What Does Change Management Offer? with Dr. Steve Yacovelli
On this episode of THRIVE — sponsored by Workamajig — Kelly and Dr. Steve Yacovelli discuss how agency leaders can foster internal and external change that is both inclusive and impactful.
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Kelly: Welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. Today I’m joined by Dr. Steve Yacovelli. He’s known as “The Gay Leadership Dude”. And yes, it is actually trademarked. He’s got a funny story about that. But Steve is actually a change management expert, focusing specifically on leadership and inclusion. He’s the author of a book called Pride Leadership, and is represented by consciousness leaders. So welcome to the show my friend. Really excited to talk to you today.
Steve: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.
Kelly: So, we were catching up before we hit the record button. And you’re up to some really, really interesting things. I’d love for you to share a little bit about your backstory and the things that you’re up to right now.
Steve: So, during this weird and wonderful reflective time that we’re in, I’ve kind of tried to take it as your physician heal thyself, and as a development professional, very well, what can I develop? And so, I’ve been thinking about what are the gaps in my own competency. And so, one of those is, I will be the first to admit I am not a salesperson. Despite being in business for 14 years, as a full-time gig, I’ve been very lucky with some really awesome clients and stuff. So, I decided I need to know how to really sell. And so, I mean, I’m in an awesome sales class right now with some experts, and a lot of entrepreneurs and folks in my situation. And then one of my areas of passion for the long term is, I really want to position myself to be, sit on a corporate board of directors. I did on many, many nonprofit boards and all that fun stuff, but I want to get kind of to that bigger space. And so also as a queer person, the point 1% of corporate board seats are filled by LGBTQ+ folks. And so, I’m like, yeah, there’s an opportunity there. And couple that with both the S&P 500, as well as the state of California have made some mandates about inclusivity. Our opportunity is widening. So, I’m trying to position myself to be ready for that. And so, I’m in this really cool Harvard class for underrepresented minority folks for corporate boards, and it finishes next week, but boy, is it intense? Yes. Good. It’s like, whoa.
Kelly: Yeah, there’s so much there. So, point 1% is, I think that was kind of astonishing to me. When you mentioned that to me earlier today, I can’t believe that that’s the number and so I guess, these mandates and these things are just in the vein of moving toward inclusivity across the board. They’re super, super, necessary. And it’s great. I love that you were super humble, like, oh, yeah, just as Harvard class.
Steve: I mean, well, yeah, I’m a nerd, I have my doctorate. So, there’s that whole fun stuff. But I was looking for something to do to really exercise my brain. And the first thing is that I feel kind of stupid in that class.
Kelly: That’s probably the sign that it’s a great class, then.
Kelly: If you’re not the smartest one in it.
Steve: And I’m okay, there’s 49 other folks in it from all over. And a lot of these are like C-suite kind of executives at big companies. And I’m like, hi, I have a TopDog Learning Group. How are you?
Kelly: No, it’s awesome. So today, we’re talking about change management, right? And so, I think there’s a lot of confusion around some of the terminology, organizational development, IO, psychology and change management, and they all get sort of grouped together. So, let’s kind of level set, like what are we talking about? What do we mean by change management? And then if you could kind of share a little bit as to like, how is it different from these other related disciplines?
Steve: Sure. So, change management, the concept is a very concerted programmatic approach to fostering change from taking an organization, a business, from point A to point Z, and to minimize what we call it the dip. So, with any change in your business, that could be a new business process. It could be mergers, acquisitions, or big stuff, it could be small stuff, like new software, humans have to adapt to stuff. And so, change management is the process of really thinking through how we get our people from point A to point Z, and minimize that lack of productivity in that middle. And so, anyone who has a business who’s been in business knows, when you add something new, it takes time. There’s that learning curve, that ramp, there’s confusion. There’s this thing called the four rooms of change that some psychologists have identified where we all go through these different facets or areas, but it’s a smart approach to really thinking through what are the different ways we can minimize that lack of productivity to get people where they need to go so that they’re using the tool, the process whatever, as efficiently as we hope.
Kelly: And so, how is that different from these other things that these terms that I feel like are used synonymously and interchangeably, but are actually quite different.
Steve: So, when we think about like, like, let’s say, organizational development. That’s where we’re trying to get the workplace to be better at something and to develop them to help them grow. Could that be considered change? Sure. Is it a full-blown programmatic approach? Maybe, depending on the group, but is it say incorporating communication strategies as part of that? Maybe, maybe not. So that’s kind of some of the nuances a lot of times when people say organizational or human development. They’re talking about the person and training. So, when you look at a full change management project, yes, training is absolutely one of the swim lanes. But there’s nothing for other people, there’s definitely for others, that you have to consider at the very minimum in order to really foster true lasting change within the business.
Kelly: So as agencies, because we want to yes, we want to touch on change management, we want to understand what that’s all about. But we also want to focus on inclusivity. Right? Because that’s part of your expertise. And it’s also part of where the world is going, thankfully. So as agencies, we have this opportunity, where we can foster change from an inclusivity standpoint, just like the marketing and the advertising that we produce in the world. So can you talk a little bit more about that, and how that’s kind of related to this as well.
Steve: So, when we think about change management, a lot of times we talk about that from an internal perspective, like I said, we’re adding a new business process, how do we get people to use it. So, we really think about it because it’s closest, though, we can control that. So, there’s that change piece of it. And then we can talk about more systemic, more cultural shifts, or more cultural changes, where we can at least have a one piece of influence. But obviously, we’re one drip in the greater scheme of the world. And so, I think agencies’ opportunity to foster say, inclusivity, or a sense of belonging is thinking through in a very strategic way. What are the ways that we can foster change? And so, it’s maybe the images we use, maybe it’s the approach we take, maybe it’s the clients we play with. You’re thinking through how we can have those conversations. I know, when my own clients, a lot of times they’ll come to me, like we went to a training class, but I still approach it as a change management project. And I say, absolutely, will create the training. But what are you doing for your measurement strategy? What do you mean, Steve? How are you going to know if it works? You’re spending money with me and my business. And we’ll do it. But how are you going to know if it moves people from A to Z? What about the communication strategy that goes with it? How are you going to advertise this within the business and get people excited for it, and communicate its effects to people? Oh, we didn’t think about that. And I think agencies can do something similar with their clients, and ask those right questions to say, how are you fostering inclusivity with the work we’re doing? How are you going to make sure that things are working the way we want them to and that you’re making a better impact, a bigger ding in the universe? And asking those coaching questions to really help foster change.
Kelly: And from what I gather from our talk earlier, resiliency is a really big component of this also, and one of the things that you said to me, that kind of really landed was that most people focus on either the business impact, or the business resiliency impact, or the human resiliency aspect of this. And if you’re focusing on one or the other, that’s actually why you fail, right? So, I think that this is really fascinating. And I’d love to hear more about it.
Steve: When you look at some of the research that’s out there. And so, one of the groups that I’m certified in, when I worked at IBM, I was a change consultant several years ago, that’s kind of where I fell into all this stuff. And so, the work was, we’d sell something, and all these amazing smart technologies, people would go and build whatever it is they’re doing. And my team had to go in and get the humans to use it. So, a lot of times the focus was on just how it impacts the bottom line, the business, and that was, yes, that’s a nice place to think about, hey, we’re business people, I get it. But when you think about the concept of resiliency as humans, and just think about your own sales, especially the last 18, 19, 20 months, yeah, we all have a saturation point as humans to have things that change. Why? Well, because change meant lack of safety for us as a species and so that’s why a lot of humans really don’t like change, or have a level of tolerance for change. And so, as somebody who’s trying to facilitate a change within my workplace within my business, what I need to be cognizant of is, what are the human saturation points for change around me. And so, that’s the resiliency part. And it’s very different for each person. And that’s what makes change hard. We fear change, I think it’s fun to be quote, but thinking through it from the individual perspective, and how they’re approaching change, because even in the workplace, that’s one change. I can leave the workplace and have your three changes at home, like you have ers and galley, all the things that are happening with us personally, professionally. There’s a bigger scope to us humans in our experience, and smart leaders, smart agency owners. And understand that saturation point and really helped to work through everybody, being resilient in times of change. But it’s an individual perspective.
Kelly: Yeah, I think that’s such a great point. Because we do, we lose sight of it, we think of our business, our employees, we have things to get done, we have clients to manage, and deliverables to provide. And we get caught up in this kind of insular view, for lack of a better term. And so, we forget about the fact that the people who are really our products, because that agency, like the peep, the clients are buying our team’s talent, their expertise, their creativity, their ability to execute. So, we forget that our product, and I absolutely use that in quotes, because I want to be very clear that I’m using that for emphasis, like our product is human. And, there’s a lot to that. And living a human experience doesn’t mean that our employees are only focused on the work, right? Especially because most of them are working from home. Some of them indefinitely. And so, you might have someone working on a project for you, but like their kid is crawling down the stairs, like right next to you. So, there’s just more to think about.
Steve: I think from a broader perspective, what I now have thinking about just in general leadership, in my book, Pride Leadership, I focus on six competencies that I’ve seen over the 25 plus years of being in this space, really work for leaders, and one of the top six is empathy. And I think what we’re talking about is, and I think this is one of the silver linings of this whole experience we’ve been going through is we’ve had these little tiny zoom windows into people’s worlds, like you said. And we could see that kid falling down the steps or whatever it is. But I think that’s been a beautiful thing. We’re seeing what’s really happening. These windows are two people’s worlds, and it’s giving us a better sense of hopefully being a little bit more empathetic on their true situation, as well as their authenticity as an employee, as a representative of our brand.
Kelly: Yeah, I think it’s a great reminder to us as leaders that like there’s so much more dimension behind the people who we’re seeing on Zoom. So, as we start to wrap up, let’s kind of keep to this resiliency theme, because I think it’s really important. What are your top three strategies for agency leaders to kind of build their own resilience?
Steve: Of course, we were talking about this and in the work that I’ve been doing, and I love to focus on the human piece of resiliency and when we talk about change in general, and there’s a lot of great books out there, a lot of great things in Google. I read about 29 books. I was creating a class on being resilient and a lot of them had overlap. And I think the top three that really stuck out to me or the first one was having a positive perspective and your positive view of the world. I’m former Disney as well. It’s not, “Oh boy, everything is great.” It’s not that at all.
Kelly: That impression was too spot on.
Steve: Years of being with a mouse, but when we talk about having a positive view of the world, it’s not rose-colored glasses kind of thing. It’s being able to say when you’ve had that if anyone who’s listening, who hasn’t child who’s maybe read the book, Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, if not, it’s a great children’s book, but it’s his little kid and he’s had a bad day. And he’s like, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. And it’s about him trying to get out of it and have a positive view of the world. So even when we humans, as adults, have those bad days, that we could say, you know what, that was a crappy day. But you know what went well for me is these three things. And that’s being resilient. And so having that attitude is probably the first of the three to really help you through times of change. The second is we call it having a positive or a healthy self-concept. And it’s just knowing first of all, what you bring to the table, maybe what you don’t as well. So having that understanding, but more importantly it’s having that theory, or that exposure that you know what, you’ve been here before, whether you know it or not, and it may feel a little bit different. It’s maybe a different context, but unless you’re an insanely blessed person, we’ve had highs and lows in our world and we’ve all hopefully been able to bounce back from those lower to those higher points. What was it that got us through that time and reflect, bring that forward on how we can do that, in these current times? And then the last is kind of the probably the biggest, it’s the one going back to that safety. And it’s uncomfortable with uncertainty. And the biggest thing I say here is that, a lot of times, we’re in these ambiguous situations, and we start putting our energy in certain places, and what we need to do as humans is take a step back and say, okay, there’s three different categories going on here. There are things I can control. There are things I can’t control, but I can influence. And then there’s things I can’t control, nor can I influence, and then really analyzing where we’re focusing our energy. And a lot of times on the folks that I coach and talk to, they realize that they’re focusing their energy on the outside ring, which is the uncertainty they can’t control or influence. So, it’s like, why are you focusing your energy, they’re moving a little bit, and you’ll be more resilient in those times of change. So, the top three, that I think are really smart to think about, as you think about not just yourself, but also those around you to be more resilient in times of change.
Kelly: I think these are great. They’re incredibly helpful. And, even though there isn’t specificity in terms of like an example, I think that’s actually not such a bad thing in this case, because it gives us the opportunity to say, okay, you know what, let me take this and see how I can actually apply this to what I’m actually doing, or what I’m actually thinking about, or how I am actually showing up. I think the positive mindset thing, or the positive outlook is really important. And I think it’s very important for us to say, we are not talking about faking positivity, or just developing an abundance mindset out of nowhere without any training or practice or anything. This is not like manifestation 101. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s rooted in, I am valuable. I did other things today that moved the needle, or that made me happy or brought me joy, or whatever the case may be. And I think focusing on those things is really important because tomorrow is also another day. And sometimes we forget that because again, we had that insular view. And it’s hard as leaders, like I get it.
Steve: Very hard. One of the things that I talked about, actually in my class on resiliency, is a very easy tactic, everybody listening, everybody viewing can do in order to be more positive, have a more positive view of the world, regardless of where you’re at. And it’s called the what went well journal. All you do at the end of the day, take out your phone, take out a tablet, whatever, your old school, or your iPad, if you’re cool school, and just identify five things that went well today. That’s it. Write down five things, and then just do that the next day. And so, when you have those hard days, it can be hard to find five things. But what studies show is that you literally rewire your brain to find those positive pieces. It’s like when you buy a new car, and it’s maybe new to you, but also, you’re driving around like, wow, everybody has a Mini Cooper, they must have been like Steve has a mini. He’s awesome. That’s not what happens. But we have a heightened sense of awareness. That’s what doing what went well in a journal can really do for you.
Kelly: Right. This is all really helpful. Thank you so much for joining me today, Steve. I really appreciate it.
Steve: Thanks. Appreciate it.