The world is obsessed with overnight success stories and, at year-end, this seems even more pronounced. Every time I open my social feeds, I’m flooded with posts about people talking about goals in extremely grand terms: winning and losing, starting over from zero, and taking the world by storm. They want to celebrate the good, minimize the bad, and move on to the next thing. It’s toxic positivity at its worst. But, as I often point out, whether it comes to your team, DEIB, culture, or your leadership goals, real progress requires a bit more continuity.
We have to focus on the budding successes not just our biggest ones.
Take DEIB for instance. It’s tempting to divide up DEIB goals and measure them like everything else: in quarters and initiatives. Once one quarter is complete, you move on to the next one. But, as I recently shared with a client, change is not like patching leaks in a plumbing system: you can’t fix one problem at a time and forget about it when you move on. You have to monitor those patched leaks in case they burst open again (which they often do).
Last year, my message around this time was to continue more, start less. The idea is to look back so you don’t lose track of the progress you’ve made. I bring this up again because it remains a great place to begin.
Instead of setting big, hairy, audacious goals, reflect on what’s possible because of the things that have happened this year.
Start with recognizing what you’ve learned about yourself and your organization this year. Identify specific changes: Have you found ways to extend your culture of belonging to hybrid and remote employees? Have you created new leadership development programs and opportunities? Have you developed some culturally relevant support systems for Black employees? Where could you go from here?
Keep reading for a few of my reflections.
What’s possible because of the things that have happened this year?
At Change Coaches, my book Leading Below the Surface helped us reach more people while getting deeper with our current clients. It led to great conversations on several podcasts and speaking engagements. And, our work doesn’t end here. I’m very excited to announce that we’re working on a leadership and team effectiveness assessment that will continue to help us serve you in new ways!
I’ll share more about that soon, but for now, let’s take a closer look at some highlights from Change Coaches’ projects in 2022.
In 2022, Teams Drove Cultural Change
Our team coaching engagements go beyond optimizing the important functions DEIB councils, leadership, and executive teams perform within an organization. We also want to tap into these collaborative centers of influence as agents of culture change. A couple of teams we worked with this year ended up subsequently leading radical transformations, and I want to point out how getting below the surface as a team allowed them to access the awareness they needed to make real change.
One large company we worked with has a DEIB team that was diverse, but it wasn’t very effective, there was a ton of negative conflict, and everyone was feeling burned out. We spent two days together offsite while holding space for each person to feel seen, heard, and valued. We talked about what it looks like when they’re not feeling that way, setting them up for better communication in the future.
The team left with a clear vision, purpose, and path forward. Everyone, including the team leader, also left feeling more valued and psychologically safe.
We also worked with an executive team at a small tech company. The organization had originally reached out for DEIB work, but the Culture Academy we moved forward with focused on DEIB, leadership, and company culture.
Through this approach, the team realized that their needs were bigger than DEIB.
Everyone up to the CEO learned that there needed to be different structures and systems across the organization to eliminate toxic interactions, effectively lead diverse teams, and truly live up to the culture the organization had defined for itself. As we often do at Change Coaches, our next step is to run some listening sessions and work with Vice Presidents, the next level down. It was the budding, not the biggest moments, that got us here.
The Change Coaches Team is Growing
If you’ve been in touch with Change Coaches, you’ve met our operations manager Kate Fylstra. She became a full-time team member this year, and she’s truly the glue that keeps us all together. Kate played a huge role in the operations behind promoting my book, supporting the team through our website redesign, and keeping communication lines open so we can be there for our clients every step of the way. Next time you see Kate or email her, tell her how great she is! Meet Kate and the new coaches and consultants we’ve added to the team.
I’m PCC Certified
How do you know when you’re a real pro at what you do? I started to feel like a professional coach when I noticed I wasn’t getting nervous, that I could sit with clients in silence, and I stayed calm when disagreements came up. Earning my PCC certification this year was another big step that made me sit back and recognize that I’m a valuable resource.
I took a nontraditional route to get here, paying my own way instead of getting sponsorship through an employer, getting my coaching hours in with my own clients, and training with multiple different coaching schools. I’m really proud of this certification, and I feel like I’m just getting started!
College Students and MBAs Are Getting Below the Surface
Since the day I started writing Leading Below the Surface, I had a vision of getting the book onto business school reading lists and into campus bookstores. I’ve heard that several different universities around the world are teaching my book (including the University of Chicago), and I love that it’s helping the next generation of leaders practice REAL leadership as a core value.
I also got back in the classroom to teach a Current Issues in Leadership class with MBA students at UIC Business Liautaud Graduate School. I brought in five different guest speakers, and each of them got below the surface and had great experiences with my students, who were brave enough to get vulnerable too. One point I drove home this semester was not to get too focused on what’s happening or whose fault it is but to focus on why it’s happening.
Bring this wisdom to every room.
What’s Possible Now? Making Room For Below the Surface Leadership in Your 2023 Budget
Enough about us! I want to wrap up with a few more words about how to move forward with sustainable progress in 2023. You have to get a good understanding of where you are before you can take the next step and ask:
What’s possible because of the things that have happened this year?
If your path has gotten a bit murky for your organization and you’re not sure how your team is doing, keep an eye out for our Team Effectiveness Assessment coming in January! It’s completely unique in that it measures REAL leadership, psychological safety, and belonging in one place. No other assessment covers all three of those areas at once in the format we are using and, before it’s released, we are going through the process of ensuring that it’s a valid and reliable tool.
Looking ahead, there are a few other key ways to make room for Below the Surface Leadership in next year’s budget. Black History Month and Women’s History Month are just around the corner, followed by Pride in June. When you’re searching for speakers, be sure to look through an intersectional lens. Finally, plan activities that are appropriate for your organization’s level of maturity. If your leaders need more time and space to focus on deeper, more focused, conversations, it might be time for a focused offsite retreat.
I know it’s hard to plan when you don’t have detailed goals and precise ways to measure them. A lot of the time, organizations find progress in having unstructured, emotional discussions. For instance, I was just part of a productive conversation with one client about how certain structures and systems are getting in the way of psychological safety. While you’re developing your awareness, these conversations are transformational. It’s these budding moments that are so important.
So, in 2023, how will you stay mindful of your budding moments and balance them with the biggest ones?