Several weeks ago, I reconnected with an old friend and colleague. It had been a few years since we’d seen one another. Both of us have been busy. Yet, it was fantastic to see each other.
During our conversation we talked about clients and projects over the past few years. She’s been busy with several young entrepreneurial clients while I have concentrated on nonprofit clients (along with a corporate client that I’ve worked with for many years) particularly concentrating on strategic planning.
What we both discovered that we were at a crossroads, a change, a transition.
We then joked that as consultants who help organizations through change, we should have been able to recognize this! And know what to do about it!
For her, the change lies in the evolution of her firm and work. She’s getting less requests for consulting and more for training. She expressed a mixture of comfort (she knows how to do this and is quite good at it) along with disappointment (it’s less creative and more formulaic than she prefers).
On my end, I expressed sadness in losing two very long-term clients (one of 15 years and the other for the past 7). As a consultant, you hate to lose a client.
Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t drowning our sorrows or venting on one other.
Rather what happened was a discussion on ‘change’.
You see, change isn’t easy for anyone–even those who help others through it.
So we spent a couple hours walking through the various models and tools that we use with others–on ourselves.
We talked about SARAH–the model based on the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross that I frequently use with clients: Shock, Anger, Reflection, Acceptance, and Hope.
Then about Lewin’s model of change–quickly realizing there was something to be said about those things that “help” you and those that “hinder”.
It was perhaps during this part of the discussion that I remarked to her “so your long-proven skills as a trainer, an educator, a mentor, an expert are helping you. This return to training isn’t a return. It’s a movement towards something at which you have expertise”.
In turn she said “what you forget is that you work to improve people and organizations and that part of that help is to get them a point of being self-sufficient.”
All fine and good but we had to then confront what was making us feel bad about these changes. Then it dawned on us that it was back to the early stages of change–whether that be the “shock/anger” of SARAH or “unfreezing” of Lewin.
There was a bit of silence and then we both remarked that this was good–not the conversation but what we were going through. It was forcing us to change. It was presenting us with closed doors. It was also presenting us with other channels to move forward. Other openings were happening.
You see, both of us have a lot of options in the coming months. We just couldn’t see them. We were looking too much as the back of a closed door and, in doing so, were missing the many other ways to move forward.
As she remarked “one of my favorite things to tell others is that leadership is about how to cope with change while management is coping with the resultant issues and tasks”.
This really hit home for me particularly with a current strategic plan project I’m doing with a synagogue. I quickly realized that the reason it was going so well was because they have a very strong leadership team in clergy, staff, and among lay leaders. Yes, to be a leader means you have to cope for yourself, others, and your organization.
Coping is about emotions and feelings–something we often push aside even in ourselves.
Of course, there is always some degree of sadness at an ending. But, there is also time to look forward to new challenges.
We then scribbled a few notes for ourselves:
- Moving forward and change happens to everyone, often without warning
- Change isn’t always your choice–your reaction to it is
- Take time to ponder your past–analyze what helped your success–and then make a plan to move forward
- Find a trusted person to help you, to talk with, and that can be honest with you
- When doors close, windows and other doors open–look at them instead of the back of a closed door
We chuckled towards the end. We realized that what we had done together is consult with one another. That added another one to the list:
- Everyone experiences change
We ended by taking our own advice and with a commitment. Don’t go it alone.
So we’re having lunch again in August.
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