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Leading Change in Times of Transition: Livestream Recap

Written by 
David Chin
July 30, 2020

This week as a part of MURAL Imagine, MURAL’s Co-founder and CEO Mariano Suarez-Battan was joined by Maria Giudice, Founder and Executive Leadership Coach at Hot Studio, to discuss the changemaker, a leader that has emerged to guide organizations through transitioning into a new way of work and life.

Below you’ll find a recap of the event, a video replay of the livestream, the presentation Maria gave, and all the resources covered in the discussion.

Leading Change in Times of Transition recap

Maria began her livestream session by giving us a background on change, covering how even before COVID-19 the world was experiencing change at an accelerated pace. 

And with COVID-19, the entire world paused, got turned upside down, and routine became suddenly uncertain. Everyone is grieving an ending to what was once normal and trying to figure out what the future holds and how best to adapt. With this transition comes a three-part process. Using a model from Transitions by William Bridges, Maria covered the three phases of transition: Endings, Neutral Zone, and New Beginnings.

As you work your way through the transition process you end up in a new beginning and this is where creativity lives. Where you can ask yourself: What's possible now and who will step up to lead? Organizations need people who can solve problems based on evolving circumstances. We call these new leaders changemakers.

The rise of changemakers

Does this sound like a lot of what you’re doing already? It should because change is fundamentally a design problem. So the great news is designers and facilitators already have the capacity, knowledge, and skills to be changemakers. And with your changemaker superpowers comes the ability to make a difference. Design-driven leaders have the right talents and skill sets to lead the way. You can lead change by following the stages of the design process: Discover, Strategize, Build, and Evolve.

Maria finished her presentation by going into detail on the steps of each phase of the design process and how you can use that process to be changemakers. She concludes that change is hard, uncomfortable and incredibly messy, but the time for change is right now. And you are the leaders that the world is waiting for. You can redesign the future for yourself, for your family, for your community, and the world. 

Replay the livestream 📹

View the presentation 👀

Leading Change in Times of Transition from MURAL

Additional resources to explore 🔭

📘 Get Maria’s book, Rise of the DEO

📚 Get the book referenced, Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes by William Bridges

▶️ Watch the latest MURAL Imagine Playlists

Maria’s upcoming MURAL Imagine workshops 🧠

👩 July 28 | Leadership in Transition: take charge of your career and amplify your leadership growth

⚡ August 11 | Leading Change in a Time of Disruption: navigate chaotic and highly charged situations with empathy and self-awareness

Join MURAL Imagine and explore the future of imagination work

This livestream was part of MURAL Imagine, a multi-week event in which we explore the future of imagination work and remote collaboration. If you're not already signed up, register now to get access to updates about all the upcoming content. 🪁

📝 Livestream Transcript

[00:00:00] Mariano: We're supposed to be quiet for one minute awkward moment or not.

[00:01:00] Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. Welcome to this new episode in our Imagine series. I'm very, very, very, very happy to have Maria Giudice with us today. For those of you who speak Italian, might be Maria Giudice, but it's Maria Giudice. I met Maria a long time ago. I was fortunate to have multiple chats in different parts of the world.

Remember that it was interesting: I was in Singapore in an event that we both attended and she was speaking at and, but importantly, she invited me five years [00:02:00] ago to her Autodesk X Summit. Right. It was an internal conference where she first showed up on stage officially as a Changemaker in her role at Autodesk.

Right. And one of her slides, in the presentation, I remember, said the sign "equals change". And after that, to be honest with you, I stole her idea and we used that concept to express what the sign is and why it's so important, not just to craft UIs, but for igniting change, right? Maria is now in a new mission.

Right? She is building the next generation of creative leaders. She is an executive leader coach. I saw her on LinkedIn. She shared some of her new certifications. Congratulations, Maria, and thank you for joining us today. And we'll let Maria share her ideas, what she's been studying in the market. Um, we're recording all of this and we're going to be doing a Q&A towards the end.

So please, if [00:03:00] you have any questions, just add them here. We have a team of people like collecting them, selecting the best ones, and we'll be fortunate enough to have Maria replying to them. Thank you, Maria. Do your thing. You're great at this. 

Maria: Thank you Mariano. Thank you. Hello everybody. I just want to take a moment for everybody to just kind of arrive and be present.

Just take a moment to kind of sit in your chair, maybe put your feet on the floor and breathe in and out kind of slow and intentionally. Couple of breaths in, maybe a couple of breaths out.

And, uh, I invite you to maybe challenge yourself by not multitasking for the next [00:04:00] hour, put away your phone and getting present, because I want to start today by just talking about our feelings.

When you think about the word "change" and really feel into it, what words come to mind? Please feel free to share those words in the chat window, now.

Depending on the circumstances, many may find change thrilling, easy, exciting; an opportunity for reinvention. And especially now, many might find this incredible moment in history, difficult, unsettling, painful, [00:05:00] unbearable. Depending on your appetite for change, you might experience a wide range of emotions and responses from your family, from your friends and your coworkers.

A wide range - anything from terrifying fear to invigorating opportunity. And you're probably feeling lots of highs and lows right now, perhaps even hourly or daily. Before the pandemic, we were already experiencing the rate of change as an, at an exponential pace. We got accustomed to the pace of everyday disruptive: in business and in home. Moving fast was nothing new to us.

And, um, McKinsey research surveyed a set of global executives and they concluded that many companies are permanently [00:06:00] in this state of organizational flux. And we, on average, are now spending two to three years at most in jobs and re-orgs seem to happen, um, every six months. But then, COVID hit, and the entire world turned upside down.

The world locked down and it felt like everything stopped for me. It felt like somebody pushed the pause button on my life and I froze in place. And the entire world took a pause and sheltered in place simultaneously. I've never seen anything like this in my entire life. Times slowed down for a bit and everything became uncertain.

[00:07:00] And then, George Floyd was murdered, and we witnessed this man lose his life on TV. And then the pace and sense of urgency rose up all over the world. Suddenly everything started moving in double speed and people hit the streets around the world to shout "Enough!" And people started to demand change and governments started to take notice.

So there are so many emotions to process right now and they're all over the map. And, um, what we're experiencing right now is a form of collective grief. We are uncertain about what the future holds and we're, we're feeling like, anxious. So we're feeling this grief really because we're [00:08:00] experiencing loss and loss is a form of an ending.

We are grieving an ending to our once-normal lives. A couple of years ago when I left my job at Autodesk, I really couldn't understand why I was feeling so badly. I was going up and down. I was feeling shock, anger. I was depressed and it was going on for a while. Um, and I picked up this book, uh, Transitions by William Bridges. And this little book changed my whole perspective, um, because it helped me understand that there are three phase, three phases to transition.

And the first phase of a transition, whether it's good or bad starts with an ending. And you feel all the feelings when you're grieving a loss, which is an ending. The next phase, you [00:09:00] enter once you go through all of these emotions and start processing them, the next one is what he calls the neutral zone.

And this neutral zone is sort of like hitting the bottom. It's a point where you start having reflection and start asking questions. And this phase can really take some time to sit in. Um, my analogy for this phase is: Your body is like lying in a coffin above ground, and you're kind of waiting for your soul to rise. And it could, it could be, it can be very challenging to be sitting in this space of uncertainty.

The third phase is about finding acceptance and ultimately a new meaning in life. And in this big new beginning space, this is where we let go of the way things are, which allows us to consider: What new things [00:10:00] can this become? And there are people on this call all over the world. You are all likely at different points of your different phases, uh, in this transition, um, right now. Uh, depending on the country you're in and how you're feeling. This new beginning phase is where creativity lives.

And, uh, Winston Churchill was working to form the United Nations after WWII, when he said, "Never let a good crisis go to waste." And then Rahm Emanuel, who is the mayor of Chicago; he used this phrase during the financial crisis in the US in 2008,  and added,"It's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."

Research shows when we experience trauma, it can [00:11:00] lead to high degrees of creativity. Neurologically speaking, creativity gets sparked in our brain at a moment of insight, and this is where new connections in the brain are being created. These connections allow you to open yourself up to new ideas and opportunities.

So, what happens when our normal systems cease to function? This is when human compassion and creativity flourish. As we step into this new land of possibility, I have been blown away by the sparks of creativity that have come out of this point in our lives. Creativity is flourishing in times of COVID.

People went online. They started offering free online classes. [00:12:00] Graduates decided that instead, instead of like, um, instead of walking the stage, they did a graduation by car parade. Musicians, uh, took to Zoom and started composing and performing online. Kids and people all over the world were making masks and PPE for frontline workers.

Murals got painted from boarded up buildings during Black Lives Matter protests and streets of the US uh, including  Washington, DC, were painted with BlackLlives Matter for all the world to see. And at work, people had to be creative, completely going, uh,  remote and having a global distributed workforce.

And many companies had to rethink their own company business model. Yes. So as painful as it is to live in these [00:13:00] disruptive times, systems may need to die before they can be reimagined. And then we could ask: What's possible now and who will step up to lead us now?

So, who are these leaders and these heroes that are emerging before our very eyes? These are indeed a new breed of leaders that we're seeing. What can we learn from them? What qualities of leadership do they possess? Feel free to type those into the chat window now.

So for me, when I look at these leaders, here's what I see. I see [00:14:00] transparency. I see honesty. I see values. Driven leaders. They're practical, they're fact-based. They're compassionate. They care about people. They have courage. They have commitment. These are our new leaders and there is so much that we can learn from them. These are today's changemakers. 

Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, helped define the social entrepreneur, the social entrepreneur movement. He believes that we're in the middle of a necessary, but painful, historical transition. We're living in difficult times and we could no longer solve problems as if they're fixed in time.

We can no longer think: problem, solution, problem, solution. We need people who can solve problems based on evolving [00:15:00] circumstances. In 2006, Bill Drayton defined this new breed of people as changemakers. Here, this is the definition: Changemakers are people who can see the patterns around them, identify the problems in any situation, figure out ways to solve the problem, organize fluid teams, lead collective action, and continually adapt as situations arise. 

This sounds a lot like what we all do for a living, right? Because change is fundamentally a design problem. And here is the great news: we all have the capacity and the knowledge and the skills to be a changemaker.

We have changemaker superpowers. [00:16:00] And you have the power to make a difference, no matter where you sit in the hierarchy of an organization or a social system. So let's take a look at change management through the years. From the 1950s to the 1980s, I remember it was like them starting the Mad Men era all the way through the eighties.

It was really about, uh, leading by commands and control. It was dominated by men and it was all about efficiency. And I remember this, when I, you know, I graduated in the eighties and it felt that way. And then the nineties came along and it was the birth of technology. It was the, it was the information economy.

Um, women started ascending into key roles. It, we started thinking more globally, but we were [00:17:00] incredibly tech driven and profit driven. And engineers became real kings of companies. But now, we're entering the era of design-driven, change leadership. Things like caring about values, and equity, and a distributed workforce, and people centerdness and systems thinking.

We were already inching into this design-driven era when McKinsey put out there a report in 2018 called the Business Value of Design. You know, for years designers couldn't really articulate what business, what value they brought to business. And this report kind of changed people's perspective. It said that good design is good business, and it's cited that companies with top design practices outperformed industry growth by a factor of two-to-one.

[00:18:00] Design was arriving, but the post COVID world has solidly ushered us into this new era because they need us. These design-driven leaders have the right talents and skill sets to lead the way. So, if change equals design and design equals change, then it makes sense to treat everything like a design problem.

Sure. A mantra that I've used personally throughout my entire professional career, I have lived this and I continue to live my life this way: treat every problem like it's a design problem. Therefore, we can actually lead change by following the stages of a design process. And we have all seen the design process.

You have all seen the design process and you [00:19:00] might have different labels for each phase of the process. Um, might look a little different than a loop. But I promise you, the design process is, has been exactly the same for my entire career. And these are the labels that I choose to use for changemaking. Changemakers join organizations with a chartered lead change, but they may not be aware that that's their job, once they're inside the company, they may know it.

It may be implicit or it might be explicit. And although there are many books and articles about leading change, you are often entering organizations feeling like there's no playbook. Nobody gives you a manual when you enter a company and say, "Okay, you are now in charge of change." And when I joined Autodesk as a VP of Design, my job was to drive cultural change.

[00:20:00] But, and I, and I have a lot of great success, but I also made some really large mistakes. And when I left Autodesk, I was really curious about how other people either survive, thrive, or failed as changemakers in their respective careers. So I started interviewing and, uh, people and asking questions. Um, and I started collecting and collecting their lessons and sharing their stories, um, from, uh, from, uh, these changemakers to others.

And, uh, I want to share some of those stories and lessons today to better set you up for success when the time comes for you to lead change. So I want you to think of this as a bunch of wise elders of design-driven change. So before we begin our changemaking process, it's really important to set the [00:21:00] ground conditions for success.

I consider it a red flag if you don't have any or all of these requirements. Um, you will most likely be set up for failure, if that's the case. The first requirement is executive sponsorship. Still too many executives. Think of design as a tactical strategic non-strategic teaching task. So continuous education evangelism is support and support is needed by these enlightened leaders. So if you are, uh, uh, instituting change in your organization, I want you to look up and see who has your back, because it is not worth your time and effort if your executive team or boss doesn't support your mission.  

The next one is about accountability. Many people enter these, um, roles and they are asked to lead by [00:22:00] influence. You need to be responsible for something, and you need to have the authority to make decisions. 

The third one is resources. You need to have a team. You need to have well, who will execute on your behalf? You just can't have a volunteer army. Although volunteer armies are important, you can't lead by volunteer army alone.

And then finally, the other condition for success is time. Cultural change. Changing culture can take four to five years to achieve a tipping point in an organization. So you're going to need upfront time before you can really even begin to show progress and you make sure that you negotiate that upfront.

Many people make that mistake. They, uh, run into it and want to make things happen immediately. This is a big mistake. Um, [00:23:00] and I'll talk more about that later. So phase one in the design process is all about, uh, discovery and it really means simply: having the time to learn. So, as I mentioned, a common mistake, is like, you get hired, you're amped up. It's like running into a burning building without taking the time to learn, without taking time to know where the fires are at. And people come into the companies as changemakers thinking I am the chosen one. Um, I am the savior who's going to fix things. I am going to ignore all the work that was done before I am going to ignore all the projects that failed before. I have come to save the day.

And I am going to ignore all the voices that have different opinions.

[00:24:00] In this phase, um, you need to learn about employees and the customers. So you gotta focus on people. Yeah. Pay attention to the culture and even, like, pay attention to the company energy. Are they ready for change? What does it feel like? What's the tone? What's the energy? What's going on there? Read reports, even if you don't immediately understand the industry jargon and pay attention to how global events might affect company decisions.

So, when I joined Autodesk, um, my boss told me, um, he was like, "Hey, you're here. Uh, this is a new role. What are you going to do?" I said, "I have no idea." I said, "Give me three months. I need three months to just listen and ask [00:25:00] questions." So I did that. And he gave me that time. And then, I went, I traveled all around the world.

I hung out in kitchens. I met people either by, by, um, just hallway conversations. Or I had like conference room conversations and all I did in those three months was to ask questions. And then, I listened. And in those three months, I, I made it a goal to talk to as many people as I could. I talked to over 300 people up, down, and across the organization.

And amongst all of that questioning, I made myself, I made sure to ask these five questions: Um, the first one is, tell me your story. I want to get to know you as a human being, as a person. Why do you work here? I was curious, like, I [00:26:00] was always suspicious. Like you're working at a company for 10 years. Why?

But actually I kept hearing, "Well, because the work is interesting and it's always changing." 

What's keeping you up at night? This allows people to really understand the, you know, the pain points. The challenges that they faced working in their company, on their projects, in their organization. 

And then, what do you hope? What are your hopes and dreams? What are the things that you are your goals? What are your intentions? What do you want to accomplish while you're here? 

And then the very last, but most important question is how can I help you? How can my role support you and help you be successful? And then I collected all of this data.

Well, 300 people. And then I started finding, looking for, and finding these common themes that continuously bubbled up. 

Which brings me to phase two: strategize. [00:27:00] We all know how to, this is a, this is a pure design process. You, it's all about sense-making. It's collecting the data and it's making sense of all that you've got.

And, uh, the most important part of this phase is to make sure that people feel heard. And doing so will, uh, when you do that, it's important to craft a vision, a strategic vision that they feel that they have contributed to. Can people see that conversation that you had in that vision that you are now going to, uh, broadcast and share across the company?

And then, once that vision is crafted, your job is to evangelize and communicate and share that vision, but also make sure that you are open to feedback. [00:28:00] So one of the most important tips during this, uh, phase, the strategize phase, is to build trust by finding common ground. Working with people is a lot like mountain climbing. By the way, this is Machu Picchu.

This is climbing Machu Picchu. Best to have on this talk because while I was climbing that mountain with my group, I realized that everyone has to go to at their own pace in order to cross and reach the summit. So a common mistake is you get hired. You have the authority to, you have the authority to make change happen, and you have this, uh, you think that, um, I have the authority, so you must adopt my vision. My way or the highway.

This will surely lead you to build resistors. [00:29:00] They might be vocal. They might be silent, but one thing about resistors, they will root for you to fail. And then they'll dance over your grave. In the mid 1990s, Arnie Mann and Dell published a research on change theory. And he observed, um, how people exhibit different responses to change.

And he, uh, and it helped shaped these three, the types of, um, behaviors. Um, the first is the leapers. I'm like a leaper. Uh, one, a leaper is, loves change, loves new initiatives. "I'm an early adopter. You want me to change? I'm just going to leap into this. I'm in, let's just do it." That's the first behavior.

Now the opposite of that behavior is a tradition holder. A tradition holder is somebody who might've been in the company for [00:30:00] years and years. They are familiar with the culture. They have seen people come and go. These people are the most resistant to change and they are very skeptical of leapers. 

And then, the middle behavior. This is what we call bridge builders. Bridge, bridge builders are tentative. They need data before they can commit to any kind of change to happen. So the best way to handle people's attitudes towards change is to recognize those different behaviors and to find common interests, goals, and needs. If you can find common ground amongst all of these different behaviors, you can build trust.

And when people feel seen and heard, it creates a safe environment for people to hit the summit and make the leap. Okay. So I want to pause for a minute and, uh, [00:31:00] I want to rant. I rant when I hear the word silos, it like, makes my hair stand up. I hate silos. Silos in organizations are innovation killers. Silos create organizations of efficiency and they're necessary in large companies.

They have to be organized, somehow, but silos create fiefdoms and self interested parties. It's like Mad Max. Many companies intentionally set them up to compete against one another. The prize money, resources, power. Don't buy into this false notion that competition is good for teams inside companies. It's not, it divides people.

Christina Wodtke, a seasoned design leader and author of several books, reminds us the enemy is the competitor, not the person sitting next to you. [00:32:00] So, first order of business: got to bust the silos. You got to find your tribe and build a coalition of the willing. I asked John Maeda how he managed change while he was president of the Rhode Island School of Design.

And some of you might know this reference. Some of you might not, but he channeled Mr. Rogers from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, the TV show, telling me that he always looks for the helpers. Work across the entire organization because, there's safety in numbers. Find those culture carriers across the organization.

And when you find those like-minded people who share the same hopes and dreams you do, you can build a large coalition of people who believe in your mission, get things done and could, could put pressure on the status quo. This can positively impact the company culture. So building your coalition allows [00:33:00] you to build your influence and influence is earned power and power is company currency.

So now we're moving into, um, phase three of the design process build or what I affectionately like to call getting shit done. So Thomas Edison once said, "Vision without execution is hallucination." Some stakeholders get stuck in "today land" when we're, they're only focused on like the next week, what we need to ship right here right now, without any clear understanding of a longterm vision. I'm sure many of you could relate to that feeling.

On the other hand, thinking too far into the future could scare people. So don't get stuck in "vision land" either. At Autodesk, my boss, Amar Hanspal, used to tell me, used to drive me crazy: [00:34:00] "Maria, don't boil the ocean. Don't boil the ocean." I really wanted to boil the ocean, but you have to start, start with the small wins in order to make the big change.

We're system-thinker, and it's important for our work to look ahead, have a clear strategy that has an upside for everyone, and develop a clear pathway to execute continuously; demonstrate measurable progress by executing in milestone. Changemakers often get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of things that need attention.

And it's easy to take on too many things, which means you run the risk of doing nothing, well without any clear wins or focus. Catherine Courage, formerly VP of CX Customer Experience at Citrix is now VP of Customer Experience at Google. And she says that we need to ruthlessly prioritize. We need to find a project that has [00:35:00] a high business priority for the company and focus on that. At the same time, communicate and be clear about the things that you are going to say no to.

So you can focus on doing the right things really well. I know, easier said than done. It's important to be clear on priorities and scope and to be realistic on what you can accomplish. So focus on a few things to work on. Achieve some wins that can show measurable results that will be noticed by your senior leadership.

Phil Gilbert from IBM suggests naming the initiative so people have a frame of reference. And when you are successful, evangelize the hell out of it. Broadcast those successful outcomes in company meetings or wherever you can. 

Finally, we're at stage four: evolve. Outcomes can be both qualitative and quantitative. [00:36:00] But if you want your outcomes to be valued by leadership, you need to quantify them in some way. And these outcomes could be monitored over a period of time. So you can continuously demonstrate and show progress at the end of every engagement. Whether it's a two week sprint or a 10 week project, it's important to celebrate the team's efforts.

Christina Wodtke made it a point to celebrate her team every Friday. And she combined it with, um, a retrospection of lessons learned and she used to call these events: Fridays, They're for Winners. Measuring and monitoring leads to evolution, which provides a pathway to bringing projects to scale. And then this brings you right back to phase one: learn. And then the loop begins again.

So when you join the company as a changemaker and you have been given a clear path to [00:37:00] lead, done well, you would expect your path to look like this. You are on roll, you are optimistic, what can possibly go wrong? But then, reality sets in and the journey looks more like this: that shiny glow of newness will wear off.

And you will experience bumps in the road. About two years in, you might experience deep dips. And when we're in a dip, we have three choices. First is to fight. Fight through it. The second one is to flight - quit. And the third is to freeze and stay and hide until the political winds change. Most people leave prematurely because the reality is that failure is inevitable [00:38:00] and it sucks and it hurts and it takes time to recover.

Once again, John Maeda, my design spirit animal. He told me, "Failure is easy. Recovery is hard, but it's necessary. It's part of the process. And if you haven't failed, you haven't had that big failure, then you haven't taken enough risks." 

Justin McGuire is the Chief Design Officer at Salesforce. He's a big guy in a big position and he told me, "Maria, When I make a mistake and it's usually big, I have to fall on my sword and I have to own my own mistakes."

So he'll say, "I failed," and then he will ask people how he can learn from them.

[00:39:00] The higher up you go in an organization, the harder you will fall, but you have to be fearless. Because bouncing back from failure only makes you stronger based on personal experiences. I've had plenty of them when you hit your lowest point and the pain is almost intolerable. Like I said earlier on, you will begin to experience those moments of clarity and insight which will spark your creativity and help you see new possibilities in life. So, you embrace those low points as painful as they are, because once you hit that bottom, that point of reflection, where you can clear out that noise in your head, that is when creativity will flourish. [00:40:00] And that's awesome. And then it's time to iterate and evolve. It is time to redesign. 

So what have we learned? Dear fellow badass changemakers and other rebels: change is hard. It's uncomfortable and it's incredibly messy, but I believe this with all my heart and soul: the time for change is right now. And you are the leaders that we have all been waiting for. And if you believe that change is worth fighting for, find that inner motivation to keep going, especially when it gets hard. Life is short. My mom used to tell me what doesn't kill you will only make you stronger. Except she had an Italian Brooklyn accent when she said it. [00:41:00] So my challenge for you today is to step up into the land of curiosity, into the land of creativity, into the land of possibility and together as this coalition of the willing.

We can redesign the future for ourselves, for our families, for our community and the world. So my friends on Z:oom let's get to work. Thank you so much. Please sign up for these two workshops that I will be giving with my, um, with some co um, facilitators. And thank you so much for the time today. So one thing that is super hard to do remotely is celebrating, but we'll do our best in the chat.

Mariano: Thank you. It was very inspiring. I was reading [00:42:00] through the chat. It was like, "Yeah, let's go. Let's do it." So thank you, Maria. And hopefully, I don't know if we can change that text to a crowd roaring, but you're getting the virtual version of that right now. 

Maria: Mariano, let me see your crowd. I want you to simulate the crowd roaring. Can you do that? That's good. I like that. Thank you. I could feel the crowd roaring. Thank you.

Mariano: Oh yeah. Well, keep on going. So celebration is super hard, but important to be done remotely. Right? We we've been actually experimenting with, we sent like a box when we wrapped the quarter to everyone in the company with it, some do mimosas, remotely.

It was hard, but it's doable. But what if the context is not there, Maria? What if like, do you need to like, grow like a radical coalition of the willing. And change the context. How do you, how do you start if the context is not there?

 Yeah. Yeah. 

Maria: Well, the first thing [00:43:00] as I said is you really have to take stock of the environment that you're in.

You've gotta be realistic about what's possible. So whether it's at work or it's a family situation or it's a community situation, you really have to like - what is the energy of this space that I'm in? What is possible? And then like this, this, all of these, um, tips and stories that I'm sharing, it's not a linear process.

You don't have to this before you do this. You can say, "Oh, you know, uh, maybe it's maybe I just need to take a small step. Maybe I need to understand people's comfort level right now. Um, maybe, yeah, I just need to listen." You know, I think listening is one of the most important skills. That we under-utilize, um, as somebody who, uh, as somebody who likes to jump in. I'm a leaper.

[00:44:00] I like to talk, I like to solve problems. I actually have to take time to, I have to be very much aware that when I'm not, when I'm speaking, I'm not listening. As a matter of fact, I have this posted note on my computer to remind me. Can you read that? I know the answer, but wait, wait. Yes. "Wait" means why am I talking?

And I keep that on my posts, I keep that on my computer so I can remind myself that I should be listening, not speaking. 

Mariano: That's excellent. So you mentioned that you're doing some workshops. What do people learn in those workshops? 

Maria: The workshops that we're going to be offering. One is next week. Uh, the first one is with Tutti Taygerly and, um, it's um, what is it called?

I forgot the name of it. Maybe somebody can remind me, but it [00:45:00] is about defining your leadership voice. So many people are either - they've, might've been laid off. They might be changing jobs. They might be asking what, you know, what kind of leader am I? How do I leverage my strengths? So this workshop really goes into helping define your personal values and how that relates to leadership goals.

So it's really about a values, uh, um, identification exercises, and the end of that workshop, we are going to walk away with goals and intentions and accountability. So that's the first one. The second workshop is in August with Christopher Ireland, who is the coauthor of my book Rise of the DEO. And now we are writing, we are in the process of writing a new book about changemakers, where a lot of the content from the talk came from that book that we're working on. And that's where we're going to go really deep into [00:46:00] really understanding some of these lessons and tips for how to be a changemaker. And I hope people sign up.

We love giving workshops and one's next week and one's in August. 

Mariano: Excellent. So check them out. And if you need some extra help, let us know, we can help with that through MURAL. So Maria, I read the book, great book. So looking forward to the next one. I have a special guest. You're talking about workshops and so forth. Eh, Mark Tippin. Who's generally giving, eh, our audience, some examples of how to use different methods in MURAL and how to become a better remote facilitator. I asked him to join because he was also part of your team in Autodesk, right? Oh yeah, we overlapped. And I'm just wanting to send Mark a little heart here. [00:47:00] When I see Mark Tippin, it's lavender. It makes me, I want to like hug Mark. So this is, I'm like, I'm hugging you, Mark with my heart. 

Mark, who has been paying attention your questions, guys? And because he has a much better voice than mine. 

Mark: Settled for the MURAL board, yeah. Well, yeah, I wanted to reflect back because you, you ask a couple of questions and, um, and before we started rolling, you had some questions about where people [00:48:00] come from. So as people were showing up and saying, hi, I quickly just built out a little, you know, my geography is a little poor, but this is largely some of the coverage of, of who is showing up today.

Apologies to everyone I didn't get. Um, I also captured, um, these are some of the responses and I did a quick kind of visual of, and then they were, there's a spectrum. So what do you think about change? Everything from "embrace it" to "oh dear". So, yeah, it was great. And people were asking about the resource in the book, so we share this stuff afterwards. So I have, is this the book? 

Maria: Yeah. Yeah. Well, this is my copy, but, um, maybe that's a current one. But yeah, I always say it's the, it's the poorly designed yellow and blue cover. 

Mark: I was going to say with your affinity for typography, it was like, no, you probably have some things to say about that. 

Maria: Yes, it reminds me of design from the eighties, but this is the book, it looks like it's the same.

I don't know, just to check, but it's William Bridges and it's an [00:49:00] awesome book. 

Mark: William Bridges, PhD. Yeah. Okay, cool. Um, So, and then, uh, as far as the qualities, when you show that grid of changemakers, let's see, some great words here. Um, showing vulnerability, they show up, courage, passion, authenticity, resiliency, humanity, empathy. A lot of the stuff that we see, like when we're trying to build design thinkers and build people, you know, it's a lot of those qualities, right, come up in leaders as well. 

Maria: Well, what's so interesting about this Mark. I love this because, before COVID before, like, when we thought about like who we think our leaders are, like, we look at, you know, we look at the Elon Musks, we look at, you know, the Sheryl Sandbergs, you look at the Mark Zuckerbergs. We look at, you know, like there's a bunch of the leaders.

Yeah. This is a whole, whole new breed about values, a whole new set of attributes. And this is what excites me. This, these, this is, we are stepping into a new era of [00:50:00] leadership. Clearly. 

Mark: Yeah, absolutely. What was choosing to celebrate? I think, you know, confronted with, with the past where we're, we're confronting new things that we'd prefer to see, you know. Um, well, to that point I wanted, there were, we had a bunch of questions and I tried to sort them out and I starred ones where I think we should maybe drill in a little bit.

Um, but I, I'd love to see in this, this notion of new opportunities. What are some of the new opportunities, right? It's crisis and fear and change. But it also has made things a little more malleable. People, a little more open to change. I'd love to hear examples. Someone flagged one you said: manage by walking around on a global level. So now you can Zoom into every office. What are some of the things you might have seen? 

Maria: Yeah. And I'm also curious, and I invite people on online to chat some of their answers. What have they seen, right? Because we're all living this simultaneously. And so, but yeah, this is it. This is [00:51:00] such an interesting time, because I think because we are forced to design, like redesign everything.

It's really pushing people into this, where they're trying things. And some things are, are succeeding. Some things are failing, like, or somethings just need work. Like for example, like distance learning, suddenly kids have to be educated online. That creates incredible inequity globally. Some people have internet, some people don't, some people have computers, some people don't. How do we solve that problem?

So that's a problem that is, we, we ha it's it's you're we got to experiment and iterate because that's not going to go away. And then just, I think now distributed workforce, right? It was, we were inking into that, but people were really connected to their offices and companies are now starting to ask questions about: I'm paying all this money on real estate, [00:52:00] is it really necessary? But you know, we, we can't say that the answer is, "Oh, we should all be remote." We're gonna find that we're going to be trying things. And then we're going to be real. We're going to be missing, uh, other rituals. So we might see in the future, like a hybrid where you have the choice to go to work, or maybe you go to work twice a week, or maybe, you know, maybe there isn't a physical building that you go to.

Maybe there are like, um, rope. There are buildings that just pop up all over the world. There's so many opportunities for reinvention here, and then it's going to be really interesting. What is gonna, um, band is going to kind of snap back and what will stay and what will change? And we're living in this incredible experiment before our eyes.

So I'm very curious to see where all this goes. 

Mark: Well, that's, that's wonderful that bridges to this, the second question that came up, which is, um, I [00:53:00] re-paraphrased it, Brenda. Apologies, but essentially design isn't news. So how do we do it differently this time? Right. What are the qualities? And you hit on some of these, but I wanted you to punctuate what are the qualities that allow design and a design approach to actually have a different level of influence, now, than perhaps in the past?

Maria: Yeah, well, you know, the problem with design is that when people hear the word design, they have a bias. Uh, and they have a different interpretation of what that means. So, when I think of the word design, I define it as a noun. Things that people make, which is one of those, uh, which is like, you know, oftentimes people think it's about non-strategic task-making or it's a verb.

It's the things that people do together. Um, and it's a mindset. Which is, you know, [00:54:00] embracing change, embracing design, uh, embracing curiosity and creativity. And so really the way I like to frame it is first of all: it's something that we all possess. Then yes, there are designers. We've been trained. We create beautiful things.

We create systems and stuff, and that is very, very important, but everybody has, has a capacity to be a designer. And when we basically invite everybody in as designers, it changes the meaning of what that can be. So that's one thing. Another thing is sometimes I don't even use the word design. If, if I'm in an environment where they are, they think design is the first thing, just making stuff, I might not even use the word design. I might call it strategy. I might call it a term that they feel comfortable using, but we all know secretly that it's really design. 

[00:55:00] Mark: Right? Yeah. Well, I, and I love that notion it, I, as a designer and going through that transitional phase at Autodesk, no, there was this moment where it was a challenge to hear "everyone's a designer". You're like, well, wait a minute. I went to school. I did that. But the, the thing that we all learned was how wonderful is it to bring more inclusion and diversity into the conversations? And designers to have people feel confident to have an opinion about why something works better or not?

Maria: Yeah. Right. And inclusion, more ideas. More points of view, better solutions. That's right. And designers, traditionally trained designers get to be leaders and facilitators and bring people along and bring them in. 

Mark: That's right. The huge, one of the biggest shifts for me was the designer that felt I had to have all the answers and be studied and know more than the client to being the person that just needed to facilitate the right [00:56:00] conversation and get the genius in the room to, to, to come out. I'm like, that's, that's a huge pivot, right? 

Maria: It is. And at the end of the day, it's really about getting the best idea. Who cares who comes up with the idea? We want the best solution. 

Mark: Absolutely. Well, to that point, I mean, there's some brinksmanship that we're seeing just in, you know, things coming to a head.

And, um, one of your comments, uh, here was like, so majority leaders don't allow you the necessary time. Like you said, I need three months. I need to go, just go on my listening tour. So if you're not given the resources at the time or the bandwidth to actually do something the way, you know, it needs to be impactful. Is that a make or break situation or do you just choose away at it or? 

Maria: Well, uh, I mentioned one of the conditions for success is time. And, uh, and that's, you know, like if you don't have the time to learn, [00:57:00] if you don't have the time to listen to people at the gate, you are at great risk of going down the wrong pathway.

So that is, um, that is a red, that's what I would call a red flag. Right? Yeah. And, and so if you don't have those conditions for success, you got to go in knowing that this could be he a failure. Um, and, uh, so that's why I really like to start with. Yeah, well, of all of the, of all of the, I interviewed over 25, 35 people. 20-35 people in different industries at very high levels organizations and every single one of them talked about the importance of time and an executive sponsor.

Yeah. Yeah. You know, cause that's another thing. Cause if you think that you're going to make change, but your boss doesn't support it? Not going to happen. 

Mark: That's right. Yeah. Yeah. Culture eats process for lunch? Or I can't remember that phrase, but it's [00:58:00] like the culture isn't likely to change. I want to just one more, because I think it really is top of mind for most of the people out there is this notion of did changemakers need to be fearless to be effective? And I I'm like, I don't know that I've ever felt totally free of fear. And sometimes that's worked for me, but I'd love to hear what you think. 

Maria: That's a great question, but I don't think anybody could be free of fear, right? Yeah. So I don't think fearlessness is a attainable a hundred percent, but it's about, uh, knowing that you're gonna fail.

So it's more about comfort with failure. And, um, uh, and, and recognizing that will hurt when you fail and it will take time to recover, but, um, you have to, you have to go for it. And if you don't fail, then you haven't really pushed it far enough. So it's less about fearness and [00:59:00] it's more about understanding failure.

And here's the other thing that I want to say about changemakers. Sometimes you might work in a company and you have moved the needle, but your role in the, your time in the company, shortlived, you know? It could be a layoff. It could be a change in strategy. It could be you leaving because change does take years to realize.

Um, and there is a cliff where people leave companies every two years that happens. There's a data point there. One thing you have to realize is you have made an impact. You have left something there, right? And you have moved the needle for the next changemaker to come and take it and run with it. And that's really important that you have left your mark.

Mark: Amen. Wonderful. 

Maria: That is something to be proud of. 

Mariano: You just left your mark in a lot of people here today [01:00:00] and the good news, everybody still there, is that we're recording this. So I recommend that you send this to your teammates, but also to your boss's boss's boss's boss. Because in a way, it's a way to provide the context, right?

I mean, people really understand that it's necessary to change, but they're too lazy to do it. Right? So talks like this one, help and I thank you Maria for sharing your, your, your ideas with us today. And I recommend you guys, that you sign up for her, a workshops, and see her in action.

I mean, she, I love that she's authentic. She even curses. Eh, but, and, and those words are that I'll be right. So thank you so much, Maria, for, for your, for your ideas and for inspiration today. Thanks so much. I'm so happy to be here. It was really fun to see my old friends [01:01:00] from MURAL.

There you go. So see you soon. Bye. Everybody expect the recording's on. Cheers. Take care.

About the author

About the authors

David Chin

Creative Lead
Creative Lead at MURAL // Moving beyond the pixels to connect intuition, reason, and opportunity.