Change and Creativity: Creating Possibilities out of Chaos and Uncertainty

Change and Creativity: Creating Possibilities out of Chaos and Uncertainty

I believe that embracing change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities.

During these uncertain and challenging times it may seem counterintuitive to think about change and creativity together in the same sound bite. That said, believe it or not, this is the opportune time for you to tap into and express your creative side.

I encourage you to sit down, close your eyes and take a few moments to pause and reflect. Ask yourself, what positive changes have come out of this pandemic for you, your relationships, your community, your business, your work?

For many, it is the opportunity for the first time to work from home. If this is you, it may be an enjoyable and productive experience; or it may make you realize that being on your own, you miss the camaraderie of colleagues, easily get distracted, and find it challenging to get work done. This is a gift, as now you know that working on your own at home is not a preferred option for you.

For others who own their own businesses, initially you may have experienced fear and have had to “let go” of some of your employees, and yet when you “go inside”, you realize that your business is not exciting you anymore and hasn’t for some time. You may have been feeling uninspired but didn’t know how you could exist and earn a living without your “tried and true” business or job. This is a time to experiment with different ways of running your existing business. It is a time ripe for innovation.

Now you have the opportunity to explore what “lights you up” (see https://pamela-thompson.com/believe-that-you-are-here-to-make-a-difference/ for an exercise on how to identify your passions), and to clarify your core values (refer to https://pamela-thompson.com/do-you-live-in-alignment-with-your-core-values/ for more details), so that when you return to a “new normal” , whatever that looks like, you will be in a position to reinvent yourself , whether it be to find that job of your dreams or start that new business you’ve been putting off for some time, perhaps years.

What about key relationships in your life? What realizations has this time of social distancing “brought up” for you? It could be the conscious awareness that connection and regularly speaking with friends and family is really important for you. I’ve found that I want to call and FaceTime or Skype with close friends, rather than text or email them. I feel a strong need to be in community. Fortunately, I am part of a Women’s Circle that meets face-to-face every 2 weeks. We met via Zoom for the first time this past week, were creative with our process, and it worked really well. A fun and creative activity my husband and I have planned for this evening is a virtual birthday party for one of our young granddaughters.

A tool I’ve found helpful during these times is journalling using writing prompts such as: What is the silver lining in this experience? Have my priorities changed? What is most important to me? How can I change my life so each day I focus on those things and people that are most important to me?

I invite you to begin meditating daily if this is a new experience for you and/or something you’ve been “putting off” and meaning to do for a while. I find Deepak and Oprah’s free 21-day Meditation Experiences (e.g. Finding Hope in Uncertain Times – https://chopracentermeditation.com/store/product/156/hope_in_uncertain_times_streaming); extremely helpful to ground me and keep me focussed on the positive during these times of massive change and uncertainty.

It is important to express your feelings during challenging times. Drawing and/or painting may be helpful for you to release negative feelings and to create positive “pieces”; paintings or drawings that remind you of hope, connection, and people and activities that bring you joy and connect you with your inner child.

Visioning is another tool to create possibilities out of the current chaos and uncertainty. Ask yourself, What do I want the world to look like after this pandemic? Do I see more people aware of climate change and the actions we all can take to protect animals and improve the environment? What is my role in this? What actions can I take toward making this world a better place for my family, community, workplace …?

Do you envision a community where you are connected to your neighbors and have mechanisms in place to enable you to be kept aware of and able to respond to those closeby who are in need?

“I believe that humanity is essentially good and

 that we are all interconnected

I believe that everything happens for a reason.

The Universe provides me with what I need

And Great Spirit is guiding me toward fulfillment.

Nature connects me with my soul.

I believe that life is an adventure to be lived to the fullest and that  I am here to help build peace in the world.”

 (excerpt from “Learning to Dance with Life” my #1 best selling book, p. 6)

What do you believe? …

What opportunities have presented themselves/are appearing for you in these uncertain and chaotic times?

How are you tapping into and expressing your creative side?

I invite and welcome your thoughts and comments below.

“Being the Change” in Your Home, Your Community, Your Work …

“Being the Change” in Your Home, Your Community, Your Work …

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about women “being the change” we want to see in the world. Yet how do you “be the change” in your day-to-day life? Here are a few thoughts that I hope will stimulate some of your own.

How can we be the change we want to see in our homes?

  • By choosing to share household responsibilities with our partners such as cooking, cleaning, yard work … and modelling these choices for our children
  • Teaching our boys as well as our girls to cook, clean, do the dishes …
  • Teaching our girls as well as our boys to mow lawns, shovel snow …
  • Becoming financially literate. By this I mean “ … the possession of the set of skills and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with all of their financial resources” (Source – Wikipedia; ) and ” … the ability to understand and effectively apply various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting, and investing. Financial literacy helps individuals become self-sufficient so that they can achieve financial stability.” (Source – https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/financial-literacy.asp)
  • Teaching our children financial literacy.

How can we be the change we want to see in our communities?

  • By identifying an issue we are passionate about and initiating a project/program to make a difference in this issue (e.g. nutritious school meal programs; animal welfare; homelessness)
  • By identifying an existing group or organization that is championing an issue we feel passionate about and contributing our relevant knowledge, skills and/or our financial resources to that organization or group.

How can we be the change we want to see in our work?

  • If we see issues we feel strongly about that are not being handled effectively in our workplaces (e.g. gender inequality, need for diversity training … ), we may observe and collect data to support our case and identify others within the setting to support us to make a case to management.
  • If we own our own businesses we may choose to donate our time and/or money to an organization whose work we value (such as a group that is pro zero waste, sustainability, women’s rights … )
  • If we own our own businesses we may choose to develop and offer workshops and keynotes to public and private sector organizations on topics of interest and expertise such as: diversity and inclusion training, change management, feminine leadership.

Now, over to you. What suggestions do you have for how you and others can “be the change” you want to see in your households, communities, workplaces …?

I welcome your comments below.

Lessons Learned from Creating & Hosting My Own Radio Show

Lessons Learned from Creating & Hosting My Own Radio Show

Since I launched my weekly internet radio talk show – The Art of Change – http://boldbravemedia.com/shows/the-art-of-change/, a number of people have asked me about my lessons from doing it, so I’ve decided to write a post on just that.

Here are some key lessons I’ve learned:

  • Get clear on your WHY – e.g. in terms of my show to showcase inspiring women leaders and changemakers who other women could learn from and be inspired by; to create a safe space for aspiring women leaders and changemakers to listen, learn and phone in weekly with questions.
  • Identify your WHO for the show – i.e. your primary target audience; which for me is “aspiring women leaders and changemakers”. That said, my show is also relevant for men and women of a variety of ages and backgrounds.
  • If signing a contract (e.g. with an internet radio provider/media outlet) clarify when and how the sponsorship benefits kick in
  • Clarify how the station will be promoting you – e.g. on which social media platforms and how often?
  • Plan your show well in advance; e.g. at least 6 weeks out
  • Reach out to people you know, like and trust to be on the show. Select them from your own network, invite others to recommend folks to you, look for people on LinkedIn who you think might be a good fit, connect with them and plan a call via Skype or zoom to make the final decision and to plan the show.
  • When inviting people for the show give them a tentative date to be on your show.
  • Clarify your expectations of guests well in advance and reinforce them close to the show date.
  • Download all of your shows so you have them to repurpose at a later date; e.g. perhaps for your website.
  • When interviewing guests, be totally present and be conscious of what value you can add to their responses.
  • Have fun! (and set that as intention with your guests)

I welcome your comments and experiences below.

What Beliefs Guide & Support You as a Leader?

What Beliefs Guide & Support You as a Leader?

Our beliefs influence our perceptions (how we see the world), and our behaviors. Dr. Bruce Lipton’s work, a stem cell biologist and author of The Biology of Belief[1], provides strong evidence that we can change the character of our lives by changing our beliefs. How powerful and empowering is that!

As a leader you have the power to choose what you believe and the ability to influence others in your organization, the groups you belong to, and in your families.

It is important to be aware of our core beliefs and to consistently walk our talk so people feel safe, trust us and are aware of what is expected of them. I will share some of my core beliefs from leading and managing in a variety of organizations and cultures for the past three decades, with the hope that you may connect with them and also gain some clarity on the core beliefs that guide you as a leader.

Core Beliefs:

  • We are all interconnected.

You may have heard that when a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon, two years later it can result in a tornado in Kansas. The butterfly effect[2] has demonstrated that a small change in one area can result in powerful future outcomes in another. If you as a leader believe in an organizational culture that focuses on people, understanding and collaboration, you have the power to shape and change the organization based on how you treat and respond to people and challenging situations daily. How you communicate with others has an impact throughout the organization and beyond. We all have heard about the disheartened employee who has gone home and kicked his dog or beaten his wife.

I invite you to “try out” this belief and have it in the forefront of your mind when you interact and communicate with others on a daily basis in your workplace, community, and family. Notice how this affects your interactions, the organizational morale and environment.

  • We are all the same. We all want to be respected, valued, to feel safe, secure and to belong.

When living and working in Afghanistan eight years ago, I was sitting in the rose garden of the Ministry of Public Health eating lunch with one of my female Afghan colleagues when there was a powerful explosion. Within seconds of the huge blast, my Muslim colleague was phoning each of her family members to ensure that they were all safe. I think most of us would have done the same. We all value family and care about those close to us. The explosion was from a number of suicide bombers entering the military hospital across the road. The result was the senseless deaths of a number of Afghan patients and their families, and medical students.

I have enjoyed managing and consulting in a number of culturally diverse and uncertain environments, and believe my effectiveness has been largely due to the belief that we are all the same. When you view everyone through the lens of that belief, you are able to connect with them, and work effectively whether or not you speak their language or have the same cultural background or religion. In Afghanistan using participatory processes, I was able to collaboratively develop/co-create the first strategic plan with the Ministry of Public Health, and have it pass through all the policy layers and be signed off by the Minister within 9 months.

I invite you to experiment tomorrow and try throughout your day to view everyone you see through the lens and belief that “we are all the same”, whether it be a homeless person, a colleague you have a tense relationship with, or a family member you have difficulties relating to. Try this and notice what you notice.

  • Nature connects me with my soul.

Did you know that when you walk in forests, it reduces your blood pressure, reduces your heart rate and increases the number of natural killer cells your body produces (i.e. strengthens your immune system)? Based on longitudinal research, the Japanese have institutionalized forest bathing or forest therapy. In their highly competitive culture, they encourage and support people to regularly visit centers in forests throughout Japan to forest bathe, and they continue to collect powerful longitudinal data on its valuable effects.

I encourage you to spend time in nature for 30 minutes or more at least 3 times a week. When I spend time in nature I feel relaxed, energized, happy and free. My stress is reduced (if I’m having a particularly stressful day). If as leaders we are committed to spending regular time in nature, do you think it would positively impact our effectiveness?

  • Life is an adventure to be lived to the fullest.

Based on this belief, I’ve led an adventurous and full life so far [and hope to continue doing so!]. I’ve lived and worked in the mountains of northern Colombia with peasant farmers in the late 80s when Pablo Escobar was “running around” and the Medellin Cartel was in full swing. I’ve lived and worked in Kabul, Afghanistan for 13 months from October 2010 to November 2011 (a volatile and uncertain time), and managed large multi-stakeholder projects in Pakistan and Nigeria where corruption is rampant and violence can erupt at any time.

When I don’t have adventure in my life I get restless and feel unfulfilled, and I either seek out adventure or it serendipitously comes my way. Similarly, if contribution and making a positive difference in the world is one of your core values[2] and you work in an organization that is “all about the money”, over time you will likely feel unhappy and unfulfilled. This will affect your personal and your work life.

  • Embracing change is a creative process that opens me up to new possibilities.

These are times of massive change and uncertainty. We have a choice to either embrace or to resist change. When we view change as a threat and believe it is to be feared, this has negative impacts on our bodies, our minds, our relationships, our organizations and on our bottom lines. However, when we believe “embracing change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities”, it has positive impacts on our bodies, our minds, our relationships, our organizations and on our bottom lines.  

To learn more about this and proven strategies for embracing change, I invite you to download and read “The Art of Change Framework: A Guide to Embracing Personal and Organizational Change” from the homepage of https://pamela-thompson.com/).

What beliefs guide and support you as a leader?

I welcome your thoughts and comments below.


[1] Lipton, B. H., The Biology of Belief – Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles. New York City: Hay House, Inc.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect

Why so many Organizational Change Initiatives Fail & the Secret to Helping them Succeed

Why so many Organizational Change Initiatives Fail & the Secret to Helping them Succeed

Did you know that approximately 70% of organizational change initiatives fail? Why is that?

According to my own work on five continents and a cursory review of the literature, the main reason organizational change initiatives fail is because they do not adequately address the people side of change.

What do I mean by the people side of change?

People are at the heart of our organizations. They include everyone from the CEO, Senior Management Team, Middle Managers, Team Leaders and Employees. They also include key stakeholders.

How do you address the people side of change?

CEO and Senior Management Team –The key ingredient here is for CEOs and their Senior Management teams to be clear on why they are initiating a change – be it a culture change, reorganization, leadership change, new strategic plan … AND communicate that “why” clearly down through all layers of an organization. That said it is not enough to communicate the change, it is important for others in the organization to take ownership of the change (more about that later).

Another important aspect is that a CEO and their Senior Management Team understand change and how they typically respond to it. Some key questions to think about are: On a scale from 1 to 10, how do you typically respond to change? One being “It scares me to death” and 10 being “I thrive on it”. My experience has been that most leaders rate themselves from 8 to 10. They tend to thrive on change. However, there may be others on their teams who are 4s or 5s. If so, it is important to be aware of that, open up the conversation, and discuss how those folks may be supported throughout the change process.

When a CEO is open about change, acknowledges that many of us fear change, provides opportunities for their people to learn how to embrace change versus resist it and models this behavior for others, it improves the chances of success of an organizational change initiative.

How do you embrace versus resist change?

Based on more than 25 years of consulting and coaching with individuals and organizations on 5 continents, I’ve designed a 5-step process called “The Art of Change Framework” to support leaders and their organizations to embrace change. It is underpinned by the belief that “embracing change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities”. It is also supported by evidence from neuroscience, eastern psychology and organizational development.

This process is best implemented on the “front end” of an organizational change initiative and lays the foundation for that initiative. It works best in an experiential workshop(s) format where leaders and their teams have the opportunity to learn about change together, explore how they respond to change and why, and receive tools to support them as they move into a change process.

The Value Add?  When people learn about change and how they respond to it, that not only supports their engagement, motivation, productivity and positivity in the workplace, it also improves their personal lives.

I’ve included an excerpt from “The Art of Change Framework: A Guide to Personal and Organizational Change” below to illustrate the differential impacts between embracing versus resisting change (full document available at https://pamela-thompson.com/).

What happens in Ourselves, Our Relationships and Our Workplaces when We Resist Change versus Embrace it?

OURSELVES

Resist Embrace
We view change as a threat We view change as an
opportunity to learn and grow and as a creative process that opens us up to new
opportunities
We feel:
Angry
Depleted
Low in energy
Victimized
The increased stress over time
negatively impacts our health; can
lead to chronic illness and
negatively affect our career paths
We feel:
Open
Excited
Energized
Nonjudgmental

Over time we are more relaxed,
more flexible and open to creative
ideas. Our health may be positively impacted as we feel supported by
those around us and that we are
contributing to something greater than ourselves; may positively
impact our career paths
In our interactions with others we:
Are not totally present
Are judgmental
May be argumentative
In our interactions with others we:
Are present
Are mindful

Seek to understand and support
others

OUR RELATIONSHIPS

Resist Embrace
Strained
Reactive
Judgmental

Characterized by
increased conflict
We feel alone,
victimized and that others don’t
understand us
Open
Responsive
Curious

Characterized by increased understanding, creativity and compassion
We feel part of something and
supported

OUR WORKPLACES

Increased conflict
“us” versus “them”
mentality
Reduced morale
Reduced engagement
Little innovation
Increased illness and absenteeism
Negative impact on the bottom line

Increased cooperation,
collaboration and synergy
Increased morale
Increased engagement
Creativity and Innovation
Reduced absenteeism
Positive impact on the bottom line

As leaders of teams, organizations or community groups, it is essential that you understand change and how you respond to it and also understand your team members and how they typically respond to change. By engaging in facilitated experiential workshops on the Art of Change, the understanding among team members will increase and resistance toward a change process, be it a reorganization, new leadership, new project or new strategic plan, will decrease.

Providing Opportunities for people from various layers of the organization to input into the change process such as answering the question: How will the change affect me? And How can we as a team best support and positively contribute to the change initiative? AND the leadership taking those responses into consideration, is important. This includes input from key stakeholders which may be obtained through telephone interviews, focus groups, facilitated workshops … . Providing opportunities for people to input into the change process not only may provide interesting suggestions and perspectives, it will also build ownership for the change. People by nature, want to be respected, valued and feel like they belong; and enabling them to input into a change process supports these basic needs.

My experience has been that when we provide the opportunity for people at various levels to input into a change process, they often contribute ideas and suggestions that senior management is not aware of/cannot see from their organizational vantage point.

In a recent episode of “The Art of Change” radio talk show, my guest, Shelley Gilberg, partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers, and experienced organizational change expert, noted that one reason many change initiatives fail is because “we cut off support too early to sustain change initiatives” – For more details check out: https://www.spreaker.com/user/bbm_global_network/the-art-of-change-show-9. Providing people at various layers of the organization the opportunity to receive training and support and instituting “check points” along the way for people to identify how they feel and why is important. This is also supported by Brene Brown’s interviews with a large sample of leaders from both public and private sector organizations.

In Summary

There is strong evidence that the reason why many organizational change initiatives fail is because they do not adequately address the people side of change. When we provide opportunities for people from various layers of an organization, as well as key stakeholders to input into a change process, when the CEO and Senior Management Team are clear on why they are initiating a new change and communicate that effectively throughout an organization and model positive change behaviors, and when leaders and their teams from various levels in an organization are provided the opportunity in experiential workshops to learn about change and explore how they respond to it, the chances of success of an organizational change initiative increases.

Learning and implementing the 5-step Art of Change Framework helps you as a leader understand how you respond to change and is a tool to support you and your team(s) to embrace it. In these challenging and uncertain times, now more than ever, we need proven processes to support individuals and leaders in communities, governments and organizations to create successful change initiatives and through those efforts make a positive difference in the world.

Letting Go in Business: How to Grieve

Letting Go in Business: How to Grieve

In a recent episode of “The Art of Change” radio show that focused on “The Entrepreneurial Journey” – http://boldbravemedia.com/shows/the-art-of-change/ – my guest, serial entrepreneur and Founder of the Westshore Women’s Business Network, Deb Alcadinho, talked about grieving in relation to shutting down a business; and she recalled one business in particular that was challenging to let go of. On reflection, it struck me that in business we don’t usually talk about grieving[1] and perhaps we need to.

In the third step of the Art of Change Framework[2], “letting go” is the work associated with the ending phase of a change or transition.  According to organizational theorist William Bridge’s work, when we make a change it is important to do the internal psychological work, which he defines as the “transition”, in order to readjust and reorient ourselves to our new external reality. How often do we do this in life let alone in business?

I’ve launched four businesses since the early 1990s and realize that I didn’t take time to grieve any of them. When I no longer felt “juiced” by what I was doing, a new opportunity would present itself or I would think “What do I really want to do now?” and then think of who might be someone in that space to approach. Then, I would be off and running to the next project, or iteration of my business. I really didn’t take time between those changes to get in touch with my feelings or to process my emotions. So I’ve started on a journey to do that, and am openly sharing with you insights gleaned along my journey.

At this point in my life I am choosing to only do things that are fun and bring me joy. I’m noticing with my new “Art of Change” radio talk show that I’m energized, excited and having fun. I appreciate having a new focus in business and it aligns with my core values of contribution, adventure, connection and love of learning.

I’m also consciously filtering opportunities that come my way through a new lens; that of will it bring me joy and is it in alignment with my core values? Do I have space in my life for this based on what else I’ve committed to?

I love the feeling of spaciousness I’m creating. I consciously spend time in nature and notice when my body needs a “nature hit”. I look forward to my bi-weekly Women’s Circle and include philanthropic opportunities and a Women’s Business group in my schedule. I make time, more and more, for friends, and continue to cherish special moments with my partner and my family.

I feel like my priorities are shifting and with that a sense of no longer wanting to strive (which I thought I let go of years ago), but rather to thrive. To me that means awakening each day with a smile on my face and a song in my heart; feeling strong, healthy and flexible in body, mind and spirit; learning and growing through reading and courses; creating the program for my radio show; beginning to write a memoir; consciously tapping into and asking my heart and gut: What do I really want to do now? What will fill me up?

I consciously choose to let go of worrying about things I cannot control and instead choose to focus on what I am grateful for and what I can “control”.

In summary, how can we grieve in business? Here are a few helpful strategies:

  • Take the time to tap into and express your feelings if you are shutting down a business or changing direction. Ask yourself – How do I feel about this? Relieved? Sad? Lighter? It’s helpful to journal about how you feel. If you have friends, colleagues or a loving partner, you may find it helpful to share your thoughts and emotions with them.
  • Ask yourself: What is my experience with endings? Do you find them difficult? Do they cause you pain OR do you typically “Just get on with it” and not take the time to feel or process those emotions?
  • Celebrate and acknowledge your accomplishments. This can include spending time journaling about what they are, inviting clients and staff (and/or contractors) to a party to celebrate the end of that business and how everyone has contributed to it. It can be a small gathering of friends and colleagues who respect and honor you; where they can share how much they value you, how you supported them and you can also share your gratitude for them and how they contributed to your business success.
  • Reflect on and write down the lessons learned from that business (i.e. what worked well, what didn’t and then build on your strengths and learn from/shore up your weaknesses moving forward).
  • Make a list of what you are choosing to let go of and consciously release those emotions and beliefs from your body.
  • Remember that grieving takes time. Give yourself that time to feel, heal and to rest.
  • Spend regular time in nature. Being among trees reduces your heart rate, reduces your blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells your body produces (i.e. strengthens your immune system).
  • Practice mindfulness (e.g. body scanning, mindfulness walking meditation, listen to guided meditations).  These practices get you get “out of your head” and “into your body”.

I’d love to hear from you about how you’ve grieved past businesses. Does this idea resonate with you? I welcome your comments and suggestions below.


[1] “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” (source: https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/blog/2013/06/best-grief-definition-you-will-find)

[2] For more on “The Art of Change Framework” refer to: https://pamela-thompson.com/fear-change-overcome/

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