On March 12th of this year, Beverley Patwell experienced a moment of panic.
The senior organizational development, change practitioner and founder of Patwell Consulting Inc. was in a classroom, guiding clients through the tools and processes outlined in her new book Leading Meaningful Change, when she was informed that all future engagements and sessions would be cancelled. Not only that, but her upcoming client bookings would be cancelled along with book launches that were scheduled across the country. The global pandemic had been declared.
Having spent 30-plus years on the front lines of change strategy, education and leadership, Beverley was now dealing with her own unique onslaught of change. It was at that moment that she decided to take a breath, take a page from her own book and lead meaningful change in her own business and professional circle.
“My team took a step back and we looked at what was happening around us and the impact it was having on me professionally, in my family and community,” says Beverley.
Beverley’s team began researching ways to deliver their programs and the book launches virtually, using Zoom and other multi-media platforms, soon recognizing that the process and toolkit outlined in the guide could be applicable immediately and across the lifespan and not only those leaders working inside organizations.
“We never thought we would be launching a new book during a pandemic but we believed strongly that Leading Meaningful Change could help people right now,” she says. “So we made a strategic decision to commit, keep our team together and developed a plan that would carry us through the book launches and the re-design of our programs and tools so they are grounded in helping people to live and lead through COVID and beyond.”
How Beverley led this change of delivery effectively, quickly and meaningfully is an evident testament to her latest book — a guide to learning, leading and achieving meaningful change and transformation. We asked her how meaningful change can be achieved and why this brand of leadership is so vitally important in today’s mid-pandemic climate.
What does it mean to lead meaningful change?
Leading meaningful change means working with your people around a common purpose that they truly embrace and are inspired to be part of… it requires leaders to capture the hearts, minds and souls of their people.
Why is it imperative now, more than ever, that leaders commit to leading change beyond the basic application of change plan tactics.
People right now are craving meaning in their work. They want to make a difference and have a positive impact in the world. When they are engaged because they too want the change at hand, results are achieved faster, time and money are saved and people aren’t as easily burnt out. Making this work requires human-centered thinking, and for leaders to attend to the people they lead, work with and serve throughout the change process.
How can a leader strive to capture hearts, minds and souls in this way?
For leaders, it’s all about accountability — personal accountability to themselves and to their organization and to the people you serve. Also, knowing that they can’t do this alone and they have to involve their people in the process. A hero-worship leader is not going to cut it if you want to lead meaningful change. Everyone needs to be aligned in supporting the purpose. They have to really see themselves in this change process. This is not just lip service – it’s not communicating to, but rather consulting with, the people who they are leading, working with and serving.
What’s an example of meaningful change that you’ve witnessed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Dr. Bonnie Henry is top of mind for us right now when it comes to leading meaningful change. Coming out of the gate, she led the flattening of the curve here in the province of British Columbia without using a dictatorial approach. People stepped up to the call — we were accountable, we worked together…. and it continues. We still have the lowest rates across the country. Her call to action permeated through to different generations, both senior and younger people — she pushed accountability to each of us to make these important choices and recognized that she could not effect these all-important changes alone.
What are some first steps a leader can take right away to begin leading meaningful change in their organization?
They can begin by answering the questions: Why do you want to be a leader in this time and history of your organization? What has prepared you to accept this call to action? What does success look like for you, your team, organization and community if you are successful leading this meaningful change? What supports do you need to be successful?
Once they’ve reflected on these queries, my next piece of advice would be to get out there. Observe, listen, learn, speak to people. Walk in their shoes. Establish principles that will guide the development of both your plan and the communication of your plan. Be empathetic. Suspend judgement. Keep a journal. And of course, involve people — involve them in the development of the plan, not just the execution of your plan.