I recently had the very good fortune to partake in Daryl Conner’s Raising Your Game workshop in Sydney. After 40 years of change consulting practice, change industry pioneer and ‘guru’ Conner has moved away from work in change management tools and processes and invested his time in two areas – Connor Advisory – “change that matters”, his advisory work with NGOs and the Conner Academy, working with high impact practitioners on identifying how their character and presence adds value to their client engagements.
There are several key concepts that shape up the workshop and you can find them on the Conner Academy blog and Daryl’s linkedin pulse notes.
High Impact Practitioners
High impact practitioners are defined as those that:
- Having spent an extended period working in their area of specialization
- Having exceptional knowledge and skill relevant to their specialty
- Having a demonstrated record of delivering on assigned responsibilities
- Being aware of, and attentive to, the broader organizational context outside their area of specialty
- Providing unique perspectives to critical situations that surface valuable insights
- Boldly bringing viewpoints/ideas/recommendations forward, at times even in the absence of support for doing so
High Impact practitioners are differentiated from adequate practitioners and those that are inept. The notion of adequacy (and that the term represented about 65% of the profession) grated on many. Yet, in Conner’s positioning, it is not a pejorative – simply a descriptor of ‘meets expectations’ from the business leaders he has worked with.
High impact practitioners are rare resources
This one was a bit of an awakening for me. Daryl comes across as dogmatic in his belief that if you are a high impact practitioner you should be conserving your energy and efforts for the clients that deserve you. Playing small does nobody any benefits. There have been times in my past where I have reconciled my lack of influence on a client engagement with – that’s ok, “when you work in change, you are always in the right place” – eg my micro engagements with people around me make a difference. Daryl’s challenging provocation is leave that up to those who are adequate in their work. You have no right to play small – go big or go home.
In working through this I realise my personal purpose statement (to inspire people to change the way they work and support them through that change) makes no definition of what type of people I work with. It permits me to play small. So that needs some work.
Awake or asleep on the job?
This related to being aware of how authentically you are presenting your character on client work. That point where change practitioners get frustrated with not being ‘heard’ is often a sign that the practitioner is waking up. If a practitioner choses to endure an engagement where they are not recognised for the work they do, it is akin to going to sleep (as a way to get through the pain).
Playing your music / Finding your fans
This was a lovely metaphor to work with – in identifying and amplifying your character and presence in client engagements, you are effectively playing your own music. The nirvana state is to find clients or organisations who are fans of your music and contract you to play your own unique sound. This only happens by committing to playing your own music. It prompted thoughts of what it means to turn it up, and turn it down. What happens when you play some-one else’s music – for me, I can do it well, but there is no joy in it.
The sapling within the tree
The other metaphor that really resonated was the notion of the sapling within the tree. Our core character is defined in the early sapling that grows. Over time and with weathering, the tree forms a trunk. Sometimes we lose the sapling for the defensive structure of the trunk.
The invoice you write
When Conner spoke of the payment terms it really hit home for many. There is an invoice that you write for the client for payment of service. And there is an invoice you get billed when you do not play your music. What does it cost you personally and professionally to not show up? To not be awake on the job
The workshop was terrific – I felt, I went into the workshop pretty confident I had a good grasp on what my music was, who my fan base were, and what the defining elements were of my character and presence. There were no big surprises for me out of that. Of course, I could be in complete denial on that, and if so I trust my sub conscious to process that in time J
I was keen to understand how I could ‘work the clay’ to ensure a fan base by design, rather than serendipity (ah, yes, that would be the control freak aspect of character…) and there was some strong insights that emerged that assisted in that understanding and will take quite a bit of work to get through. But I’m up for the challenge. There was also the additional benefit of immersing with 11 other high impact practitioners – what a gift. Not to mention 2.5 days with Daryl Conner – an extraordinary experience.
The workshop culminated with developing a narrative that reflects the core components of character identified. In the spirit of further defining character and presence and the interplay of creating a fan base, I thought I would share my personal character and presence statement with you. Choosing five words was hard – there were most definitely others I wanted to include. It’s a work in progress I guess. A start, not the end.
I can be paradoxical; I operate on two levels. With strengths in strategic and structural execution and an inner essence of love, light and joy. The first two overplayed prevent emergent possibilities, underplayed I lack effectiveness in change work. The love, light and joy is seen by my clients more than I do – reflected back in descriptors of humour and supportiveness.
I am a little challenged on how to express the ‘inner light and love” component (note to self: you just did. Gulp). It doesn’t fit well with what you normally see on websites, resumes or practitioner bios.
I’ve got this far:
With a deep understanding of communication, change management and human behaviour, Jen uses her expertise to help companies execute strategic change while supporting delivery. She is drawn to clients who appreciate a commitment to light, life and laughter.
I’d be grateful for your feedback on how to integrate the concept of this aspect of my character further. Or, for that matter, feedback on if you have a different experience of my character and presence. I won’t say that doesn’t make me apprehensive – but the sixth word I would have added is fearless 😉
Let’s work the clay.