What Do You Want to Be Known For?

Watch the video of this post.

Listen to the podcast of this post.

Standing in front of the room of about 30 consultants, I carefully considered how to answer the question.  I had a couple options.  One way to answer the question, I would help these young professionals feel good about their work.  The other answer, probably the more authentic one, would invigorate a few in the room and possibly alienate the rest.

Have you ever faced that kind of dilemma? 

You know the authentic way to go, but there's a clear cost.

At that time, I was a manager in our change management practice.  About six years into my career, I had gained a reputation for doing what we called Change Navigation work.  Most of the change management work was documenting procedures and writing training for large systems implementations.  Change Navigation work was more strategic.  Yes, it included the standard work of documentation, training and communication plans, but more importantly, you guided executives through the transformation process.  There was a component of executive and organization alignment.  In some cases, job and organization re-structuring was included.

For change professionals, this type of work sounded SEXY!  Everyone thought it would be so cool to coach executives.  Be strategic.  Be the trusted advisor!  Oh yea, SIGN ME UP!

Did you ever see someone's success and say, "I want that!"

What you see is the tip of the iceberg.  The glory of success.  You don't see the hours and hours of practice.  Blood, sweat and tears.  Trials with lots of errors.  The frustration of driving furiously down a road only to hit a dead end. 

That's how change navigation work felt.  It was hard.  PROVING over and over and over you add value to executives who think you do 'touchy feely' work.  Giving direct feedback to a high-ranking executive who just proudly made an announcement to 250 people … and got the message fundamentally wrong.  Being the lightning rod for negative vibes that people build up regarding the impending change.  You tell yourself they lash out at you because they fear the unknown.  But it feels personal.  And it hurts. 

So, there I was in the front of the room with this question:

With excitement, the young consultant asked, "How can I get on a Change Navigation project?"

I took a deep breath and asked a question. 

"What do you want to be known for?"

To clarify their intent, I asked them to choose between two projects.

Project A.  The change management work is well-funded.  The consulting partner running the project 'gets' the value of change management.  The client sponsor has experience with change management.  The timelines seem reasonable.

Project B.  The change management budget is a fraction of what it should be.  The consulting partner is known to be very left-brain logical and consistently cuts the change management work to lower the price to the client.  The client sponsor doesn't 'get' the value of change management.  The culture of the organization is very top down which has bred a culture of extreme management distrust.  The timeline is unreasonable.

Do you choose Project A or Project B?

And then I jumped into that authentic chasm, risking alienation and disappointment.

For my projects, I only choose the people who want Project B. 


Because change navigation work is hard.  Day to day hard.  You need a thick skin and a lot of resilience. 

Do you want to be known for delivering the easy stuff or the hard stuff?

As I gave my answer to the question, I could see 80% of the room who at first eagerly chose Project A, sit back in their chairs, deflated, knowing they chose the 'wrong' Project.  I also saw the 20% whose eyes lit up when they choose Project B.  They leaned forward and raised their hands with more questions. 

Well, that's my question for you.  You serve clients and customers.  There are others who do the same or similar work.  You can choose the easy stuff or the hard stuff.  What skills do you want to build?  What reputation do you want to build?  Are you the person who gets the easy stuff done OR the one who gets the hard stuff done?  Do you choose Project A or Project B?

As you contemplate your answer, take a deep breath and listen.  You might hear an oh-so-faint whisper from me to you.

"Choose Project B"


Thank you for Subscribing to our Weekly Broadcast