Greater Impact Blog

I recently spoke with Shiraz Oken, an expert on organizational change who has worked many large corporations across the world. Here are some of her helpful insights on successfully managing the change process.

You’re an expert in leading change. Change is now more critical than ever – why?

Organizations today face internal and external pressures to change, some of the changes are planned like technology upgrades,

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The Greater Impact of Shiraz Oken and Managing Change

I recently spoke with Shiraz Oken, an expert on organizational change who has worked many large corporations across the world. Here are some of her helpful insights on successfully managing the change process.

You’re an expert in leading change. Change is now more critical than ever – why?

Organizations today face internal and external pressures to change, some of the changes are planned like technology upgrades, mergers, acquisitions, integrations and changes in leadership, staff and other. Added to this is deep external pressure for companies to become deeply digital as they compete with digitally enabled start-ups that are taking significant slices out of their markets, and this applies across industry groups. Developing change-capable workforces that can be mobilized fast to help your organization pursue market opportunities, as digital technologies disrupt the way business has been done, is essential to the future success most organizations.

What are some things we need to think about to skillfully lead change?

I identify four primary steps in managing change: 

  1. Define the change. Be clear on what is changing, what it means and how it will potentially impact you, your team, and your organization. Be clear about what you are driving toward becoming, and what success would look like.
  2. Enable the change by aligning leaders and key stakeholders around a  defined roadmap for delivering the change and measure progress along the way.   
  3. Engage relevant stakeholders appropriately through effective communication, training, and performance support and in providing ongoing feedback.
  4. Embed the change in your organization’s operations so that the change becomes part of “business as usual” by ensuring that the people who will be expected to sustain the change are engaged and informed along the way, so that transition to operations is seamless. 

Not all changes are the same, some changes require minimal effort and intervention — for example, a small change to an existing technology can be addressed through a simple communication. On the other hand, transformational change that involves changes to the culture, the operating model, implementing new systems and processes, needs a robust plan to manage risks that could erode the return on investment in that change.

Our change models have evolved to better support short opportunity cycles. I see my role as not only providing guidance on a specific change, but providing people with the skills and the tools to effectively lead change in the long term, in essence making your workforce more agile.

Can you give any examples of this?

Nadia, there are so many examples. High-profile examples of agile startups that have “eaten the lunch” of more traditional bricks and mortar organizations include, of course, Amazon and Netflix. Not all organizations necessarily want to be first to market. However, many traditional retailers are investing deeply, to try and take back market share from companies like Amazon, and most have found that their biggest barrier to making this change as fast as they would like is their own lack of agility. 

I work regularly with companies looking to drive market advantage through various strategies. Change involves an initial investment of time, money and effort. Realizing the targeted benefits from the change is dependent on multiple factors, including the ability of your organization to effectively drive the change. Generally speaking, the longer it takes to get people moving in a desired direction the more it costs, and more opportunities are potentially lost as competitors.

Another example is a financial services company (top 10 in its sector) that made a large investment in technology and developed an application that had the potential to transform the industry, as it enabled consumers to manage their own insurance and investment portfolios end-to-end from sales and underwriting, scheduling medicals, getting approvals accounting and payment solutions online. After piloting the app, the market was abuzz with anticipation. However, major resistance from various departments, leaders, and employees caused the launch to be delayed multiple times, and eventually delayed indefinitely to give the company time to adapt to the future state and to rally greater support from key stakeholders. A year later, a new and unknown startup went ahead and launched a better version of the application, and followed up with additional innovative services and took their place as a top-five financial services companies in its market. 

Organizations need to build their change muscle so that when the need for major change occurs their organization is ready, willing and able to lead the charge.

For more information, please feel free to reach out at

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Networking For Success

How do YOU Handle Awkward Encounters?

Awkward  encounters come in many forms, but the two that can cause the most discomfort are those when you are greeted by someone who treats you like an old friend when you have no idea who they are or how they know you and, conversely, when you clearly remember that you have  been introduced to someone several times, and they look at you blankly when you greet them.

So how do you handle these awkward moments without feeling humiliated or inflicting an insult? 

For starters, don’t express your anger or irritation when someone whom you have already been introduced to several times does not recognize you. It is often one’s instinct is to feel rejected and somehow angry that you have not been recognized, but that is counterproductive. It is more empowering to respond with some humor. Try responding with the following:  “You may not remember me, but I have had the pleasure of meeting you several times, so you must be more memorable than I am.” Or, you can also choose to ignore the slight, and graciously accept your reintroduction.

And what about that friendly face that has you drawing a blank? You could say something like “You look so familiar, forgive me, what is your first name?” That is so much more gracious and kind than saying “I don’t remember you.”

And no, you are not lying; you are simply being gracious.

Some people don’t remember others because they are distracted — and sometimes, yes, they may simply be unaware or arrogant. But whatever the reason, your good humor is certainly preferable to a rebuke. The key here is to gently make yourself memorable without making the person feel guilty for not remembering you.

I firmly believe that if you approach uncomfortable situations with grace, kindness and good humor, you will have more joyful and beneficial interactions.

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The Greater Impact of Becky Blalock

Becky Blalock is a consultant, speaker, former CIO at Southern Company, and author of Dare: Straight Talk on Confidence, Courage, and Career for Women in Charge. I recently had the opportunity to chat with her about what it takes for women to own their space and step forward confidently. Here are some of her powerful insights. 

What are the qualities that have helped you succeed?

I really think there are two things. Number one is integrity. I always tell people never compromise yourself, even on the little things. I saw so many times, even in corporate America, where people said they’d do something and they didn’t. If I tell you I’m going to do something and I can’t, you’ll hear back from me about why I couldn’t do it.  

Some people look at you as a role model and think you’re just naturally confident. What would you say?

As human beings, we’re not programmed to be confident. Most of our thoughts aren’t confident. We inherited that from our ancestors, who if they took a lot of risks, they wouldn’t have survived. But ask yourself, if it’s something that’s going to kill you or physically harm you? If not, go do it. How many times have you wanted to ask a question but you didn’t?

What advice would you have for the younger you?

First, get clear about what it is you want. I had a situation midway into my career that I wish had happened earlier. I seemed to be stuck, I couldn’t progress beyond where I was. One of my superiors said, if you don’t know what it is you want, chances are you aren’t going to get it. You need to be thinking not just about your next job, but about the job you ultimately want to have, because you need to start training for that now. I mulled that around for a couple weeks, then I said to him, I think I’d like to be VP at this company. We came up with a list of goals, and skills I needed to develop. Then he helped me think through how I was going to go about getting all those experiences.  

Second, once you know what it is you want, you’ve got to go for it. Don’t let negative thoughts tell you that you can’t do it and shut you down.

What would you say to younger women?

I tell my daughter, quit doubting yourself. She’s a very successful pharmacist, graduated cum laude, but there are still times when she doesn’t see the potential in herself that I do. Everyone’s faking it – not in an insincere way, but we’re all trying to get through the day as best we can. 

I took a psychology course and I learned that there had been a study that said human beings all want the same thing, acceptance. If you can go into every relationship thinking, this person just wants to be accepted like me, you become a lot more tolerant and open to other perspectives, and that makes you more successful in life overall.