The Change Workshop

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A year later . . .

It's hard to believe it but it's been a year since I last posted to this site. And talk about change - man, this has been the year of it! First, a management change at work. Second, lost over a hundred pounds and started to get fit. Now I work out with a personal trainer three times a week and feel strong! I've learned that exercise must be a part of my everyday life. It's no more, "I'll do this until I get fit and then I'm done!" To live longer, exercise, especially strength training, must be part of my life. It took me about a month of working with a trainer to finally "get it." The slug in me just didn't want to believe it. But the enlightened part of me knew it was true and decided to accept it.

In the past year I've lost staff to promotions and new opportunities and hired new, highly creative, team-oriented people. It's been very exciting for me. In addition, I've renewed my commitment to my work life beyond retirement so I must stay focused and search for new partners to work with me in the next stage of my life.

Yes, change is good and I am reminded every day that something new will be coming my way and I will embrace it and thrive.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Back to work

Went back to work this week after being off for a month due to the surgery. People remarked how great I looked and that I looked rested and happy. I do feel happy and am grateful for this newfound way to live my life. Surprisingly, things had not changed much at the place. Will I be able to do a better job of dealing with stress? While I was home recuperating I did a lot of reading. I came across a new book by Richard Koch called "Living the 80/20 Way." Remember the Pareto Principle? This takes that idea and suggests that we can incorporate it into our daily lives. Koch says we only spend 20% of our time on the stuff we truly care about. The other 80% of our attention is on things that may be prompted by obligation or routine. Ever ask yourself why you aren't reaching a goal/goals? Maybe you're spending too much time on those things that don't inspire, motivate or excite you? I haven't finished the book but want to know how to get rid of the useless 80%! I've begun to look at things I do at work in a more discerning way - do I really need to go to this meeting? Do I really need to answer this email now, etc.? Can you see how this could change your approach to your day? Koch offers ways to successfully make the change so I will keep reading, then provide more about that in the next post. I will, of course, continue to meditate (breathe).

Friday, June 23, 2006

Big Change Ahead

As a tireless proponent of dealing gracefully with change I have recently embarked on one of the biggest changes of my life. I underwent gastric bypass surgery. Not something I jumped into without a lot of thought; this was one [permanent] change that I did not take lightly (no pun intended). In the past five years I've steadily gained weight and tried to lose it. I've always been a big woman - except for a time in the early eighties where I was a size 7 - but putting on 25 pounds, losing it and then cycling through that about three times was beginning to take its toll. A thyroid condition slowed my metabolism down. Then, last year, I hit menopause and gained 15 pounds almost overnight. I felt as if I was slowly dying.

Gastric bypass surgery was not something I wanted to do. I know about six people who've done it. Some have struggled, some have done well, some have done extremely well and two of those who did it gained the weight back. I was lucky to work with someone who methodically planned for it and is one of those who's doing very well. I followed her path and had surgery in early June.

As I teach in my Change class, change is inevitable. Everything in the universe swings back and forth between bad and good. So, understanding this, I knew there would be low times and there would be high times. The surgery experience was mostly positive but being in a hospital as an obese woman can be humilitating. I felt weak as a kitten when I got home and slid a little into "what have I done?" mode. But - as the pendulum swung - I gained strength and one week after surgery I felt great.

The eating is challenging but it helped that I was asked to go on a modified fast before surgery to shrink my liver so eating less was already part of my routine. I've begun cooking again and fix my own meals. As my mentor said it would, my tastes have changed and some things that used to taste great now taste bland. I am steadily losing weight and - unlike a diet - this is permanent and gives me a stomach that is a tool for being truly healthy. What a concept!

Going back to work will be challenging but I know that chaos will find its own order so I will just hang on for the ride and keep following the plan!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Chaos finds its own order

This past week I was part of an effort that proves once again that chaos finds its own order. I was part of a group of people who were asked - in a very short time - to find possible solutions to some important issues in our organization. Everyone wanted to give their all but with so many conflicting priorities it was hard to give the assignment the time it deserved. Trying to find time to meet and considering everyone's ideas was a challenge, yet we managed to converge our ideas into some common themes. But we needed to bring our efforts to a conclusion and make recommendations. One person was coordinating the effort but had to go on a planned trip so I jumped in and took on the task of getting everyone to together to tackle the work of putting it all into a written report and creating a powerful presentation of our recommendations. You don't often get these kind of opportunities and I wanted it to have power since we were to present to our senior management at their bi-monthly meeting. We had about three days to get the work done.

My intent here is not to pat myself on the back for taking it on and leading the team to create the recommendations in what might have appeared to be some wild and woolly meetings. My point is that I've learned that to accomplish great things one must be able to hold creative tension. Peter Senge, in his book "The Fifth Discipline" gives Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of a leader who was a master at holding creative tension. When everything seems to be out of control, a great leader holds the vision of the final result that can be achieved. In Dr. King's case the marches and protests he led to call attention to civil rights often seemed tense, uncomfortable and chaotic. Yet his calm strength gave everyone involved a feeling of confidence, even pride because they knew they were part of something that was bigger than themselves. It's like being in the eye of a hurricane - all around you the storm rages but a great leader holds it all together in a system that has a purpose. The experiences of Dr. King, Mahatma Gandhi, and other great leaders who changed the world are, to me, a social example of the fundamental fact of nature - that chaos finds its own order. My experience with our team seemed chaotic but I had a vision in my mind of us doing the presentation and everything coming off beautifully - as did others who were working with me. We knew we were creating something important, and guess what? That's exactly what happened . . . you gotta love chaos!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Reality - change can make you crazy!

Hello Friends! Yes, I've not posted to this site since before the holidays. What happened? My team of training mavens and I did some classes in Southern California back to back - a very demanding schedule and - guess what? We got sick! Yes - we kept on going despite signs that told us we should be reasonable and consider how being on an airplane, getting little rest, being with people who were sick, feeling stressed would affect us. And just when we thought we were finished with that effort our leader asked us to gear up for another one - and we did! Now, don't get me wrong, the purpose was a good one, the product a good one, BUT we once again pushed ourselves and maybe (just maybe) if we'd been more realistic in our expectations of what we could achieve with excellence we would have exceeded our expectations, not just met them.

Yes, friends, one of my famous mottoes is "Take the time to do it right." I know Tom Peters challenges us to be bold, wacky and a little crazy when it comes to delivering good products/services but we must remember that we must give to ourselves first so that we have energy to give to those who expect the best from us. So, yeah, change is exciting and energizing and can make you feel alive - but TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF first or you won't have the impact you've envisioned in your dreams. Now go out there and Wow them!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The truth about how change happens

Can change in an organization happen only because of some grand scheme? Do you remember the last time you received a memo or an email that said something like "Our new company focus is customer service. You will be hearing shortly about your role in this exciting new change in how we operate?" What was your reaction?
  • "Been there. Done that. Here we go again."
  • "So now we're jumping on the bandwagon that the rest of the industry is focused on. Ooh, how original."
  • "That sounds exciting. I wonder how I can help us be more customer focused?"

If your reaction was the first one you are in good company. Do you think it's because you've seen so many such initiatives come and go that you figure this one will pass, too? Or are you so disconnected from the purpose of the organization that your negative mindset is the way you operate every day, new initiative or not?

If you work for someone else I'd be surprised if you haven't - at least sometime during your work life - been cynical about organizational changes that are well-meaning but not indicative of corporate culture. So often we feel powerless to do something about a change that appears to be a train wreck about to happen. How do you find it worthwhile to come to work everyday?

Of course, it starts with your attitude. But should you fake a Pollyana outlook, thinking somehow it will take hold? On the other hand, you don't want to be perceived as a Sad Sack who brings everyone else down, right? So what's the solution? Is it possible to change the way we perceive each other - together - so that we change the workplace, as we change ourselves?

I've just learned about a person who has created a way to build, sustain and transform relationships - especially those at work - with honor and grace. It is called the State of Grace Document and it was created by Maureen McCarthy and Zelle Nelson. Maureen is working on a book and has a website where you can learn much more about this remarkable way to change the way we perceive our co-workers, our boss, our friends and loved ones. I encourage you to go to Maureen's site at to discover this meaningful tool.

I'll be providing more on this subject in the next post. Happy Holiday!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Challenges of Change

When we talk about change in this spot we are usually referring to organizational or personal change. How do we deal with a change so drastic we have to re-think our lives? That's what the people who lived through Hurricane Katrina are dealing with now. Imagine your home, your place of work, where you buy food, where you go to the doctor, and your car all wiped away in one fell swoop. It seems beyond comprehension, doesn't it? Yet our teaching on change reminds us that everything - even our very lives - is impermanent. We count on physical things being there because they provide comfort but should we attach ourselves to them and derive our attitude from what they give us? For those who live in and around New Orleans, that must be a challenge. Yet, many of them now see being bussed to another city or state an opportunity. Once again, life gives us a new start. It is a never-ending cycle, isn't it? Nature, in its innate majesty displays this lesson over and over. Each year leaves dry-up and fall off the tree, only to be replaced by blooms the following spring. Of course, we've been given a free will to determine how we will perceive what happens to us. In nature, it's instinctive. My heart goes out to those who've suffered from the disasters of this year's hurricanes and I hope that their lives will experience a rebirth, too.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Birthday Bunch

Do you know people who share your birthday? Mine is right in the middle of the summer and I've only found a few people who's birthdays are on that day. My "birthday buddies" and I have been meeting for lunch for five years now and we really look forward to it. Each year we go to a different, hopefully new, restaurant and we limit our gift-giving to small items. Some of us put a lot of thought into the gifts we choose and it's amazing how meaningful those gift can be, even though they are very inexpensive. We love catching up on what's been going on with everyone in the last year. Two of our group retired early this year. Us working stiffs are envious because they look so great - must be the less stress, more fun life they're living. Anyway, seeing my friends each year brings continuity into my life. As a change specialist I love the excitement, surprise and freshness that change can bring - but I do appreciate the constant, reliable elements of life, too. I've added this year's picture of the wonderful folks that share my birthday.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Darn those changes

It's been an interesting summer. I use the word interesting although trying, frustrating and maddening would be accurate, too. Here in the Sacramento Valley the temp is often over 100 degrees in the summer. This summer started out tame - up until July it felt like February. Then - BAM! - we hit triple digits. That's when my air conditioner in my house gave out. So I had to buy a whole new unit even though my house is only four years old. Turns out the builder put in one that was too small so replacement was inevitable. Right after we got the new unit installed the air conditioner in my car went out. Oh yeah, I bought the car when I bought the house. In fact, I still have about five more payments to make on it and had to pay $1400 to get a new compressor. Then a few days ago the hub I use to connect my computer to the Internet pooped out. This is what my teachers at the Berkeley Psychic Institute call a "growth period." You just gotta hang on and see it through. I was thinking, "You're the change workshop teacher so set an example of how to live with change. Use this experience as material for the class."

I must admit it is tempting to feel sorry for oneself but that leads to a downward spiral of negativity, resentment and, ultimately, self-recrimination. If we just ride out the storm it does pass. According to "The Tao of Chaos" the universe is a pendulum that swings one way and, inevitably, swings back. It's the duality of our existence as humans - all things have opposites. Chaos theory posits that "chaos finds its own order" so if we are constant what happens around us, or to us, will eventually stabilize. Of course, it will also eventually de-stabilize. My experience continues to teach me to "be with" what happens instead of trying to change it or analyze it. Now I'm cool in house and car and feeling somewhat renewed, grateful for the endless opportunities to learn I'm given.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Loving Chaos

What a week! In my teaching, I espouse a belief in chaos theory - that chaos finds its own order and this week I learned so much about how to live that belief. As Ken Roberts says in "A Rich Man's Secret," all we need to do is take the next step, the one after that will be revealed. Living in chaos requires us to take each moment as it happens not getting mired in thinking we can make sense of it. Sounds difficult, doesn't it? Yet many spiritual teachers tell us that living that way is effortless. Our egos are just not willing to let go so that we can do it.

This week it seemed there was a crisis each day. However, I became aware that I was starting to judge what was happening, trying to extrapolate meaning from it. Then - I remembered to be in the moment. Once I stepped back (in my mind) I took a good look at what was happening right then - that moment only! What looked like chaos was actually a blessing in disguise - opportunity for learning was everywhere! It was as if I was seeing with new eyes.

Learning how to ride the whirlwind, instead of trying to control it, is the focus of The Change Workshop. In the Workshop we learn to use tools that keep us present to our true selves so that we can fully experience life. In the movie, "Joe vs. The Volcano," Tom Hanks, as Joe, is told by Patricia Graynamoore (Meg Ryan) that her father Samuel Harvey Graynamore (Lloyd Bridges) believes ". . . almost the whole world's asleep. Everybody you know, everybody you see, everybody you talk to. He says only a few people are awake. And they live in a state of constant, total amazement." Can you imagine living that way? It is possible - and it's wonderful!