Last week, I was invited to speak to a group of professionals who were embarking on a new journey at their current job. The new director who is a colleague and friend asked me to share some words of encouragement and advice with his staff. Several years prior, I led a similar type of change in an organization that received awards and industry accolades, so I would say with a certain amount of confidence that the program I led was a success. However, during the preparation for my talk with his staff, I took inventory of the many comments, suggestions and criticisms I received during that time. I distinctly remembered my staff mentioning their anxiety associated with change, and I also recall being told that they actually trusted me and not “the process of change.” Hmmm.
So how would I allay concerns, foster trust in leadership and help smooth the transition process for this team? After long and careful consideration, I realized that I had absolutely no idea of the nuances or what would actually happen with this endeavor; therefore, I was not equipped to “sell a used car.” What I could offer was a few nuggets on what they could do to personally prepare for change and embrace their new “experience!”
I opened the conversation with a comment on the new series Bel-Air which imagines The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air through a new, dramatic take on Will’s journey to Bel-Air. This led to a discussion about how one can retell a familiar story, with the same characters, from a different perspective and how they have a chance to do exactly the same thing. This change involves delivering a similar product (in this case public service) to and with the same people (same residents and same staff), but with a new “perspective”
So, how do we get there?
It should be noted that there is a difference between perception and perspective. Perception is what you interpret; it is your understanding of a given situation, but perspective is your point of view, so if the first step is to develop a new perspective, then the second step is to “Organize Around a Purpose.” I challenged them to identify and embrace the core purpose of their daily activities. Why do they do the job? While understanding that developing a clear “purpose” in the organization may involve doing away with barriers that held them back from previously reaching goals. The fact is, organized teams find ways to eliminate nonsense and streamline services. I reminded them to think about their “contributions” deliberately and that everything they do should have a purpose.
Lastly as Jim Collins said, “Great vision with mediocre people still produces mediocre results”, so the last step was clearly rekindling or finding passion for what they did. I told them the story of the 3 stone masons (it is a great story, no spoiler alert necessary). In the story, when asked what they (the stone masons) were doing, all three answered differently with different attitudes and levels of enthusiasm and pride they took in their job. I reminded the group that not everyone will understand their journey and they did not need to have a reason to do their job with passion, if it made them happy.
I challenged them to start telling their story differently (just like Bell Air) and not be the mediocre people getting mediocre results. I truly believe they all got the message, and I think he and his team will be a huge success. Not because of what I said, but because of who they are.
So how could anyone be passionate, be purposeful and have perspective all at the same time you ask?
I think Gandhi said it best “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”
WELL, I GUESS I’M LOST!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marcus Kellum is a trainer, consultant and thought leader who works with local governments, private businesses and professional organizations across the country to motivate and train staff (with a specialization in regulatory, compliance, and enforcement officers and inspectors). He spent nearly three decades in public service working with various cities and counties throughout the country and has held positions of code division manager, chief of enforcement and department director. Marcus is nationally certified; he is a preferred educational provider and has a master’s degree in management and public administration. In 2021, Marcus’ company Metric One Training and Consulting won “Best of Gwinnett” in the continuing education category and he has appeared in several periodicals including Georgia Trend, Diversity MBA, Who’s Who in Atlanta and the Atlanta Business Chronicle.