Leading without authority


Leading Without Authority: Effective Change Management in Strategy

June 18, 2024

About this episode

For humans, the fear of change is so real and pervasive that there’s a word for it: metathesiophobia. Even if you didn’t know about this clinical term until now, you’re probably aware that organizations and teams of all types suffer from a fear of change—especially because there’s no shortage of examples of change being implemented ineffectively due to poor strategy or leadership.

In today’s episode, Joe and Jonathan are joined by Lindsey Joerger, Senior Director of Strategy Implementation at USP, who shares her insights on leading without authority and driving effective change management in the realm of strategy. 

Join us as we discuss:

  • How to manage change while preserving core organizational values and practices
  • The stages of change-implentation: storming, forming, and norming
  • Crucial elements for building trust within an organization to effectively implement change 
  • The need to crystallize a shared vision and goal among team members

Guest Intros

Lindsey Joerger | Leading without authority, effective change management in strategy

Lindsey Joerger

Senior Director of Strategy Implementation @ US Pharmacopeia

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Transcript 📝

Jonathan  0:03  

Welcome back, everybody to another episode of the strategy gap. Joining us today is Lindsey yerger. Lindsey has an extensive background as a master problem solver. And she began her career as actually an editor at the FDA but has since navigated through many roles at US Pharmacopoeia, where she's played a key role building growth strategies, communicating strategy in enabling change. She is currently a senior director of strategy implementation at USP. And has joined us today to talk about her experience, leading without authority and driving effective change management. Lindsay, welcome to the show.

Lindsey  0:38  

Thank you. I'm really excited to talk everything through today. Absolutely.

Jonathan  0:41  

So Lindsay, I know we've caught up in the past. But for those that maybe aren't as familiar with your role, or USP, do you mind briefly giving an intro on the organization and how your role plays a key part in it?

Lindsey  0:55  

Sure thing, so USP is a not for profit based in the United States. But we work globally to put together standards and safeguards for medicine quality, those are used by pharmaceutical companies, by regulators, and all sorts of other parties. So that we have a common foundation of what the quality looks like for medicines. My role with strategy implementation is taking new programs and helping to stand them up with a mix of science staff, our regulatory engagement, and our customer facing market facing parts of the organization. So bringing all those sides to bear so that we can really launch multi year big growth plans.

Jonathan  1:38  

Very interesting. So Lindsay, I know, based on your role, certainly there's some people that will relate to this, but others in their organizations, they their strategy role is maybe only internally focused or only externally focused, I know your aspect is kind of a combination of both right, you have the internal teams that you're aligning, but when you're working in a not for profit, that's interfacing with government organizations, there's a lot of external components to that as well. I know one thing Joe and I both like to talk about is the concept of within an organization, you're leading from the middle, or you got it, you have the architects at the top, those are the people that are defining the work and creating the goals, you have the doers at the bottom of the organization or lower in the organization executing the work. And then you have someone like yourself, that's the translator there in the middle, whether it's internally or externally, trying to figure out how to work across these individuals with that you kind of are in a situation where you have a lot of power, but not always the influence. And so you have to figure out how to how to lead with authority. And it's a very important thing to have. So with your role thinking about it internally and externally, how have you been able to lead without that authority? And impact those changes internally and externally?

Lindsey  2:54  

Yes, that's a great question, Jonathan, it's really an interesting aspect that's grown over my career. First, getting some of that influence without authority, even taking classes specifically on that, when I was a newer manager, and then taking on more ambitious projects, and having to extend that sphere of influence, and understanding what was effective and not. And so for me, with the internal sphere of influence, it was very much about building trust, people had to trust the rationale for something, and that there would actually be a follow through and a result to the work. Because how frustrating is it when you put in effort for what you think is going to be a big and meaningful project only to see it fizzle out? Or worse, yet, you put in a lot of effort for something that does not feel like a big and meaningful project. So it's understanding the what's in it for me with them. One of the people I've worked with a lot, Angela Lee would say that. And then externally, in some cases, there's similar things. But you really have to start from a place of appreciative inquiry, that you're really trying to understand their issues and needs and not come to them saying, here's my solution. And here's why it's so great. You really need to be sympathetic, empathetic to their problems that they're facing, and show a good understanding of that before you then say, well, here's how I think what we can do together will address those problems for you. And so again, internally, you want to understand that but it's it's a long term trust building. Whereas externally, it's almost like you have that one moment that one interaction to really make something spark for follow through, or you you've missed that opportunity.

Joe  4:42  

And you mentioned the the topic of trust. So the idea of people joining a project that they understand that if it goes well there's an impact for the organization which we want to be if we're honest with ourselves we'd like we say we want that to be the number one thing but to the point you're making most people ask themselves like what will this do for me? Well, it Will it help me gain a skill that didn't have before? Will it help elevate my position in the organization where they realize, oh, I have more to offer? And so the question I have for you would be, what skills have you employed to make that abundantly clear, not only at the beginning of the project, the the various communication around it, and then also the close out, because a lot of times that close out is so important and having a proper celebration, how have you elevated the topic of this is what it's in? Here's what's in it for you, without making it all about just what's in it. For them, it's, it has to be a nice delicate balance. Yes.

Lindsey  5:33  

It's absolutely a delicate balance. So one project that I'm thinking about was our knowledge management work. And we had to have a pretty broad team of people from all parts of the organization. And in some of our introductory team meetings, there was a lot of getting to go through those forming, storming, norming stages, and learning the different personalities and learning what motivated one person versus another. And I think a piece of that that helped build the trust earlier on was to say, well, here's the challenge, the mandate that we've been given, this is our objective. We want to do this, because we want to benefit all of our various teams who have to access knowledge and a lot of complex data and background information to do their rigorous scientific work. We want to support that we we see a future together, that's more efficient for everyone. So it was really crystallizing that shared goal and vision. That helped. That was kind of step one. And then it was, as we would debate, different things we could ask ourselves is that going to help against that goal, and that they could see, again, that inquiry to explore different ideas and thought processes. And as we worked, a really important piece was to clarify each person's role in that team, we have this objective, and here's how your input is helping us reach that objective. You have a view and an expertise that this other person does not have. We all have different opinions. And we really welcome that. And we need that for the brainstorming. But then as we get to execution and finding out what's tangible, you are the best person to tell us that in this team setting. And, and showing how that input directly informs the plan and the ongoing progress with the project. Then when we have these milestones, such as reporting up to leadership, and even reporting out to people in the organization, I could explain this person from this aspect brought in their IT expertise, this person brought in their scientific rigor, this person has a lot of connections, a really good network across the organization, and did a great job of helping people to articulate things that maybe they've never had to talk through before with someone outside their department. But you know how to make them easy to understand. So that again, we could build it into the solution. So I could call on different people's strengths, and the role that their input played in that solution. It gives them the notoriety, the credibility with the organization, and it helps them feel proud of the work and feel bought in on seeing that work through. And even when a project has setbacks or difficulties, those experiences aren't, aren't diminished by however things might go after they're done working on it, they still have that moment of pride in that understanding. And so again, your personal value, the what's in it, for me, isn't always only tied to the end result, the end result can be good, you can feel great about that. But even if it has to pivot or something, you can still feel good about the work that you did. And that trust, again, is carried through. And I think that was a really interesting journey to go through to understand that. And that was five or six years ago in my career. And so it's it's really helped be a good foundation for my other work.

Jonathan  8:59  

Yeah, I think certainly the what's in it for me, I certainly think I always see to be helpful with organizations and with my teams as well. One thing as you were talking through I was I was curious about in your processes. You talked about the planning process and the what's in it. For me, it was kind of the in component when you're figuring out the goals. But then you also talked about more of the brainstorming session and where you have the forming the storming and the norming. I guess the first to start for those that aren't familiar with that front process. Do you mind quickly explaining that and then the follow up question is, when do you begin involving people in that what's in it for me portion? Is it at the brainstorming is it once you've frame figured out the framework? Where does that fall into that process?

Lindsey  9:43  

So with forming, storming and norming these are some pretty well researched phases that a team will go through a new team that comes together for a project or when you have a new team member you Leadership, there's an initial forming stage where everyone's getting a feel for each other and understanding their roles, what the team is there for. The storming is when there's a lot of head butting. And that is an essential productive phase. And I have seen a difficulty where teams want to get along. And so they don't see that conflict as a healthy progression. And yet, if you stay in that nice zone for too long, then you're not pushing the team in the way that it needs to, to come up with those solutions. If everyone's agreeing, right? Are you really kind of making the changes needed? So you have to go through that storming. And once you do, you get some clarity, you have had some disagreements, and you see how people work through those respectfully, do they hold grudges? Are they somebody's got a chip on their shoulder about something or are they willing to move forward. And then once you can get to that moving forward, you get to the norming. And that is where some some typical practices, some regular behaviors, common expectations, and norms start to form, like, you're going to have an agenda for every meeting, some basic administrative pieces, but also kind of rules of conduct, we're not speaking over each other, we are not letting somebody dominate the conversation, we're enticing the maybe more junior people to speak up. And once you get that norming, then you get to a performing stage where you can really crank on these things. And that's where I think in the course of going through the storming and the norming, you get a sense for the what's in it for me what people expect from each other, what they have to offer, and what they find valuable. And so for example, this is when you might find out somebody who's very data driven analytical, they could spend eons in the research phase, whereas somebody who is much more blue sky visionary is going to get frustrated by that. And they are sparked by ideas and curiosity. And so for each of them, you have to understand, Okay, I've got this blend of people in the group, how do I draw on each of them, give some limits to the research, but have time for it, and then have space for the brainstorming. And again, to call to each of them, it seems like this is important to you, we need to make sure that we bring this into the conversation, get their agreement. This is a piece of accountability that I've learned in recent years, that I might observe that and I might make an internal assumption, but I have to articulate that to them and say, This is why I am taking this approach, it seems that this is important. And this is why we're going to do it. Okay, I've given the space for that we cannot spend any more in that area, because we have to make progress. And again, there's this kind of mutual commitment and agreement. Okay, yes, I was told I would have the space, I had my thing, I'm still not satisfied. But again, I'm part of this team. It's not an individual effort. And so I need to move forward. And this is all being done without me being their direct boss. In many cases, you know, this is I am a team lead. I am running a program, I am working with people with fantastic expertise, who are very well educated and competent in their careers, they are experts. And yet, even though I'm not their boss, I have to have them bought in with me to make those steps forward.

Joe  13:19  

I think you've articulated the four stages pretty amazingly, I think it's sometimes it can be a more complex topic than it needs to be. And your point around the second phase where people are afraid of conflict, anybody who's ever done, a tour of duty in grad school knows that this is like the norm, right? Every class has a new group project, the power struggle and who's going to be the boss and who's not going to do you know who's gonna sign their name on the paper at the end, it didn't do anything. But the idea of avoiding conflict is something that most people seek out. And it's just conflict is, is in the right, with the right respect and candor and all that, you know, there's books like radical candor, and Extreme Ownership and all these things like but not shying away from the difficult conversations is something that only people say they want to do, but don't always do. Because you say one thing, it could lead to five extra meetings, and a lot of people do the cost benefit, and say, do I bring this up? And if they are saying that to themselves, then the culture behind the scenes is not ideal. They should feel they shouldn't be asking themselves like I'm gonna bring this up, because it's a good thing. I'm not bringing this up. Because I think that there's going to be a whole bunch of side conversations that asked like, Why do you say that, then, you know, the culture probably needs a little tweaking. So I think your point is extremely well taken and hopefully no PTSD from the people that did it towards duty and grad school on the line here.

Jonathan  14:36  

Yeah, and really, I think one strategy is, you know, the underpinning of all this conversation, but when you break strategy down more fundamentally, strategy is a form of change, right and change and change management. That means a little bit something different to everybody and some organizations they may be afraid of change or they may see change as a bad thing. But I know you would be in advocate for change as a good thing. But for those that may be in a similar situation where their organization sees change as a bad thing, and it's a negative thing, how can they overcome that perspective? And how have you overcome that perspective in your career to say, hey, you know, what change is a good thing, if we go about it effectively, and this is how we do that.

Lindsey  15:23  

I, I really appreciate that, Jonathan, I think for many people change can be disruptive and and threatening. And something I had to learn quite a while back was the change is going to be there, whether you like it or not, that changes. The only constant, I think, is the usual adage. And it's true. Nobody has a job is lives in a situation that is fixed in time and will never change. What you can do is learn how to control that change and do it under your own terms, versus be overwhelmed by the change. And so even in cases where there is a decision made some mandate given and that trickles through, and I might not like the change that is coming, I have to think about how do I frame myself in this? How do I understand what I value? What is most important to me, and how I see those things represented in this change, or how I bring them forward through this change. I don't have to sacrifice my values. And what's important to me, as I go through changes, that could be from something relatively small to we are now using, we're not using paper products at our facilities. Everybody bring your own mug, well, oh, man, I need a cup of coffee. And I don't have a mug tool, okay? relatively minor, but all the same, I can prepare for it, I can integrate that change into my day to day work, something much more disruptive of, we're going to stop making a certain type of product. And and people are worried about layoffs. And well, what about this new product? Why are we making the new product, we've done this forever, and it worked for us. That can cause a lot of angst. And so again, as a leader, if you can show that through line, here's where we are. Now, here's where we're going and why. Here's how we are going to go through that change and own that process, own that experience rather than be thrown by it. Again, people will have some trepidations. But you're you're pretty much always going to have your early adopters, your people who see the opportunity and are enthusiastic about it. And those are the ones you engage, you don't start from that place of fear and spending all of your time trying to assuage the fears, because you're never going to that's always going to be present. But what you can do is take those enthusiastic adopters start to build some success stories or, or those narratives of what's positive about the change, and it will bring over that next group of people till you get a critical mass and people are bought in. Okay, I see the change is going to be good for us. Here's why we have to do it. And here's how I'm going to work within that change and how again, it's going to bring the the things that matter to me most through that experience. Quick

Joe  18:08  

comment on that, because I think it's a really important point and then a question. So first and foremost, I mean, change we talked about leaders will typically say change is important, and you should get on board, people that aren't like leading the change. A lot of times like change is bad, I don't want anything to do with it. There's some middle path, as you know, and as we all would agree, middle path is usually the best. I don't have any children. My wife is a school counselor and has multiple degrees and all learning and cognition and one of the things they teach you from day one is that children from day one seek order and routine like if a simple thing moves in the only Jonathan has could tell you for days, and I'm just speaking from no experience, he has all the experience, one small change different color cut different cereal, different cereal box that causes just a rage almost in children because they don't like it right. And so to think that that just goes away as adults, it's pretty foolish, right? We know that we don't like things change. We don't like our, you know, our barista changing, or our restaurant closing or whatever. But in their professional experience, we can't stamp our feet. So I think there is some middle ground where managers can realize that, you know, I can say it multiple times that change is a good thing. But ultimately, it's innately in us that we are going to fear it a bit. So we have to go a little extra. And people generally that have to do the work have to be a little bit more open to the idea because to your point earlier, change always happens. It's going to be it's just the way it goes. So the question I have long winded late is you mentioned there are people that buy into it automatically your top 10% if you will, how have you leveraged maybe the excitement and energy of that 10% And then utilize them as like an extra extension of you to be able to spread the good word how what leverage what techniques have you leveraged to get those people involved?

Lindsey  19:46  

So I have made use of change champions or champions of different forms to help communicate the why behind something or lay out the latest information be a conduit for As we make a decision, they can ripple that out to their different teams and networks, those early adopters, that top 10%, who are enthusiastic about the change, they're the ones who are probably frustrated with the status quo. And so they're looking forward to change. And when it comes up, they're eager to be part of that, to help shape it and influence it. And that is a big hook of, of getting those early folks in is where they can see the direct thumbprint that they can put on the change by being an early adopter. And it creates a little bit of that fear of missing out on the remainders, where they start to see oh, okay, they're getting to set the path forward, I want to be part of that. Sometimes it might be because they don't know what they're going to do. And I'm the one who knows best. So I need to be in the conversation. Or they go, Oh, okay, this is getting some resources, momentum is resulting in things, I would like to be a part of that mix. So those are some examples, but actually want to go back, Joe, I have two kids, myself, a 14 year old and a 10 year old. And so I've certainly seen the response to change over their lives. And you know, what's interesting is, yes, we carry some of that forward as adults. But also, in one of the presentations I made to my company in the past couple years where I talked about change, just change management principles, to say, I'm bringing a change management perspective to this work, I'm doing it with intention, here's what it's about. It's about showing your work. So they're not going What is all of this, why are you doing it this way? Well, here's the rationale in doing that, and as I raised my kids, I pointed out to them, you change all the time, with joy, with good reason, you changed your your path in life from a fourth grader to a fifth grader, you changed when you finished high school and you chose a place to go after high school, a job, college, whatever that might be, you have opted into changes throughout your life and had fantastic experiences with that. Sometimes they are difficult as you go through that change process. But ultimately, you made that change, because you had a belief that there was a good reason to. So how do you frame this current situation as Okay, again, changes existing, but I'm opting into this part of the change. And that gets me excited. And so that goes back to the motivation of of how you get people to buy in on that. But

Jonathan  22:25  

yeah, I think there's an important three line for this entire conversation is it's, regardless of whether it's a change or not, or a strategy or not, it's keeping people in the know about what is and isn't happening. Because even for people that are the positive change agents, they're not always gonna be the positive change agents, if they're hit by a change, everybody's been in a situation where a colleague or a manager just makes a decision or says, Hey, this is what we're doing now. And if they're blindsided by it, even if they're the most positive change agent in the world, that's going to catch them off guard, and they're going to feel like they were left out of that process. And that the work they had been doing for months or weeks or years, or whatever the case may be was just not even thought about. And I think that's an important thing that people need to realize is that it's not always maybe those same 10% of people that are on the positive, and always the 10% that are negative, it's it's how you involving those people in the conversation from the get go.

Lindsey  23:21  

Yes, you you might have a different mix of people who are on board for one type of change, and then they're completely against something else. It's not that they just always love change for its own sake. It's I'm frustrated with this process, I'm frustrated with this strategy, I want to see something different. And so again, it's recognizing who are those right people to connect with, for that particular project strategy initiative, because you are so right, Jonathan, it will be different. Yeah, and

Jonathan  23:49  

with that, in case people haven't picked up on it, kind of the the nature of the 10% or 10% is normally within an organization, right? You're gonna have the bell curve, you're gonna have 10% of the people at the top that are the ones that are advocating for things, and they're your champions, you're gonna have the 10% at the bottom that are the naysayers. And then you have a bell curve of the rest of the 80% and the middle that you're trying to sway one direction or the other. A lot of times and in the context of this conversation we focus on you know, we want to focus more on the top, the positives, the 10% of the top, and not spend all of our time on the 10% the naysayers but I do want to ask your perspective on you can't just completely ignore the naysayers. So what in your perspective is the right approach for how and how often to focus on those naysayers? So they're not just totally forgotten about?

Lindsey  24:41  

That's right. I think in the more general communications if you are having an all staff communication, or even a department division level engagement, one of the things that I've done quite a lot over all my different projects is a series of roadshows where you go around and you share Here's a project, here's what it is, here's what we're doing. And during those in engagements is your opportunity to speak to the concerns. If you go in and you're only talking about the silver linings and all the good stuff, it rings hollow, because people think it's just window dressing. And you know, you have to own the difficulties that are going on as well, you have to own the criticisms and explain the rationale for the path that you're taking. You don't have to be defensive about it. Because again, that can come across in a way that really undermines what you're trying to accomplish. But if you say, maybe you've gotten that input from champions, you ask them, Well, how are these messages resonating? What are you hearing from your your teams? What do they like? What do they not like? And so you gather those, and you kind of look for the common themes. And you might say in that division meeting, here's the new business program that we're doing. It's branching out in this way, one of the common questions we've got is, well, how do we maintain our core if we're stretching too far afield? Is this really jeopardizing the soul of of the business or what we're all about, and this is how you can say it, I can understand that concern, I can understand the fear that that might bring. And so you acknowledge it, and then you explain, here's how we are trying to take care of that. We don't want to jeopardize that. So here's safeguards. Here are checks and balances, here's how I want you to keep me accountable. I'm going to check back in in three months. And if you see x patterns, results, negative, unintended impact, please escalate to me give them their point of contact, and and kind of exit route if they have those concerns. Because at a certain point, if they utilize those, and they it takes some of that wind out of their sails, and they realize, okay, I don't have a big force I need to fight against here I have somebody who's listening to me, that's really often what they want is to feel listened to. And so if you give that outlet, but again, like you were saying, Jonathan, it's at the right stages and those right venues, it's not in the ongoing project work. Yeah,

Joe  27:10  

the fear of, you know, we are we are this type of organization, and this project might make us go out of our center. I mean, that is a concern. And a lot of times with strategic planning, the point that you made earlier was like, here's what we want to be. So we're there, we're here. Now, the strategic plan is our map to get there. And that's going to allow for maybe our core to get larger, where we kind of move over into something else, and the core becomes something different. It's like not a, maybe the cell divides, or something views a lovely science analogy. So I guess that sometimes is a concern that comes up we are but the pace of change doesn't stop. And so therefore we as an organization have to evolve. And if we don't, we're going to be caught in a bad position. And that's not good for anybody here, we can't assume that we made all the right choices on the strategy that we've selected. But to your point you just made, here's the checks and balances. And if we are veering to off course, then we can, we can rein it back. And we talked about that all the time, like making sure that you have regular updates on your plan. And then also make sure that you're communicating those updates good or bad. on a consistent basis, I can expect my communication on this day at this time, it better be there. Otherwise, people are going to start to say, here we go, again, back to what we said we weren't going to do. You can't give them any excuse to go to that because those 10% will bite on that real quick. I was I gotcha. I knew your I knew it. You were gonna do this, and I caught you. You can't give them anything. So I think that point is once again, very well stated, Lindsey.

Lindsey  28:32  

Yes. And if they think they're giving you a gotcha moment, how do you approach that with humility? And say, you got me? I didn't think about that part. I don't know enough about that aspect of things. Can we talk about that? Can you tell me more about that. And so again, you're giving that outlet for the frustration in an appropriate way, you're still having a boundary there. It's not that you are going to offend your whole strategy because of one gotcha moment. But if if you were to stand there and be dismissive, you're just again, going to lose that credibility so quickly.

Jonathan  29:04  

Yeah, absolutely. Well, Lindsey, it's been an awesome conversation. And we could keep this going. But we have to close out and we're gonna close up as we always do with our one final question. So thinking about your career, if you could go back to speak to yourself back when you're first entering your, you know, quasi strategy role at the time? What advice would you give yourself?

Lindsey  29:28  

That's a tricky question. There, there are so many bits of advice that I would want to give myself but I would say it will serve you so well to have that blend of trusting your gut. Go with your creativity and and those instincts that you have to see something and combine that gut with the experts in the room. Listen to the people around you and work with them because you can't come up with it by yourself. Your gut will get you so far. But really, when you bring together all those different perspectives and the expertise in the room and those people in your teams, you are going to come up with such better outcomes than if you try to go it alone. Or if you try to defer only to the expertise and just get everyone to agree, it's the blending of the two that is going to get you the best outcomes.

Jonathan  30:23  

Love it. Well, Lindsey, I know our audience will have enjoyed listening to your expertise on this topic, and I look forward to talking again in the future. Thanks, Lindsay.

Lindsey  30:34  

Thank you both so much.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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