Theresa Moulton, Editor-in-Chief of Change Management Review, recently spoke with Brian Gorman to discuss implementing change, including insights gained through his work with clients who are personally or professionally undergoing significant changes in their lives, as well as with change professionals who are themselves supporting such changes.
How did you get started in the field of change management?
Actually, I got started before there was a field of change management. I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and it was a time of dynamic social change in our country and globally. My first personal effort at creating major change was during my freshman year at Syracuse, when I was doing youth work on the Onondaga Indian Reservation. I tried (unsuccessfully) to get the university to change its mascot, the Saltine Warrior, which I deemed culturally offensive.
Through this experience, I quickly learned that I am not a person who does well at maintaining status quo. And, one way or another, I have been working in change ever since.
When did you begin to study change management as a discipline?
Fast-forward to 1988, when I first trained with Daryl Conner. It was one of those synchronicity moments, if you will. Daryl had established a business partnership with KPMG Consulting and, at the time, I was working in their Higher Education and Nonprofit Consulting Group.
The partners in the firm were among the first to be trained by Daryl and we had two partners in our group, one of whom was very excited about the opportunity and the other who was not. On a Friday afternoon, the one who was not happy came to me and said, “You do not have a lot of billable time on the calendar next week. I am supposed to go to this silly training program in Atlanta and I have important work to do.”
So, that Sunday I was on a plane to Atlanta and it changed my life.
As you mentioned earlier, you have been engaged in change in one form or another for nearly five decades. What would you say are the most important lessons you have learned?
First, whether it’s social change, organizational change, personal change… all change is personal. Whether an organization succeeds in implementing new strategy and delivering the promised benefits from it, really depends on whether each of the people in the organization makes that shift, each of the customers makes the needed shifts and so forth. So, all change is personal really is becoming the heart of the way I am approaching change at this point in my career.
Second, no matter what the catalyst for the change, how we respond as human beings to change is universal. So, really, the third lesson for me is if you understand those universal patterns of response, then it becomes much easier. Not easy, necessarily, but easier to successfully navigate the change.
More recently, one of the more powerful learnings for me around coming out in neuroscience lately is that a well-crafted, a well-told story will affect the brain in the same way as actually living the experience. So, for me, that really reinforces the long-held belief that I have had in the use of story in executing change.
What are some of the topics that change management professionals want to work on as they go through leading changes or supporting changes themselves with their clients?
One of the big ones is wrestling with knowing what is right and having the courage to tell a sponsor what is right. Another is change management professionals who just find that they are not in an environment where they feel their work is valued and respected and are really questioning where they go with their career.
You have recently pulled together an eBook titled The Universal Change Journey: An Overview. Could you tell us a little about that?
A few years ago, I started blogging and putting out, on a weekly basis, lessons I have learned about the change journey over the course of my lifetime. Very early on, I structured the blog into five chapters that, for me, encompass the change journey. The first is about creating a story. The second is preparing for change – why preparing comes before planning. Most people say, “How can you prepare before you plan it?” which I’ve found to be an incorrect approach. Planning is the third chapter. Actually taking the journey is the fourth. And the fifth is coming home – but you do not actually ever come home again because you are in a different place.
Over the years, you have led, consulted, mentored, and served as an internal change agent for people going through change. As you move into a new endeavor as a professional coach, how does your past inform the coaching that you do?
Last year I went through coach certification training and have completed my International Coach Federation Certification. My coaching, really, is working with individuals going through significant change. So, again, one of the first questions is: where are you going? Do you have a clear picture of where you are going? And, I really apply the universal change journey to the coaching journey.
Brian Gorman is an ICF-certified coach who has served as a consultant, line manager, mentor, and coach for more than 40 years, earning a reputation for helping others successfully implement their most difficult changes. Brian is also a guest author of the Building Personal Impact feature on the Change Management Review™ editorial team. Connect with him directly on LinkedIn and Twitter.