One quote I learned many years ago and continually come to realize its truth is, “Change is constant.” What we often don’t add to it is “Change is hard and often avoided”. I have worked and training for several companies who hired me based on changes they claimed they wanted. Problem is, this change was only talk. When the rubber met the road, the change was not wanted. It continues to baffle me why companies would pay the money they do for a change they do not really want.
One company created a new position to further diversity initiatives and implement a coaching program. I should note, that during the interview process, there were many red flags that signaled they were not ready for the changes required to reach their goal. What I tell people now is seriously consider not just the role the company is hiring for but also the culture of the company. I spent a year attempting to change a culture — alone. I say alone as I encountered obstacles at every turn. I even recall one session with my boss and a peer where she continually asked the peer questions he was not completely qualified to answer. When he could not answer, I would respond, “In my experience…”. After the 3rd or 4th time of this, I asked myself why I was trying to convince someone of my experience and expertise. They hired me! I left that company shortly after that session.
Another company, paid for a ton of training to improve the coaching and development of their management team. The tell-tale sign was when a department manager told me that the problem was with the front-line managers. Change happens from top-down, not bottom-up. I had department managers who never came out of their office to see what I was training their people on or followed up to see how their people progressed. Further, the directors, who would have to enforce the training and lead by example, did not fully buy-in. The result was just as you can imagine, the training was not sustained. Three years later, the company had to re-invest in the same training to get the department managers and directors, those still there, trained.
The difference between the two situations above is the role I held, one as an employee and one as a consultant. As an employee, I fought an uphill battle with trying to perform in my job by succeeding in the duties for which I was hired. Unless you have support of your boss, first and foremost, and upper management, implementing change that impacts a whole organization will fail. As an applicant being considered for these type of jobs, it is important to ask the right questions about the support you will receive and know how your success will be evaluated. Don’t get so focused on the “great opportunity” or the amount of money being offered without taking into consideration the level of influence you will have in the position. It is best if you are being considered for a high-level position that will give you the authority and power to make the necessary changes, otherwise you may not be successful in the role.
As a consultant, once the company has purchased your product or service, you are not necessarily held accountable for the long-term results. Meaning, I was not responsible for coaching and developing the top leadership on their implementation of what was trained. My ownership is in the sustainability of my product or service as people do not blame the management team, they blame the consultant company saying the product or service did not work. A challenge I see is many consultants feel once the service or product is purchased and delivered, the job is done. Repeat business or referrals only come from the use of what was sold. In my current role, I work with my employees on how we can best serve our clients. We want them to have the full impact of the training program they have purchased. Bottom-line, the “change” subject cannot be missed by the consultant either. The conversation must happen with senior leadership on how they will deal with the change that comes with the training. This may also include providing an evaluation on people, systems, or processes that may hinder or delay the change. I liken it to the pre-conversations that happen with a patient before a radical surgery. A doctor would not allow a patient to undergo weight-loss surgery without talking about the change in lifestyle necessary after the surgery as well as providing some follow-up.
Let’s just be honest. Change is not easy and change can be hard and this is on an individual, personal level. The difficulty with change is magnified the more people who are involved and the larger the scale of change. Tread accordingly when considering a job or project that involved a great amount of change and ask questions regarding support and the amount of authority you will have. Further, don’t be afraid to walk away from a job offer that looks too good to be true or a contract that may not have the sustainability and impact that will positively boost your company. Finally, remember change takes effort and work!