As a seasoned change practitioner, do you have assignments where everything seems to go naturally and you really have an impact? As opposed to those where your client keeps misunderstanding you and the change projects stalls…? Daryl Conner, a long-time change professional, wondered why some change practitioners get it done – and others – with the same toolkit and experience – don’t accomplish much. He found an answer in our character and presence – WHO we are – that defines our unique contribution and whether or not we can impact this particular (client) organization. Practitioners themselves are part of the intervention with clients. Ready to raise your game?
Daryl Conner is concerned about the change profession. “We’ve become technicians instead of artists. I want to facilitate change that matters.” Many consultants tick the boxes of a methodology and go through the motions without addressing the deep emotions and uncomfortable truths that sabotage change or even transformation.
Facilitating real change requires change facilitators to know who they are and how they come across with clients. It requires facilitators to deal with any issues that hinder facilitation (to deal with personal fears, to grow the courage to speak the truth and be clear, to stop saving or pleasing the client so they can struggle and learn something, etc). It requires facilitators to find clients who will benefit from their unique contribution.
Daryl Conner summarizes: “Our true nature is synonymous with Who We Are. It has an epicenter called character, that is conveyed to clients through the presence we cast. It’s by our character and presence that we invoke the kind of client impact we strive for.”
Play your own music
Metaphorically speaking, we each have our “musical style” comprised of the methodologies we use, along with our character and presence. We must know our profession and tools and techniques, but we must also know what our music is. It is important to focus your practice on clients who value your character & presence package – because in that case you will be more impactful.
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Daryl Conner emphasizes: “Don’t perform for people who don’t like it, don’t try to convince them, or play only requested songs. Don’t play so crowds will show up. Play for true fans who praise what you play, respect how you play and are impacted by your music. Don’t measure yourself by the number of people listening to your music, but by how many are touched by it – to think, feel, act differently.”
Consultants, coaches, and facilitators may ponder three questions: Who am I? How do I present that? Who would value that (which clients)?
What do you convey?
When do you spend time on exploring your character and presence nowadays? You’ve grown busy as an adult and no longer spend a whole afternoon with friends analyzing who you are. But it’s still relevant – because we keep changing.
What do you leave out when you tell others about yourself?
Dare you include your vulnerability?
What is your presence conveying?
Everyone has these aspects that are apparent or more hidden, that are (un)comfortable and some that are helpful or hindering when you facilitate change projects.
What helps or hinders your work?
How do you behave when you are authentic? And is that always helpful? Do you sometimes misrepresent yourself? Maybe – when you fear the client won’t find you acceptable. We’re all human – there are no supermen and women. Raising our game starts with waking up and noticing that we adjust our music to the (assumed) liking of this audience. To notice when you’re holding back and your client is not getting your unique contribution. “What is it I have to offer if I’m not scared?” That’s a great question to raise your game.
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What clients want
Of course there are practical issues. Clients ask for tools, or demand deliverables, milestones. They rely on planning and control – they want to know the budget and planning in advance. The paradox is this: real change often emerges, it’s an unpredictable process that you can’t set in stone up front. But clients don’t like to buy processes: they buy solutions and outcomes. The point is to be clear about your approach – and let clients choose. Are they contacting you for sustainable change? Or do they want an entertaining one-day workshop? And what are you willing to deliver? Can you make a difference while making a living?
Daryl Conner stresses that change practitioners:
- demonstrate courage and tenacity to relay their observations, insights, recommendations – and this authenticity is an important part of their value proposition
- work in environments where they get political air cover and don’t waste their talents working with people who don’t want their capabilities
- engage in careful due diligence
If you don’t do this, you can’t strengthen what you do with who you are.
Daryl Conner did a webinar about this crucial change topic. Daryl Conner is Chairman of Conner Partners.