Interview: Cheryl Jensen & Sara Smith
Ms. Jensen is a recognized leadership change agent coach, training facilitator, and consultant with international experience in creating highly engaged workplaces that deliver extraordinary results. She brings a thirty-year background in sales, operations, sales management, marketing, human resources, global learning, and middle management with one of the industry icons, IBM. She is an alumna of the SMU Executive MBA program, where she is currently an adjunct professor. She holds certifications as a professional co-active coach from The Coaches Training Institute, with The Hay Group for emotional competencies, climate and leadership styles, and with the Arbinger Institute delivering their Choice workshop series.
Ms. Smith is a masterful change agent who spent over 29 years with IBM in sales, management and consulting. As a professional coach, she works with executives, managers and future leaders to excel in developing themselves and their teams for optimal bottom line growth. She serves as an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business as well as on the Board of Trustees for Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She earned both bachelor and master’s degrees from Texas Christian University. She is certified by The Hay Group in emotional competencies, climate, and leadership styles and holds coaching certifications from The Coaches Training Institute and the International Coach Federation.
Here is an excerpt from my interview of Jensen and Smith. The complete interview is also available.
Morris: What is the C&S Change Leadership System™ and how is it different from any other methodology for change leadership and management?
Smith: Change Leadership acknowledges that change is more than introducing a new way of doing things. “Change” itself is a dynamic that often makes people uneasy or suspicious and it is hard to get anything done when a work force is resistant. Our experience in IBM taught us that leading change demands competencies beyond those of just executing a process or running a business. The Change Leadership process is an approach that creates professional change agents, helps leaders create and articulate a vision of change and integrate the behaviors of change into an organization.
Jensen: We believe our change leadership system is unique in several ways. First of all, we focus on how leaders learn to lead change and not the change management process itself. This is mostly about their leadership behavior and not about documentation, charts, or snazzy slogans. Secondly, we actively help them involve all levels of the organization so the change creates positive momentum rather than resistance. We haven’t found employees yet who didn’t have great ideas for their leaders, if only someone would ask. We ask and then we work with all levels of the organization to implement them.
Morris: Many of the barriers to change initiatives are cultural and the result of what James O’Toole characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” How to overcome these barriers?
Jensen: Emotion, pure and simple. John Kotter has said this over and over again and with all the experience I’ve had, I believe he is 100% correct. You’ve got to get people energized through emotion; and they must be strong emotions to carry them past the comfort of the status quo and the natural resistance to change based on that comfort.
Smith: We are students of the growing body of work supporting the neuropsychology of change. People can change more effectively if we help them create new neural pathways. Very simply, that means that we help people replace old habits with new ones. By the way, that change must begin at the top of the organization so that it isn’t dictated but rather led and modeled.
Morris: Which question had you hoped to be asked during this interview –but weren’t – and what is your response to it?
Smith: The question that I would like to answer is, “What secret to great leadership would you share?” Makes you wonder what I know, doesn’t it? Well here it is: “Knowing is the greatest inhibitor to learning.” Great leadership is anchored in what can be, not what has been. Great leaders are comfortable with the idea that they must be lifelong learners – curious and willing to change.
Morris: Looking back over your career, what advice do you wish someone had given you?
Jensen: I wish they had explained what they meant when they said “Don’t take it personally.” Although I have had many great mentors and managers, I never really understood what they meant by this admonition. They certainly attempted to explain it to me using different words. It was only after I read a number of books on gender differences that I understood it. I think it might have saved me and them a lot of time and trouble!
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Jensen and Smith invite you to check out the resources at these Web sites:
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If you wish to read the complete interview, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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