This is the third and final blog with a focus on working with change leadership and participatory approaches in the mainstream. In response to the needs of my clients and the work we are doing together, I am re-articulating, redesigning and rebranding my work to be able to have the greatest possible impact. It is exciting to share what I am learning and the response to the blogs has been provocative and inspiring. I look forward to hearing more and continuing this conversation with you for years to come!
My Business Model Matters
Recently one of my corporate clients took me to task for just handing out work to others without making any money from it - warning me that the quality of work others do upon my recommendation has the potential to undermine my brand. She considered it not only irresponsible to my business' growth but also to my family security (three kids!). It struck me that in this next incarnation of my work, how I run my business was one of the ways people are assessing how / if they will work with me.
Katie and I have been re-designing our business model for a while. Upgrading accounting software, getting clearer processes, pricing models, standard contracts (we always end up negotiating the same clauses!) etc. In the earlier versions of my work if I was offering my learnings for free in an open source way it built the credibility of my work and spread my message. I am finding now that many of the people I am working with won't trust it if it is for free or just handed out. They wonder about the quality of the work and the honesty of the intention. It feels too much like a big grey area. Having a clear articulation of what is for free and why, and what is not and why, is really important. It helps people relax and feel like they are getting something they can trust. It's putting in place enough order so we can all get on with the uncertain and tough work of leading change.
I am now looking at what it is like to build a stronger financial model into how I share work, distribute learning and build associated products. This does not mean I do less pro bono work, start charging through the roof all the time or stop sharing what I am learning widely and openly (you are reading this right?). It does mean that I have fully thought through my business model because how I manage my business is part of what makes me trustworthy.
Branding builds trust
While driving together to host a session rife with conflict and confusion a senior government client said to me, with tears in her eyes, that the re-brand has made it much easier to bring me in to support her work. She said the website I had before was just too “not for profit”. She was grateful because it made her ability to call in the support she needed as an internal agent, easier.
The new branding has given me a language and visual identity that is immediately credible with the senior leaders who are making the decisions about whether to work with me. People couldn’t even pronounce my company name before! Here have a go: Myrgan. See? I needed a change.
I have had companies and individuals contacting me out of the blue to engage my services. My website has never driven business before, it has always been word of mouth recommendation. My business until this point was dependent on people experiencing my work. Suddenly, I have found a way to articulate and present my work that does not depend on people having been in the room. It is exciting! I am getting calls from all kinds of folks; ranging from national industry associations and international consulting firms to regional government and local community leaders. Who knew that finding language and images that truly represents my work and who I am could amplify it so successfully?
I have Meg Craig of Sailor Studio to thank for much of this. She is the creative designer that guided me through the steps (based right here in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia and a HUB South Shore member – that’s right South Shore Nova Scotia strikes again!). We worked together to come up with the brand and she refused to settle on anything that I did not one hundred percent love. Now I am involving her skill and expertise in multiple projects. As a result of the relationship we built through my own re-brand I can confidently offer it as part of the portfolio of services people working with me can access. Cool eh?
What I am learning from Meg and my own experience is that a good and consistent brand builds trust. Ultimately that is what it is all about. It is trust that can de-fragment the siloed word we live in and connect together diverse perspectives to come up with unique and innovative solutions. Branding and marketing has been used pervasively for too long in a way that undermines trust but that does not make it evil. No more than the chain saw is responsible for the de-forestation of North America. It is the intention and application of the tools that make the difference.
My experience is that branding has made my work more visible and more accessible than ever before. That is not a bad thing. I have not sold out or become some evil overlord of corruption. In fact, I feel profoundly clear and aligned in my work and I am visible in the world in a way that truly reflects who I am and what I have to offer. I am not holding back anymore. For the first time ever. Feels good.
Being attacked is part of the gig
My experience is that it is exciting and dangerous to bring this work into places where it has not travelled before with anything other than rhetoric. Exciting because we are cutting new ground, helping people align their visions and language with their delivery - whether that be an event or a longer term change process. Dangerous because what we are doing fundamentally challenges the status quo. That goes not only for the leaders but the revolutionaries who have been fighting against them - both are going to go for you at some point! I have been accused of selling out by friends, called a sham on public radio call ins and been manipulated by leaders for political ends. Just to name a few. Every time I have healed, learned and come back to fray stronger and less naïve.
So many roles are dependent on how things are, that when it comes to change; even those that have been calling for it get profoundly disturbed. Be ready to kick back. I have had to learn how to speak in the moment from a place of clarity. There is a part of me, a feeling inside me, I can trust and when I respond from there things seems to work out ok. A huge part of my personal work is building and maintaining the relationship to that part of myself. If I cannot trust myself and keep my seat in all of this confusion, change and newness - why should someone else trust me to help them navigate through it?
In some ways it is not about being protected but more about being ready and open to receive whatever comes without taking it personally. That way I can learn, discern and move on. There’s some good advice in the 2001 message from the Hopi Elders again:
"At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, let alone ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over."
Turn in for impact
I don’t know how it is for others but it is not common in my network to be trying to position yourself in the mainstream. I have always admired those that have gone for it. I look at Ole Quist Sorenson and his work at Bigger Picture and Greg Judelman’s work with The Moment as two examples I see. I feel like we need to get experiments out there that share learnings far and wide. We cannot enter the mainstream as a whole community. We are too diverse. Those who are up for it must refit, resize, rebrand and head out to explore. That’s always been the nature of the work, just when I set out I did not imagine it would be in the very places I was fighting against. I thought I could in the words of Buckminster Fuller “build the new and make the old obsolete.” I now no longer think it is that simple. That creates a picture of us and them, right and wrong, good and bad that I am no longer willing to buy into.
The breakdown of relationship between the change makers and the mainstream needs to be bridged so we can all learn how to innovate ourselves out of the mess we are in. The future generations demand that we get over our doubt and fear and start to work together. I feel compelled to bring everything I have been learning on the edges of society, into the middle. It feels like time. It actually feels like the next edge for me but rather then being outward facing and pushing boundaries in the world, it is inward facing and pushing boundaries inside of me. Demanding I turn up differently, find a way to stay true to my inner clarity yet adapt my work so it can have impact in the mainstream.
This turning in with my work reflects my own inner journey. So much of my life has been outward facing – seeking joy and fulfillment through my work in the world. Thinking if I achieved this one next great project or goal I would be happy. I am finding the more I turn into myself and go places I have avoided the more peace I discover. In a bizarre way it is by facing and working with the things I have been most afraid of that I am truly discovering a way to access, relax with and leverage my own power for the greatest positive impact.
Looking forward to hearing your connections and reflections too ... What are your experiences? How do you find your inner journey reflects your outer work? How can we lead change in a fearlessly visionary and relentlessly practical way?
Get the blog in your email inbox: