Pick your cliché – walking the walk, practicing what you preach, taking your own medicine. Yeah, we just did those things.
Three years into some serious culture change work with the Library of Virginia, we invited a mixed group of Library leaders over to our place for pizza and feedback.
For the better part of two hours, they huddled in our conference room with Theran Fisher (the closest thing we had to a neutral, third party) and unpacked a broad mix of work – from an initial round of “all employee” conversations (read: venting sessions) to strategic planning to Insights self-awareness training to leadership coaching.
And then they brought us into the room and gave us their feedback on what worked well, what didn’t and the ways in which, specifically, Debra Saneda and I were more effective and less effective in our engagements with their team.
They didn’t hold their punches. But they didn’t hold back on their praise, either. Here are some of their observations about our work together:
- One of the most important pieces of work we did for them was simply getting started. We began with a series of conversations with all 170 employees that gave everyone a chance to vent, gnash their teeth – and feel hopeful about the future. “You helped us have conversations that needed to happen,” they told us.
- Our second piece of work fell on its face, but it helped everyone involved better understand the organization’s readiness for the change work – and illuminated the leadership and relationship gaps that became the core of the work later on.
- The opportunities where everyone in the organization was included – the opening conversations, visioning activity, strategic planning work – were among the most impactful moments.
- Where we could have done a much better job was helping them understand and facilitate the work on their own – faster, and more often. We try hard not to make ourselves indispensible to our clients, and we need to try harder. Teaching a man to fish, and all that.
- The moments when our team wasn’t on the same page – whether during a small leadership discussion or a strategic planning process – were not helpful. It’s important for the Floricane team to be in alignment, especially when we’re helping our clients wrestle publicly with work that matters deeply to them.
We gritted our teeth while the Library team worked behind closed doors to develop the feedback they gave us. And I think we relaxed visibly when the feedback started. Most of it wasn’t a surprise. All of it was important to hear. Allowing it to shape our future work with the Library and other clients is where the rubber will meet the road. Cliché intended.