Leading change at an organization can be a daunting proposition, especially when leaders face mounting pressure for growth. What should be an exciting time for an organization becomes a challenge, leading to a fear of change and the belief that change is hard.
Pam Marmon wrote her book to share a refreshing and radical truth: With the proper process, change is not hard. In No One’s Listening and It’s Your Fault: Get Your Message Heard During Organizational Transformations, Pam unpacks the practical framework of implementing change to help you get a message heard during organizational transformations. Change catalysts will learn how to tap into the essence of their organization’s culture to determine what will resonate with their team in a language they understand. I recently sat down with Pam to learn what inspired her to write the book and her favorite idea that she shares with readers.
What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?
After leading large organizational transformations both at Fortune 50 clients and at smaller nonprofits, I realized that many leaders feared change, they faced resistance from employees, and lacked alignment within departments. As a result, getting organizations to transform was a struggle. The mindset that change is hard is widely accepted among business leaders. Because of this mindset, companies create stressful work environments, which affected employees and customers, and eventually that stress trickles down to families and communities.
I wanted to change that. I believe that when leaders learn how to successfully lead transformations, it will change them, their companies, and it will build healthy communities for everyone. That is the mark I want to have in the world!
The exact moment when I realized that I needed my ideas to get out into the world was when I was meeting with government representatives who wanted to lead change but were frustrated with obstacles in their way. I knew I had a different perspective on change. I want to empower leaders and create a movement: with the proper process, change is not hard. I wanted to share a message that is accessible to all organizations, large or small, for-profit or nonprofit, so that every leader in every community has the courage and ability to make a positive impact.
What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?
When we as leaders listen to what our people are saying, we can communicate organizational change in a way that will resonate with the receivers of the message. We listen when we enable people to provide input through interviews, design sessions, focus groups, discussions, etc. Only then can we identify the benefits and concerns of the change from the perspective of the people who will be most impacted. Accessibility to that information signals where the potential roadblocks will surface and allows leaders to plan accordingly.
When we flip the equation of how we communicate (what you want to hear vs. what I want to tell you) and apply empathy, we build greater trust, understanding, and engagement. That is foundational to establishing buy-in and accountability. It is also foundational to managing potential resistance and pivoting if our approach needs correction.
Perhaps the most humbling idea is to accept that we as leaders don’t know it all. To listen with the intent to understand signifies humility and outstanding leadership.
What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?
Several years back, I was helping a national healthcare client with a large transformation. I was conducting Readiness Assessment interviews with various people who were impacted by the change. While I asked targeted questions about the potential experience, I listened for the gaps of what was not being said. I paused in the awkward moments when tears were shed and sat with the pain that people experienced. This lesson of listening has given me greater appreciation for the silent moments when people share frustrations and concerns and know that someone cared enough to ask them their perspective. Someone wanted to know what it feels like to undergo the change, and what would help them adapt to new mindsets and behaviors.
As a result, I was able to guide the leaders of that organization how to communicate more effectively and address critical areas where people shared greatest interest.
For more advice on effectively leading change, you can find No One’s Listening and It’s Your Fault: Get Your Message Heard During Organizational Transformations on Amazon.