Guest post by Jonathan Anthony
In Change Agents Worldwide, we had a conversation thread recently about how we talk about each other, so that others might know us better. Lois Kelly and I agreed to correspond. Now, I have never met Lois in person. So what am I to suppose?
Well, importantly, and this is pivotal to the ideas of social business practice, I do know her through the network, through others with whom I have high trust relationships. This trust, and the value one puts into it, passes between network nodes like a genetic marker. It resonates.
Honestly, this network value is enough for me to say I value Lois. It is an automatic recommendation. But what happens when I dig a little deeper?
Before our video meeting, I clicked her avatar and profile page in our Change Agents network. Immediately, I get something more, partially by what is left out.
There is a close up headshot photo of her welcoming smile and her kind eye (singular). Her photo is cut in half, we see one the right side of her face. This I like, because it makes me wonder: what else? What is out of frame, awaiting discovery?
This resonates. I have long used an avatar of the top half of my face, eyes looking up, searching for something. It is the look of wondering, of seeking and creativity. This is how I hope people see me.
Then there is her “descriptor”: Creatively uncovering, communicating possibilities.
Sure, I’m buying.
In VUCA times, possibilities are all that are available to us. It is a great place to aim for. I am distrusting of those who have answers all the time. I do know that Lois is a driving force behind Rebels at Work, and I have read a lot of that team’s writing, used quotes in presentations, and been inspired by the simple, direct ideals.Her brief bio includes:
The answers are found by listening and discovering in new ways, with unusual questions.
Lois’ website even has a section called #365questions – she clearly doesn’t lack for inquiry!
So, I have a start, and plenty of holes. What is missing, what is just out of shot? Turns out, plenty enough for one hour of video chat!
We are all multifaceted, there is always more to us than anyone can know. We should be careful to boil someone down to the bare essentials. So, I shall share what I feel about Lois’ competitive advantage – what I sensed in her that is rare compared to all the other geniuses out there in the world.
I am always looking for a balance in people, how they manage the necessary tension in being multi-dimensional, how they hold themselves in the dance of dichotomy. For me, Lois’ tension is between rebelliousness toward, and relevance to, corporate audiences.
I am naturally attracted to the rebellious side. What’s not to love about someone who
“gets shot out of a cannon every morning”!?
That is a simple enough reason to say “I like you!” Her Rebels @ Work driver is such personal work for her – she has been charging into work for her entire career asking “Why don’t we do it that/this way?”
Early on in her career, that creative, exuberant approach got her into tight spots, stepping on (or maybe laying) landmines, until a senior leader told her, “Get revenue attached to your ideas, and you will be successful.” Madison Avenue beckoned, and the rest is (her) history (to tell).
So, here we have an ideas person. I meet plenty of those, always interesting, often marginalized. Lois is different. She is relevant. She understands organizational politics, she knows when to push and prompt, and when to wait and encourage emergence.
She can act as an external rebel and she can work to cultivate the internal rebels to develop the processes need for change. Importantly, she reads the executive to see if they want to engage in the profound underpinning discussions of change or if they want to keep things simple.
Often, the intellectual, challenging conversations (the ones practitioners cherish) will ‘bore them to death.’ So she instead works to unlock the ‘one thing to do to get things moving.’
She leans on her studies of positive psychology and behavioural science – 95% of our decision-making is managed in our sub-conscious, so unlocking that understanding allows leaders to have better conversations about why they like what they like and want what they want.
This search for, and understanding of, relevance in the workplace led her to write a 2005 book (on what we might today call “social business”, among many contentious monikers for the workplace changes we see happening in the 21st century,) about “Conversational Marketing.”
Making it safe for leaders to investigate emergent practices and ready themselves for change, one step at a time, is prescient. Many contemporary #SocBiz visionaries struggle to make their views coherent enough for big business to buy. Lois has it down.
This ying-yang of rebel and relevance is a beautiful thing to observe. It ebb and flows so naturally in conversation, it is a lullaby for change. Is that balance, that interplay, her natural genius? Possibly. But she is also a constant learner too, she is never satisfied that she is done. Hers is a work in progress.
I will finish with a weird and whimsical image, one which I hope Lois will enjoy. If it is spot on, then she takes the acclaim as someone who shares creatively and naturally. If it is off mark, put it down to my active imagination that she was able to stir quite delightfully in a video chat hour that flew by.
On her website she lists a passion for uncovering “aha.” It conjured for me an image of the Fabulous Cannon of Aha, with Lois, smiling wryly, lighting the torch paper. The customer has three choices at the start of every day:
- Lois can fire you from the cannon,
- you can fire her from the cannon, or
- you can both be fired from the cannon, and she will hold your hand the whole way.
The choice is yours! But here’s the thing: no matter which choice, it will work and it will be fun.
This post first appeared on the ←This Much We Know.→ blog.