don’t want to do. I don’t necessarily want to go to the gym, or not have that cake. But if my bigger vision as to why I’m going to make that change in my diet, is that, I want to look good on the beach, then that’s going to be more motivational to me.

So, first to be a change agent, we need to understand what our drivers for the people that are involved in the change, and connect it to the future and to the strategy.

Superpower 3: Corroboration

My third superpower of a change superhero is corroboration. Now you might say, I’m working the c’s a bit hard on this one, but I think it works. You let me know if you don’t agree.

But corroboration, this links to us being evidence-based. We know that often, we are criticised as a profession for not being factual enough, for not being strategic enough. There are lots of criticisms levelled that is.

But corroboration, this is about not just aspiring people, but this is about influencing people through logical argument, through facts and figures. It might be data, case studies, innovation from third parties, or professional bodies that are relevant to your audience. Notice again, it’s about understanding your audience, making things relevant.

So, you might tell people that we need to change in a certain way because there’s a change in the law. So we work with the financial services at the moment. Actually, there’s a change coming, where people are going to have to do things differently. They have no choice because the FCA are demanding it, and there are consequences of not.

Now, this actually works in tandem with our previous point because this is almost creating your burning platform as to why there’s no option to stay. Do nothing is not an option. If we corroborate it with facts and figures. That’s why you don’t just want compliance. To me one of the worst things is, you get change though compliance because as soon as circumstance change, people will go back to what they were doing before. It’s about the logical argument for a change.

So, it might be that we explain why things change, or needs to change, because of a third party, or a case study, or an example like, a business authority might have done a study, Forbes McKenzie or an academic, Kotter, we have all heard of the Kotter change curve.

It’s about thinking about corroboration that’s going to be appropriate to your audience, and having some data and examples. So, those would be examples of external corroboration. You could also have case studies. If you’re an NHS Trust, you could take a case study of a different NHS Trust that has tried to do something in a certain way, and had a really good result.

Equally, you might look at a competitor who’s changed their approach to recruitment, and had a good result, where that might motivate change in a different way. So, I suppose to emulating good practice in someone that you’re not in competition with, or actually reducing risk with someone that you are in competition with.

The other way of corroboration is we do need to make sure, we have facts and figures to be able to do that. So, it could be understanding that our current attrition rates within the organisation or our cost of hire, or agency spent is X. What we need to do is to change it to Y, or compare to the national average, we are 20 per cent higher or lower. then all of those provide evidence, logical evidence for a change, which is influencing people to move forward.

So, you can see we’ve looked at 3 areas. First of all, it’s courage. Then we’ve looked at connecting, but connecting with strategy, which is really about inspiring people to change. This is about corroboration, which is, about logically explaining to people why you should change.

Lots of people say that change is about stories. It can be stories. Not everyone is a great storyteller. But I think if you combine the two together, it doesn’t have to just made-up stories, if you like, it can just be examples. Thinking about those in those terms, both future and against, would work.

We know that our profession is often accused of lacking strategic thinking or business focus. So, if we are good at corroboration through data, that’s a great way of knocking that judgment firmly on the head. We need to be able to be considered as rational and business focussed. Therefore, we’re more convincing when we’re communicating the need for change.

Superpower 4: Communication

Our fourth superpower is about communication. This is about more than telling people to change and I’m sure it’s no surprise that we have communication as one of our superpowers. Now, many of you would have come across the Kotter’s 8 Step Model of Change.

One of the things with me that I think is quite interesting in this is that I’ve studied and ran this as a training course. I’ve literally seen hundreds of examples of change in various businesses. I’ve also seen probably, 7 or 8 per cent of why they failed. Maybe, that’s why people remember them.

But obviously, that isn’t far off. There’s statistics that are out there about why change fails and if you are familiar with this Kotter Model, then you’ll know that it also links to Lewin’s firm thinking unfreeze, freeze and refreezing around the organisational change.

In my experience, it’s at those transition points, that a change seems to break down most frequently when you are trying to unfreeze. At the start of it, unfreezing is about communicating to people that change needed to come.

Now, in my experience quite often communication about something changing would go out maybe from the top, possibly once or twice, maybe in a couple of different formats, and then they just wait for people to change. No one was nudged around. There were no consequences of not changing. People didn’t necessarily know why. They weren’t listened to and there’s no surprise really. Telling someone to change is not the same as helping someone to change, or getting someone to buy into it.

So, this is about realising that communication alone won’t make change happen and also, that communication is two way. In terms of helping people to change, we need to understand that not all change is going to be received positively by people and there are natural human emotions and we’ll talk about this in another different podcast that people do go through when they go through change.

We need to be prepared to communicate and that might mean listening to people as to where they are going through that change, empathise and then literally support them going on that journey. That is about communicating.

And it’s the same principles again, it would be about matching the language or understanding what’s appropriate, or most relevant to that person. It might be just about listening to them and empathising when they are reacting to the change and it might be about just communicating that actually, unfortunately, the change and not all change is negative, unfortunately, the change is here to stay but you’re going to help them through it. So, it’s about us being aware that people require ongoing communication to go through change.

And the other place in terms of the Kotter Model again is that when people think they’ve made most of the change, the communication can stop. Kotter suggests that you should communicate short wins or quick wins. Almost celebrate what has happened in order to help the organisation to refreeze in the new way.

All too often, that’s the other place that change doesn’t happen. It’s almost what is more likely to happen, is, a new business change is introduced at that very point. The unfortunate thing there is, if you bring in additional changes too quickly, before the other one has been consolidated, then you may well find that performance goes down rather than up.

So, communication is key in terms of taking people around. I’m just gesturing a curve here. I don’t know, if you can hear that in my voice. But by taking people through the change curve, you need to make sure you’re communicating appropriately at both points.

And the key for me, is, the communication needs to be in a range of formats, in a range of media. It needs to be two ways so you’re listening to people too, and addressing their concerns. It needs to be ongoing. That communication needs to continue through the change.

Superpower 5: Collaboration

On to my final superpower, and that is, collaboration. So, change agents are great at collaboration. They’re about starting a movement. Anyone seen that TED talk by Derek Sivers, How to Start A Movement. It’s really worth googling. I’ll put the link in the show notes. He talks about the vital importance of the first follower. Because actually, there’s no such thing as a movement until you get the first follower. And that’s snowball into the third and fourth. That’s how you get a movement, or maybe an uprising.

So, the talk explains that actually, that is one of the most vital roles to take on. I’m saying that actually, if we’re going to be change superheros, we don’t always have to be the lead person. We might actually be the first follower, because they are possibly even more courageous than that change leader. They’re the one that risks looking silly, and taking people with them.

So, I believe that’s part of collaboration, is, being able to follow and lead. But equally, it’s about building that ripple effect, where we are talking to others like, we talked about the transition effect. If we collaborate then our powers will grow.

But it’s not about collaborating just for the purpose of a change. It’s just being open, friendly, paying it forward, being positive, that’s what collaboration is about. It’s about having a view on how can we work with other people, and take them with us. So, build genuine relationships. Be prepared to personally support them, and get behind other causes, and then they will get behind you.

So, I suppose that’s what I believe we should be doing. We should be collaborative as people within an organisation, if we’re an HR, O.D, or L&D role. We shouldn’t just sit within our area. We should try and collaborate as widely as possible. Because if we’re then involved in change, we will have strong relationships outside of HR. That’s what is going to be needed, in order to live with that change. So, collaboration is something we should be doing all the time.

So, we’re drawing to the end of this episode on the 5 Superpowers of Being A Superhero. To summarise,

  • We talked about courage.
  • We talked about connecting with strategy.
  • We talked about the importance of corroborating our change with facts and figures.
  • We’ve also, of course, talked about, it’s very important to communicate on an ongoing basis to drive through the change, and then collaboration.
  • We need to be collaborating on an ongoing basis in order to build up a group of other change agents like-minded people. And this is about how we are naturally.

So, hopefully, you enjoy this first podcast, and will tune into future ones. The next week episode, is, on the Pros and Cons of 360 Feedback.

Thank you so much for listening. We would really welcome your ratings, your comments, your feedback. If you want to download further information, I did reference a few pieces within the programme, then we will put links in the show notes. You can also access them through our website, which is, www.hruprising.com.

My name is Lucinda Carney. Please feel free to connect via social media. So, @LucindaCarney on Twitter, or message me directly, the same name, LinkedIn. We’ve also got an HR Uprising Instagram account. So, we’d love to hear from you. We really actually appreciate the interaction. So, all that remains for me to say, is, thank you for listening. And remember, if we look up together, we rise up together.