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Are You Going to Be Bitter or Better? Top Takeaways from a Keynote on Change

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Categories: Global Summit 2023


By Joy Beatty

The PMI Global Congresses have a reputation for featuring outstanding keynote speakers. 2023 was no exception, starting with a riveting talk by Cassandra Worthy of Change Enthusiasm on C.H.A.N.G.E. Traits®. She radiated energy and enthusiasm, and more importantly, provided valuable insights on how to adapt and thrive in the ever-changing work environment.

As someone who has worked passionately in the software requirements space for a couple of decades, I’m always keen to solve hard business problems with software, but I have been most drawn to solving the hard stakeholder problems. As my career has progressed, my role has shifted, and the challenge of leading people has become more important than ever, and frankly, much harder. I suppose it’s natural that I spent this PMI Conference gravitating to the talks that deal with humans and their feelings the most.

Here are a few takeaways from Cassandra’s keynote. I’m hopeful this is useful for those in the community who couldn’t attend, but also to people like me, that want to relive the excellent ideas!

Takeaway 1: Talking about change without talking about emotions is pointless. We are human. We feel. Cassandra shares this idea of “Change Growth” which sits at the intersection of change and emotion. She emphasized that while most of us understand that growth often entails discomfort, her research indicates that people genuinely embrace this unease. Ultimately, to ensure success without alienating individuals, we must be mindful of how we navigate change, being attuned to emotions.

Takeaway 2: Change Enthusiasm has developed a “simple” framework for how you show up during change: Signal. Opportunity. Choice. It’s about noting the uncomfortable feelings as a signal. The signal triggers the awareness that we are sitting in a moment of opportunity. The opportunity lies in choosing to act differently rather than merely sitting in discomfort or, worse, giving up.

Takeaway 3: In Cassandra’s words, “Be bitter or be better.” This is closely related to the 2nd takeaway, but it deserves its own call out because it’s really such an amazing phrase. I have long since believed people are well-intentioned, even when they are making me frustrated or mad. Leaning into that belief during moments of personal discomfort and determining how we respond holds significant value. Are we going to be frustrated or annoyed - or maybe even elevate to being irate? Or are we going to be calm and rational - and maybe even relaxed? We have the choice to elevate our response – are we going to be kind or are we going to be the jerk? I choose Better!

Takeaway 4: Transformation doesn’t happen to us, it’s for us. I’ve been saying a variation of this for about 15 years with clients. Sometimes it’s to business stakeholders who complain, “Why is IT doing this to me?” Or the IT stakeholders who groan, “Why do the business stakeholders keep changing their mind?” At the end of the day, we all want to do the right thing and do it well. Rooted in transformation is an end goal to make things better, no matter what seat we are in. So, what if we change the script so that transformation isn’t happening to us, but rather is intended to help us? If we do that, we will absolutely show up in a more cooperative space.

Takeaway 5: Create an environment where we can feel heard. This points back to takeaway #1 where we were reminded that people have emotions, and it’s ok. What if we allowed people to express their true emotions instead of squashing them or making people feel badly for having them? I’d argue we should go so far as to embrace vulnerability. A great way to create this culture is to be this culture. What if we were vulnerable and shared when we were frustrated? What keeps us from being honest about that today? Do you know someone who warrants feedback on creating a safe environment for open and honest communication? Then have that hard conversation. Be the leader that makes it safe for everyone to be heard.

I could go on for hours about this talk and probably will now that I’m back in office! Cassandra left a mark on my mind. She’s up there with Brené Brown in how she is changing the “HOW” we show up at work.

Posted by Joy Beatty on: January 19, 2024 08:30 AM | Permalink

Comments (2)

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Kwiyuh Michael Wepngong Financial Management Specialist | US Peace Corps / Cameroon Yaounde, Centre, Cameroon
Wow! I love it especially with the takeaway where you said "Talking about change without talking about emotions is pointless."

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Danny Seow Tokyo, Japan
Thanks for summarizing it.

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