Iíve been on a listening tour since April

Resources: Blog Post

Friday, June 16, 2017

Iíve been on a listening tour since April


By: Suanne Nielsen

Last year, I was faced with a change management challenge within Foresters Financial. We made a major organizational shift to re-align and integrate our life insurance business under one senior executive. From the onset, it was clear to me that there was resistance from some of the leaders affected by these changes. I had two options available to me: a) I could just bull doze on to satisfy the mandate and make the change happen, or b) to listen. I chose B.

Listening was the only tool I had that would help me probe deeper into the frustration of the leaders opposed to the change. I spent a fair amount of time with one of the senior managers who wanted to explain his position and concerns about going down this new path the company was taking. I approached the naysayers by truly listening to them, and not defending my position. I also spent time listening to people who supported our new ambitious plans. By listening, I also mean asking the right questions. Ultimately, my listening exercise went a long way to educate me more about the complexity of the organizational change we were undertaking, and what some of the risks were in proceeding in the mandated direction.

But most importantly, it helped me build a relationship of trust with the affected leaders.

By acknowledging their trepidations, I enabled them to unburden their anxieties. I not only listened, but also built their concerns into a project plan by identifying the risks, and the mitigating actions against these risks. I made them feel heard. I took what I was told about the change, and let it influence how we were going to proceed. In hindsight, it was the most effective way for me to manage the organizational change.

I also learned how undervalued listening really is.

Stepping into my new leadership role at SCNetwork as its President, I have taken up the reins of a non-profit organization built upon the dedicated efforts of Ian Hendryís 20+ years of leadership, and the many volunteers who have worked tirelessly over the years for this organization. I have also inherited the proud legacy of a brand that is shaped around trusted thought leadership, cutting-edge programming, and a supportive corporate community.

Since April 2017, as president, I have been on a listening tour within SCNetwork and hope to continue doing so for the next few months as I begin to create a new vision and strategy for the organization. I am not alone on this tour nor in crafting the way forward. I am joined by Mark Edgar, SVP HR at RSA and Lara Root, VP HR at Rogers Media, who I am proud to announce, are part of my (currently nascent) leadership team. Supporting me and my leadership team as a strategic advisor is Angela Balan, one of the founders of the first SCNetwork CHRO group. Through our shared perspectives and knowledge bases, weíre slowly on our way to forging a new path forward for SCNetwork.

For me, listening is one of the best ways in which learning occurs. I want to honour, and learn from, all the members of SCNetwork. Particularly from those members and volunteers whose commitment to SCNetwork has been vital and integral to the growth of the organization.

Here is a rough guide to my SCNetwork listening tour and approach forward, which Iíve structured into 4 phases.

  • Discovery:
    • Internal gathering of information from SCNetworkís departing executive team and volunteer leaders: April-June;
    • External information gathering from a wide cross-section of members, volunteers, prospective members: July-September
  • Definition:†Defining the future vision and strategy for SCNetwork and
    Crystalizing the leadership team roles: October-November
  • Planning: Working with my new SCNetwork Leadership Team to:
    Develop a plan for implementing the new strategy: December-January
  • Launch: Communications: January-February 2018

As part of the Discovery phase of my listening tour, I want to hear stories. Stories about how SCNetwork grew to be a 600+ volunteer-driven organization. Stories about SCNetwork meetings and events that have been selling house-full rooms for decades. Stories of thought leadership that continue to push the boundaries of the ever-evolving, and often daunting HR climes. And stories of community and camaraderie that keep enriching the experience for our members and guests.

How has SCNetwork been valuable to your growth and success? Will you take 5 minutes to help me understand your role in SCNetwork? Can you respond to eight brief questions in this SCNetwork Listening Tour Survey?
(If the link doesn’t work, please copy/paste the survey url on your browser to take the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HKBMPRR)

In the words of Karl. A. Menniger, ďlistening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”

As I embark upon this journey, I invite all members and volunteers of SCNetwork to share your SCNetwork experiences with me, and my leadership team. By doing so, you will help us carry the torch forward and enable us to make SCNetwork serve our community in the most beneficial way possible.

Image source: Kirk Weisler

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