Mindset matters: Great tools don't replace judgment

change leadership change practitioner independent consulting Oct 23, 2022

I am a process nerd.

I believe in the power of methodologies and tools to create efficiency in projects.

I believe change management can become more tangible and less ambiguous by standardizing concepts, processes and tools.

I believe methods help change practitioners collaborate more effectively with other project team members so that dependencies become clear, and due dates become more meaningful.

I believe common processes can help clients better understand what they are buying when they seek change management support.

I believe more people can become skilled in change management through the use of methods, processes and tools.

But tools are no substitute for the judgment and wisdom that comes from experience. This is, after all, a science of people heavily influenced by their emotions.

I hesitated to create a shared public space on my website dedicated to a "toolkit". That didn't feel right. There are plenty of options for methodologies and certifications in those methodologies. Those have a place in the practice of change, but that's not where I see the gap.

It's in the application of the tools to real-world situations, not all of which fit neatly into containers. Sometimes new tools need to be created. It's the wisdom to know what the circumstance calls for. That comes through experience. 

In my 25 years of supporting people through change, there are 3 behaviors that lead to becoming a wise counselor:

  1. Being open to new. In my early years, I was devoted to consistency. I wanted templates and tools. I thought perfection was possible and that change as a science could be systematized. It wasn't until I learned my third methodology that I could identify the patterns across all of them and begin to discern where there were consistencies and uniqueness. Being open to learning new methods expanded my ability to pull the right tool for a situation. The tools got more specific.
  2. Failing. Not every tool works--even in similar situations. Mainly this is because the client's not ready. They may not be mature enough in their capabilities to leverage the tool, or they may be overloaded and incapable of taking on the learning at that moment. I didn't learn this lesson until I'd tried to rigidly follow a process only to have it fail. Patience. Flexibility. Responsiveness. These are the traits to draw upon in the wise application of tools.
  3. Pull vs push. When I pivoted from being an employee to becoming an independent consultant, I learned the nuance of creating "pull" for my support (and tools) than pushing it upon clients. While there is always an element of guiding a client through an experience that I've already done and is new to them, they will appreciate and learn more if they seek it out than if it's forced upon them. Sometimes that means creating a new tool together, which is the most powerful form of learning.

It's lonely as a change practitioner. Often I'm the only one willing to surface the tough conversations and "difficult" emotions on a project team. That takes courage and a belief that the team will be better for it. There are few tools to draw on that support this aspect of being a change manager. It's primarily about asking good questions and being an effective listener. 

That's less about having a great toolkit and more about being a compassionate human.


 Photo by <a href="">Giulia Bertelli</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>   

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