Overcoming Change Fatigue in the Workplace with Jenny Magic


In this episode, we delve into the prevalent issue of change fatigue within the corporate landscape, a phenomenon amplified by constant shifts and adaptations in today’s work environment.

Jenny Magic joins me to unravel the complexities behind change fatigue and its significant impact on employees and organizational dynamics. She offers a deep dive into how leaders can recognize, address, and navigate this growing concern to foster a more adaptive and resilient workplace culture.

Jenny Magic

Jenny Magic has spent the past two decades in as a communications strategist, serving a wide range of clients – from Sesame Street to AARP, Prudential to Purdue, and a whole slew of tech companies. She’s now focused on helping teams combat burnout and eliminate “Unworkable Work.” She’s co-author of CHANGE FATIGUE: Flip Teams From Burnout to Buy-In, and she lives in Austin with her architect husband and two young sons.


🔑 Key Themes & Takeaways:

  • The Reality of Change Fatigue: Unpack the concept of ‘change tokens’ and understand how the pandemic and technological advancements have escalated the demand for adaptability in the workplace. 🔄

  • Signs of Change Fatigue: Learn how to identify the subtle and overt signs of change fatigue among employees, from silence and resistance to the more insidious forms like stalling and deprioritizing. 🚩

  • Strategic Leadership and Change Management: Explore strategies for leaders to manage their own and their team’s capacity for change, ensuring that change initiatives are thoughtful, well-prioritized, and genuinely necessary. 🛠️

  • Overcoming Overwhelm: Discuss the balance between operational efficiency and innovative capacity, and how to create space within organizations for necessary changes without overwhelming employees. ⚖️

  • Authentic Engagement and Support: Delve into the importance of genuine leadership involvement in change initiatives and the role of psychological safety in facilitating open dialogue and feedback. 👥

  • Prioritizing and Stacking Successes: Discover the benefits of prioritizing change initiatives to enhance effectiveness and reduce burnout, using strategic selection to build momentum and achieve better outcomes. 🏆

We talk about:

  • 2:55 What is change fatigue and why is it important that leaders understand the reality of it

  • 5:21 Signs of change fatigue

  • 6:45 What is our capacity or limit for change

  • 9:11 How Jenny helps leaders

  • 10:22 Overview of the steps of change outlined in her book

  • 12:41 What people can do to make sure they’re solving the right problem

  • 18:21 What can sponsors be asking

  • 21:17 What happens if we don’t do this

  • 23:55 Where does a change office or transformation office sit in this plan

  • 26:29 Journey mapping

  • 29:42 How stakeholder and journey maps help with communication

  • 34:17 Team dynamics in change

  • 39:40 The impact of COVID and change depending on privilege of workers

  • 43:57 Unworkable work

  • 47:57 Her templates

  • 48:57 Rapid fire questions

🌈 Closing Thoughts:

By acknowledging and addressing the challenges of change fatigue, leaders and employees can work together towards a more engaged, efficient, and adaptable work environment. We encourage listeners to reflect on their own experiences with change fatigue and consider the strategies discussed in this episode to enhance resilience and drive meaningful change in their organizations. Share your thoughts, experiences, or questions, and join us in embracing adaptive challenges as opportunities for growth and innovation.

Show More Show Less

Carolyn: Today, we are going to be talking about something that every single one of you as leaders. Experience and you are responsible for leading, and that is change. My guest today is Jenny magic, and she co authored a book called change fatigue. And I thought she would be wonderful to have on the show because I think change fatigue probably.

Is a great way to describe how many, if not all of us are feeling when it comes to our days at work and Jenny has spent the past two decades as a communication strategist and she has served a wide range of clients. And so with her recent work that she co authored change fatigue, it’s really going to bring some light, some insight to help you help your teams combat burnout and really look at ways that you can make change happen in a really productive way and making sure that you’re doing the right work. So I’m really excited. I’ve read her book, change fatigue, and I’m excited to have this conversation with her.

Well, hello evolve community. We are back with another episode and I’m telling you, if, if, if our pre conversation is anything is an indicator of where this conversation is going to go, you’re going to, you’re just going to have so many nuggets to learn from Jenny magic. Welcome to the show.

Jenny: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here.

Carolyn: Yeah, we, we started, like, we started talking away and, and, and then, you know, we had to, we had to stop and just sort of get record going because, um, we certainly share a love of organizational dynamics, um, team dynamics.

And what I’m really excited to talk to you about is your book and your area of specialty around change fatigue.

Jenny: Yeah, it’s such a painful point right now.

Carolyn: it is and, you know, um. I think it’s, it’s probably, I know, I, if I put myself back in, in my shoes, when I was in the corporate world, I never wanted to admit that I was tired of change because I wanted to be a good employee

Jenny: Yeah.

Carolyn: and I mean, that was, gosh, eight, 10 years ago now and change and transformation and just flexibility, like adaptability, these are all ways we have to show up at work every day, all So I would, I would just love to start off by hearing from you, um, about.

Like this concept of change fatigue and why it’s so important that leaders Understand the reality of it. We’re getting right. We’re getting right into it

Jenny: Dig right in. Well, I think, you know, one of the things that you have to start understanding a contact is as humans, we are curious and change and novelty is something that we are drawn to as humans. So our natural state is often leaning into what’s new and what’s novel and innovation. That’s when, when we are happy and balanced.

We do want to change and so when you find yourself in an organization that has really stalled out and you’re getting a lot of pushback and there’s just kind of a, you announce a change that seems like a good idea and the room is kind of just quiet or, or off on the side conversations. There’s like, not again, you know, that something is out of balance.

And, um, you know, for a lot of organizations, I think there is a couple of things going on. We have kind of a perfect storm happening, um, in terms of what the pandemic did, uh, forcing a bunch of change on a hybrid or remote workplace. And, uh, you know, one of the things I like to talk about is something I refer to as change tokens.

Uh, you really only get so many change tokens to put in the slot with, with individuals. There’s like a limited amount of change that we’re able to thoughtfully absorb on top of whatever we consider our day job. And I feel like, you know, we’ve got leaders who are kind of trying to keep. Spending those change tokens, and they’re not they’re not transacting.

It’s not working because there’s just such a high volume. Gartner found that in 2022, the average employee faced 10 enterprise change initiatives up from 2 in 2016. So that’s it. Tenfold increase in eight years. And these are, when you say enterprise change, it’s often not like new products and services.

It’s much more like a new communication system, a different way of collaborating, a new file storage structure, a project management tool, these sort of improvements around the work. And I think a lot of teams are just done, at least, um, in the short term.

Carolyn: Well, absolutely. I mean, I remember some of that happening before I left the corporate world and it was like, well, wait a sec. We have to learn how to do workday. I’m just so used to, like, picking up and calling my HRBP and so there’s this whole thing about cognitive load and then trying to change our own patterns.

Um, so, like, what are sort of some signs. Of of this change fatigue, I mean, you, you had mentioned just now that if people don’t get excited, um, what, like, what might be some other other signs that. Leaders can look for,

Jenny: Yeah, I think some of the most obvious ones are sort of, um, either silence or active resistance. And, you know, depending on the organization, it can be either one of those. But, you know, if, if you’re like, Hey, guess what? We’re going to switch to a thing and there’s, there’s grumbling and there’s side conversations and there’s talking to the management about, you know, why do we have to do this?

I’m like, is this really necessary? Um, those are the ones that are sort of obvious to spot. Yeah. But. One of the most insidious facts about change fatigue is, especially in knowledge work, it’s really hard to see. It’s often tucked away to your point at the top of the call. You didn’t want to look like the person who wasn’t into change.

So, um, in a lot of cases, you get, um, an announcement at all hands that we’re going to do a thing. And there’s a lot of like smiling and nodding. And even if you ask people, they’ll say, yeah, that sounds like a great idea. But then you pull together the cross functional team and it’s like, Oh, well, we couldn’t meet for three weeks because Joe was out.

And, you know, there’s a lot of, um, kicking the can down the road, stalling, um, slow playing, deprioritizing plausible deniability. All of that tends to be a symptom that the idea hasn’t fully got the buy in it needs to overcome whatever inertia or change fatigue might be there.

Carolyn: Yeah, well, and I mean, how much space do we really have in our day for change? Like, is there, is there change? I’m trying to think of a fun little word, but like, there’s change overwhelm. Like, when do we stop with the change? And maybe that’s not even the right word. Do you know, do you know what I’m saying though?

Jenny: Well, and I think part of the problem is our obsession with productivity has absolutely hampered our ability to innovate because when you are insisting that your employees are fully utilized every single minute of the workday and that everything is as efficient as it can be, there are no gaps for change.

And so, you know, unless you have a team that’s. Sitting around a day a week. They don’t have 20 percent of their time to add to a change initiative. Not only that, I think a lot of leaders tend to think of change in terms of the rational project management Gantt chart type change. Like we need to evaluate this and then we need to RFP that and then it will take this long to do training.

But there’s processing time in there. Um, you know, there’s time for us to change our patterns. Uh, there’s, you know, just being able to accept new things takes time. And I think a lot of leaders don’t have any clear concept a of what their employees are doing on a day in and day out basis and B how much time it will take for a particular change initiative to be fully internalized.

I think if you’re underestimating both of those is where you get in this mess.

Carolyn: Well, and then, you know, you want to push the change through because to go back to productivity, I’ve got X, Y goal that needs to happen, or I’ve got this new strategy. So, emotionally, we try and push that away and stay stuck in our rational brain. Like, well, no, no, no, we’ll just do it. Let’s, let’s just be logical and move forward.

Um, you know, one of the things that I remember. And you had it in your book too, um, I’m trying to remember the name of my book. It’s just over my bookshelf change and transitions. It was 1 of those sort of, like, books that everybody read about change. We were given as as managers years ago. But this is what stood, uh, that stood out to me is that change involves a degree of loss

Jenny: Yes.

Carolyn: and that really stuck with me because if we don’t allow ourselves to recognize that loss, and it doesn’t mean we need to dwell and, you know.

Stay around there for days and weeks and months. Um, can you come in a little bit and I know we’re kind of jumping around cause in your book you have this wonderful process. Um, but we’re like, how do you help leaders or where does this fall into the process of, of change plans?

Jenny: I think the last piece is something we all understand, like, from our real life. We understand, like, when you get married, you lose single life. When you have a child, you lose child free life. Like, there, it’s It’s not necessarily like grieving. We’re not asking people to take their employees on a big emotional journey, but just acknowledging like every single change requires a pivot from the way that things used to be to the way things are.

And that disrupts the status quo that humans are always trying to get back to. So I think just as leaders, um, Allowing for the resistance to change any change to be acceptable, human, not personal, not about the change. And frankly, not very well combated with rational argument. Right? So this is a place where someone’s like, do we have to, I like being able to just pick up the phone.

This is not the place for the feature benefit list of the new tool. This is like, I know it’s going to stink not talking to Jill as much, but you know, these are the, Okay. You know, I hear you. I validate that. And also, we’re moving in that direction.

Carolyn: Yeah. Now, you wrote, um, you wrote your book with a co author, Melissa. Um, yeah, so change fatigue here. I have it on my, on my Kindle. Um, Can you just summarize for us what the steps are? I know you have like, 5 chapters in there and you sort of took people through this. Um, and what I appreciated about it is it wasn’t a process.

Did I say that word right? I don’t know if it was

Jenny: Pro sci. Yes. Mm hmm.

Carolyn: wasn’t a process list. I thought it was a really nice, comprehensive acknowledgement of really important stages for, um, Change facilitators and change leaders to be aware of. Right,

Jenny: at the bottom line, what we’re really trying to do with the book is talk about building buy in. So thinking about, um, you know, the first step is making sure you are solving the right problem. So if you are in any way unsure if this is exactly the right thing to do, then that’s sort of like, throw on the brakes.

And I think, um, a

Carolyn: that really happen? Does that really happen where people aren’t solving the right thing?

Jenny: And I think so much of the time, if you’re able to do a true cost benefit analysis of what the thing is, is actually going to cost in terms of time and change tokens and processing and status quo, a lot of the things that people pitch, wouldn’t it be great if we shifted from this tool to that tool? And, you know, it’ll only take three months to move the data, but then you start calculating all the different impacts of this Particular transition.

A lot of times the outcome, the benefit is really minor compared to the disruption and the opportunity cost. Um, one of the things we talk about a lot is that we are no longer deciding between good and bad ideas. Like when two things are up on the table for us to consider prioritizing. It’s not like, oh, one is going to have a benefit and the other has medium to low benefit.

It’s like, We have a ton of great ideas available to us. Every business leader has a ton of places that they could improve and grow. And frankly, for every single one of those opportunities, there’s a dozen apps for that, right? Like there’s so many different ways that you could solve any particular problem.

And so, um, I think solving the right problem is actually something that a lot of leaders wouldn’t admit that they are even. You know, like, of course, I’m solving the right problem. We’ve thought about it. We know what we’re doing. And in fact, often, there are a lot of problems with the rational cost benefit analysis.

That’s that’s been done. It just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t hold up, uh, over time. Right?

Carolyn: And so what are, how do you, how do you, how do you, what are a few things that people can do to make sure they are solving the right problem?

Jenny: Um, really, it’s just bringing in the voices of the people that are going to be impacted. And so, uh, a lot of times a leader has a perception of something as a problem, but they’re not really on the ground, uh, dealing with that particular issue. And so I think in a lot of cases they are, um. Misinformed if I’m being generous or willfully ignorant if I’m not about what it’s actually going to take and what it’s actually going to solve.

So a lot of times I’ll have a project that I’ve got brought in. The leader said, we’re, we’re certain we’re doing this. We have a new expensive tool. Um, I just need you to come in and help sort of synthesize with the team and, and bring on adoption. And the first meeting with the team, the team says, we don’t need this.

There’s no reason that we’re doing this. This is an expensive waste of everyone’s time. And if they just asked us, we would have let them know that we don’t feel like this is, this is reasonable. I think a lot of times that’s the unfortunate scenario, um, with some of this change, or they say, you know, we’ve tried this five times, this leader is new here and they think they’ve got a great idea, but we’ve been down this road and guess what, when we get to this part where it gets tricky, they’re going to bail, they’re not going to give us the resources, they’re not going to give us the time.

And so you end up sort of with this. Very preventable scenario. If we just had open conversation, you know, if we had high psychological safety and people were able to speak up before things were that far down the road, many of the projects that are that are problematic and really inducing this change fatigue would probably have not made it to the green light phase.

Carolyn: So we’ve got solving for the right problem.

Jenny: Yeah.

Carolyn: Where do we go next as leaders? Teach us, Jenny. Teach

Jenny: Absolutely, absolutely. So after we’ve made sure that we’ve got the right people in the conversation and that we’ve actually named the pain that this particular solution may solve and thought about the root cause, like, are we actually solving the symptom or the actual root cause? Because a lot of organizations also like playing whack a mole with symptoms instead of getting down to the root cause.

The root cause problem that can also eliminate a lot of change fatigue, solving it once and for all, instead of trying to address the problems. Um, and then trying to figure out if we’ve got a clear decision framework for moving forward. We intend to solve this pain that these people have validated, and we’re going to do it using these criteria, whatever the solution is, it has to do X and Y and Z in order for us to consider it a solution, right?

So now we have a clear. A clear plan to start thinking about what solution might we be working towards from there. We really need to sell the vision. We need genuine and authentic sponsorship from our leaders. And unfortunately, and especially with the kind of change that I’m referring to, which is kind of like optional change that it doesn’t

Carolyn: where I was going to ask. Yeah, you’re not talking about these big, massive transformations, um,

Jenny: Right. Like, you know, we have to comply with a new privacy law or we can’t operate in Europe. Like that’s a must do that change has to happen. And those changes tend to get this kind of rigorous attention. It’s the changes that are like one level down from that they impact. broad swaths of the company.

It’s the processes we use to do our job. It’s the technology and tools we use. It’s the way teams report and, um, you know, get approvals from each other and collaborate. Like those kinds of changes can be incredibly disruptive, but they often don’t get this level of scrutiny on you. You also don’t tend to have, uh, in a lot of cases, you don’t have leaders that are fully bought in.

They sort of approve or green light the philosophy or the general idea. And then they disappear from the scene. And they sort of say, like, that’s a great idea. Why don’t y’all run with that? Like, let’s, let’s go ahead and put in a new system for managing all of our, our files and images, right? Go for it. Um, where in fact, it does need if we’re going to be.

Using a change token and asking our teams to disrupt their day jobs in order to adopt a new thing. It probably deserves, you know, a little more attention than we’ve been giving it. So, in chapter two, we talk about selling the vision where we get genuine sponsorship. We want sponsors and leaders who can repeat back the purpose of the projects and the investment of time and resources that we’re willing to give in order to meet those goals.

A lot of times, if I say, hey, leader, have you, have you heard about this new, uh, Blank blank tech tool system that we’re doing and they’ll go. Yeah, that’s a great idea. You’re going to need to talk to Joe about that, right? They don’t have a sense of the ins and outs and nuts and bolts. We need those clear, visible leaders.

Um, all sorts of change management research shows that projects are four times more likely to succeed with a clear and visible sponsorship from executive leaders. So, you know, that’s an important step to not overlook, right?

Carolyn: And I’m going to guess that how well you define the problem will really help you get the sponsorship because what comes to mind is, um, again, I’m going to go back to my days being in a big organization where, um, you couldn’t get onto the agenda very easily,

Jenny: You’re

Carolyn: but you can probably get onto the agenda easier.

I’m not saying it’s, it’s, it’s a, an automatic, but when you can really clearly define what you’re asking for and the problem you’re trying to solve,

Jenny: Right. And if people

Carolyn: Is that your experience?

Jenny: hundred percent, you need your leaders to hear it and believe it. Because a lot of times I think, you know, leaders like, I mean, that sounds great. Do we really have to do this? But man, the train seems to have left the station. I guess I just give them my support as a leader.

And there’s not. You know, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of accountability for what it is we’re trying to achieve until about mid project when things start to go sideways. And it’s like, wait, what are we doing? Whose idea was this? How do we, how do we get this back on track? You don’t want to find yourself there, especially with so many, so few choices and options to get your team to change willingly.


Carolyn: So what are some of the things that sponsors could be asking and making sure, um, that they are clear on so that they don’t become just this like figurehead.

Jenny: Absolutely. I think it’s important for the sponsors to ask the whoever’s enthusiastically spearheading this project who they’ve talked to in the organization. So I would, you know, as a senior leader, I would say, Oh, great. It sounds like you think we need a new project management tool. Have you talked to all the directors at their level and gotten feedback?

What are you hearing from the teams? You know, have we been able to have. Real feedback trade hands. We like to talk about in the book, we called it confidential inquiry. Basically just these cone of silence conversations where people who’ve been around the block with your organization are able to speak their truth without fear of like using social capital or hurting someone’s feelings, or, you know, like if the boss has an idea for a great project and they think it’s a terrible idea, we need a safe place for them.

To say that some organizations are great at this. They have high psychological safety. Other organizations need to bring in a facilitator, a third party to kind of help, um, make sure everyone feels like they can speak their truth without it getting, uh, having a job impact. Right. So that’s a really important part too, is for the leaders to say, have we really heard from everyone and do they really think this is a good idea?

Like what’s the enthusiasm level for the people impacted? Mm

Carolyn: isn’t to tell them what to do step by step, but it’s, it’s this inquiry inquiry as well, asking questions and making sure that they have the insight, the feedback, the perspective of people are going to be impacted by it.

Jenny: Yeah, and I would ask, um, what resistance have you faced to this change? And if the leader says none, everybody’s so excited. It’s, it’s just going to, the project is just going to. You know, complete itself. That’s a red flag. That’s a sign that there’s probably been a glossing over of feedback. There should be some resistance.

There should be some feedback and negativity about, um, refining the way that, so you might hear a realistic answer to that might be, well, we were going to go with a big expensive tool, but, you know, we heard from the teams that they’d rather pilot something with a small group, figure out which of these three options.

So, you know, we’ve just, we’ve refined the process to be a little bit narrower, um, Based on feedback, right? Like, those are the kinds of answers you should hear from a project that’s on the right track, um, things that are always glossy and rosy and moving right along are going to run into something, uh, mid project that they haven’t uncovered yet.


Carolyn: what you shared there. The questions that can be asked to ensure that they have the perspective and all of the information to move forward.

That leader doesn’t have to take all of that on or know all of it. The power is in asking the questions.

Jenny: Yeah. The other key question that is absolutely essential is what happens if we don’t do this? Because oftentimes the status quo is not intolerable. It’s just improvable. And so if you’ve got an organization that anytime something is improvable, you’re moving forward with a project to improve it. You probably have too many projects in play.

Um, there’s a fabulous, uh, Maxim Little’s law that basically says as the number of things The number of projects increases, the throughput decreases. So you can, the more things that you’re doing at once, the slower each one of them will go. And so as a leader, your job should be both to green light projects that seem to make sense, but also minimize the number of initiatives happening at any one time, so that we can speed each one through to success instead of having 10 initiatives dragging on forever.

So the question for your leaders is, you know, the, the folks trying to push these changes through what happens if we don’t do this now, this quarter, this year or ever, like what is the negative ramification and that, that negative needs to be big enough that it boots something else out of the lineup, right?

Because we, we can’t just keep adding new things to the lineup. That’s where we end up with this change, fatigue, burnout, quiet, quitting, low employee engagement. That’s so many organizations are trying to figure out how to deal with right now. Yeah,

Carolyn: these changes are getting pushed through with like, without that level of information and they just kinda get into the system and then it’s like, holy shit, we can’t turn back now. Mm.

Jenny: absolutely. I think one of the things that happens is the leader, the decision maker will green light. Yeah, let’s look into that. Let’s pursue. Let’s figure out if we want to do that. And what they’re trying to do is figure out whether or not something should be a real project. But before you know it, it kind of snowballs into a real project organically, right?

Like a cross functional teams pulled together. You start doing interviews. People say, Oh, we’re going to change that. Fantastic. Let’s go. And Yeah. Yeah. A whole bunch of things that were intended to be inquiries into what we might do and have some of them selected and some of them shelved. Now, all of them are sort of snowballing forward and we need leaders to be a little bit more decisive and a little bit more clear, like, I would love for you to be able to come back and prove to me X and Y and Z before it becomes broad knowledge that we might Solve the problem with a new tool or a new process or a reorg.

Right? And so I think the leader needs to be a little clearer on the front about what makes it to the inquiry threshold or the, you know, the pre evaluation threshold, so to speak.

Carolyn: So I wanted to head into, um, the journey map and the, the stakeholder map. ’cause I love that piece. I do. I wanna ask this other question ’cause it’s been bubbling in my mind. Where does a change office or transformation office sit in amongst all this?

Jenny: um, the answer, I believe is everywhere. Um, I think this is something that, um. That is true in a lot of new fields or fields that are getting new attention. We were just laughing the other day about how organizations used to have like an email marketing department, and now they’re just part of the marketing department because email is just part of the way that we

Carolyn: Right.

Jenny: Um, D. E. And I is going through the same. thing right now. You know, for the last few years, there’s been sort of a separate office committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging type issues. And we’re seeing that a lot of the organizations that are really succeeding at that are embedding it throughout the enterprise.

Not that not that the, you know, doesn’t still deserve that place of honor and center and having a department, but it doesn’t have the same impact if it stands alone in a silo. I think change is actually really similar. It’s one of the reasons we wrote this book. In a lot of cases, change management, I like to say capital C, capital and change management.

The certification type roles tends to be jargon filled ivory tower, you know, spend six weeks learning how to become a change manager and try to get hired as a dedicated change manager. Is very different from what this book intends to be, which is everybody at every level in every organization needs better change management skills, um, similar to like conflict resolution.

You could have a conflict resolution officer in your organization and HR, or you could just make sure your managers are better at resolving conflict are. You know, hypothesis and philosophy is that if everybody gets 10 percent better at facilitating change, speaking up, saying no, pushing back on decision frameworks, then some changes won’t go forward and the ones that do will be much more thoughtfully considered.

And so, while some organizations of a certain size do need a little bit of, um, you know, centralized C suite department level change thoughtfulness, that often sits in a strategy department. I think the more effective method is to really just make sure that the people who are proposing projects have at least, uh, the framework, you know, the simple framework in this book or similar to kind of like evaluate their own, uh, instincts towards change.

Carolyn: Well, and I noticed throughout the book, you use the word change facilitator, which is another way of saying leader, right? Cause you’re facilitating change, finding purpose and potential and things and acting on it.

Jenny: Yeah, absolutely. And it really is just all of us need to grease the wheels of change and, you know, it’s not a job title. It’s intended to be a skill set that you add in, uh, to, to your, your management and leadership training.

Carolyn: thank you. So back to our regularly scheduled list of questions. Um, so, um, we, we were, um, we were talking about the sponsorship and I think that was leading into, um, the stakeholder, um, and the journey mapping and that sort of thing. Yeah, really helpful tools there. Great.

Jenny: in marketing communications to external audiences. And my specialty for 20 years has been thinking about empathy, audience personas, um, journey mapping and taking a customer or a client through a very specific journey with your marketing materials. And what I realized, uh, over the last five years or so is that those exact same tools are.

Really effective when you think about taking your employees on a change journey, right? And so, um, in the world of marketing, we use audience personas to say, you know, some of our audience is going to be early adopters. They’re going to be comfortable trying something that isn’t fully baked. They’re going to be at the, at the door waiting when we sell something and others are going to need more convincing, right?

Like, so thinking about the mindsets that people come to our decision with, that’s one element is the audience persona. And then the journey is how do we take different personas. Through whatever decision we would like them to make when we’re talking about external audiences, it might be by our thing or sign up for a newsletter.

Like, how do I get them on that journey when we’re talking about internal change? It’s, you know, how do I get the, you know, experienced, tenured it guy who likes things the way they are to get excited about an opportunity we have to improve a technology feature. And, and how do I take that mindset? It’s maybe very different from one of my, um, younger, more tech savvy, very interested in change.

Individuals. They might have very different perspectives on what needs to happen and how complex a solution might be able to be. We’re going to need to take each one of them through the journey. It’s not a complicated thing. This is, um, you know, can be done in a simple Excel spreadsheet. We’ve got a link in the book to an air table.

This isn’t like rocket science or heavy templating. It’s just a thought experiment that a lot of organizations skip and can really benefit from slowing down and say, just because someone sits in a certain spot on the org chart. Doesn’t mean they’re going to be willing, capable, excited, et cetera, about whatever it is we’re proposing.

Carolyn: to me, it was, it was, it was a map. It was just creating a map and, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s just, here’s, here’s information data that can help us on this journey.

Jenny: Yeah, it’s especially helpful when we think about things like, um, communications, onboarding training with new tools. Some of our audience is going to be frustrated by an intense amount of training. They’re like, can you just email me the video? I’ll watch it on my own time and I’ll just hit the ground running.

I’d rather, I’d rather learn by doing. And then some of your audience is going to be incredibly intimidated by any new tool. And they’re going to want sort of a hands on walk through chance to sort of mess with that without breaking it under supervision. Um, Understanding the mindsets that are there and, and again, thinking about them, not as like where they sit on the org chart, but the mindset they’re bringing to the change is just so incredibly useful so that you can make certain trainings optional, or you can, you know, figure out different ways to communicate differently.

Carolyn: Now, I know one of the grandfathers of change, John Kotter, he wrote sort of one of those pivotal books. I remember reading it for some of my, my work. I remember he would talk about communication, right? The importance of communication. And one of the things I found in your book that was really refreshing was.

Do not communicate the same thing to everybody all the time. So can you just share with us why it’s important, um, to communicate differently and what those stakeholder maps and journey maps can do to help us with communication?

Jenny: Absolutely. So I think that the first most important principle is the idea of information you make available versus information you push in communications. So on the information you make available, I think there’s a good case for being really transparent. This would be something like on a company intranet page.

If you’re interested in knowing the status of the project, here’s sort of like a deep dive into what we’re doing. That’s a lot of information. It’s transparent, it’s universally available. I’m not trying to like hide certain things from certain groups. That’s a useful, um, foundation piece so that people don’t feel like.

Other people are being informed differently than them. Right. So you have like the facts available to anybody who’s curious. But then in terms of push communications, things that are landing in their inbox, things you’re taking up valuable meeting time to discuss and share. This is a place where you can use those journey maps to say, what is it this group of people needs to understand about this project?

And it’s. Like ding, ding, ding. If you’re announcing things all the time at Allstaff, you’re doing it wrong, right? Because there’s going to be so many different questions by people that are impacted differently that it makes a lot more sense to sort of refine and say, okay, for the people who are doing, this is changing their job in a dramatic way, they’re going to want a lot more information for the people who just need to be, you know, informed that this is happening.

And once a year, they’re going to get an email from a different system that they’re used to. You know, by all means, that can be a passing glance communications. So using that the journey map to sort of identify those folks. We also do a little tool called a blast radius, which is, you know, just exactly what you think of, like, who is in the middle.

That’s going to be like, directly impacted. Their job is changing. They’re going to have feelings about this versus, you know, kind of, as you get the concentric circles out from that, the people that are like. Oh, I didn’t realize marketing did that differently. Oh, that was last year. You know, those levels are going to need different communication and you can use these tools to kind of think through what that might be.

Carolyn: And so what are some of the biggest pitfalls that you see happen when it comes to communication? I know you shared the thing about the website. What are some like really specific things people need to watch out for?

Jenny: Yes, I will say that the people who are closest to the project often have a level of detail that is not necessary for everyone else. And so, if you ask the people who deeply understand how the new knowledge management tool works to send out an email that the system is now live, the language in that email may be Overcomplicated full of jargon.

You know, it’s probably a little dense because they’re so close to it. They’ve been working on it for a period of time, and they’re excited. And so they want to tell you all the features. So I think it’s really important to pair, um, the person who knows the most with it with someone who doesn’t and have them think about the communications to different audiences because the person who’s relatively new ish to the project will say, wait, why Why would you tell them that?

You know, we haven’t even given them the log in. Like, why don’t we lead with that, for example? Um, so I think it’s really important to, um, do less and make things available. Make the full, you know, the full playbook is available on the intranet if you want to go dig deeper, right? So give people hooks into the, you know, that transparent, deeper dive, but just give them what they need to move to the next level.

Again, with the journey map. The way that we think about it in marketing is, you know, to move someone from awareness to consideration, I don’t need to tell them everything about the purchase process. Right? Like, so you’re, you’re doling out information in really thoughtful ways to just get them to the next step.

I think it’s the same thing in the change process.

Carolyn: Well, and I think, you know, again, change is an emotional process. It’s, is it fair to say like that it’s a more of an emotional process than it is a logical process?

Jenny: Yeah. We talk in the book a little bit about the sort of natural human resistance to changing the status quo. And it really doesn’t matter what. The, the change is, but if someone expected one thing and it’s going to be different, there’s going to be a little cognitive dissonance while they work through how they feel about that.

And some people’s immediate response needs to be, you know, they often like no. And then they think through it and they say, well, on second thought, Oh, sure. It makes sense. And just being able to, um, to acknowledge that emotional response is not necessarily rational or about your argument and doesn’t mean that you didn’t have a good argument or logical case for change.

It just means give them a second. Okay.

Carolyn: Yeah, yeah, and, and yeah, take a bit of a pause and I think that leads really nicely into the, the environment within which these changes are trying to be made, um, and the, the team dynamics and so. The safety, the psychological, um, safety of a team plays a big role in this. Does it not?

Jenny: Absolutely. And I think there’s the context of the team and there’s the context of the individual and they play really tightly together. So, you know, in chapter four, we talk a lot about, um, matching individual motivations with organizational motivations. And this is a place where great leaders know where their employees want to grow.

Great leaders know that, you know, this individual might be, um, only dabbling in this particular skill set, but they’d really like to grow into being an expert at that. Or, you know, they, this, They know that this person might not be leading meetings yet, but they really see themselves as eventually, you know, maybe being a spokesperson for the team.

So understanding what it is that individuals are trying to grow into is an essential part of the team dynamic, which you mentioned psychological safety. And, um, I’m super fascinated by Dr. Amy Edmondson’s work and her book, The Fearless Organization. She was the one that came up with this term and, um, you know, the idea being that teams that are able to have open conversation that are, um, have a healthy attitude towards risk and failure that are inclusive where everybody feels like they can speak their opinions and contribute and have a strong, you know, willingness to help.

There’s a supportive environment. Those teams statistically. Over 20 years of research perform better, um, on their day to day jobs as well as on change adoption. So if you’re an organization that foresees a lot of change, you’re, you know, the status quo is going to be evolving, which I feel like in this moment, it’s every single organization.

Um, then you need to be thinking about psychological safety, not as like a quarterly HR training, but as a living, breathing day in and day out. Mechanism for making sure that your teams are healthy enough to sort of roll with the punches. It’s a way to sort of give your teams their vitamin and, um, and get them ready for the challenge of, you know, moving through change and innovation.

And, you know, those four domains seem obvious. And I think something like 74 percent of leaders overestimate their team’s psychological safety. Getting really authentic about benchmarking that and asking the right questions. You know, there’s a simple seven question survey that Amy makes available for free to anyone who wants to take it like this is not something that should be hard, but understanding where your team lands on these quadrants is, you know, incredibly important as a starting point.

Because if you’re weak on psychological safety, whatever change you have in the hopper is going to be a lot harder. And so thinking about getting to know your team and those ways before you try to do a big shift is a big deal.

Carolyn: Yeah, it’s um, I mean, I’m, I’m a big, I’m a big fan of her work as well. And I, I, I think there’s another piece to psych safety that we don’t talk about enough, which is sort of the physio physiology of safety, which is a whole other conversation. Um, but the point is, is if you’re a leader, we really need to invest effort.

Into nurturing that safety, that psychological safety on our teams and, and Amy Edmondson’s work is, is a fantastic resource. I didn’t realize she had a, um, a little assessment there with 7 questions.

Jenny: Yeah, it’s at fearless organization, which is also the name of her book. Um, and it’s the same seven questions she’s used throughout her entire 20 years of research. So it’s, it’s very deeply, uh, connected to the work and the sort of proof points behind it. So I, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s almost always an eye opener for leaders that go down that path.

Carolyn: so in all your work, um, and and working with clients, and I’ve got a long list of amazing clients have. Have you ever told an organization, no, you’re not ready for this and have they listened?

Jenny: Um, in many ways, yes, I think some of the hardest conversations I’ve had to have are, um, I’ll get brought in when a project is sort of already down pretty far down the path and the right answer is to pause. Or shelve it until some other things have happened. And, um, that can be really hard for leaders to hear.

They’re ready to just power through. They would like the last mile to not be the hardest one, but unfortunately, a lot of times pushing through just leads to a result of low adoption. So you might get to the launch, but if you don’t have people using whatever the thing is, it’s going to be worthless that you got done.

And so, um, I think I have been really fortunate enough to work with leaders that. When they heard the feedback, we’re able to say that makes sense. We were rushing this. What can we do to sort of mitigate what we’re what we’ve already invested? Um, I think the sunk cost fallacy is an important one to bring up as well, because I think a lot of organizations are like, well, we’re halfway here.

We’ve already invested the money we got to push through. And I think, you know, any economist will tell you if the outcome isn’t better than where you’re at, pushing through doesn’t get you anything other than more sunk cost. And so, um, I think, you know, sometimes leaders are able to sort of. Zoom out from the emotions of their own feelings about the project and, and here, you know, a basic economic truth in that context.

Carolyn: well we’re back to changes in emotional process Right? Like,

Jenny: there’s no avoiding it. Yeah.

Carolyn: It just depends where you are in the hierarchy of change. If you are in a position of, of influence, then sometimes the emotion is letting go and, and stopping it.

Jenny: And I will say one of the things we’ve talked about is a lot of our leaders were insulated from the hardest parts of change through the pandemic moving to hybrid. And, you know, a lot of our senior, senior leaders had. Um, resources and, uh, you know, the ability within the organization to sort of tune their workday in a way that a lot of their employees did not.

And so, when they’re confused about why there’s so much resistance to change, why burnout is high, why quiet quitting is high, I think it’s really important to sort of acknowledge the differences. Even in the same organization that sort of theoretically went through the same thing, they went through it with different privilege.

And, um, and there’s a real impact. I also feel that, um, a lot of employees worked really hard to keep their company afloat during those uncertain times. They weren’t sure if their job was going to be there. They weren’t sure if their company was going to be there. So they made some relatively significant sacrifices to their own mental health.

And I think in a lot of cases, employees, uh, you know, organizations had, um, in some cases, record profits. At least, you know, many of them didn’t stumble. They were able to sort of, like, if they were out of the hospitality in some certain categories, they were, they sort of made it through. Okay. I feel like there was a reckoning that still hasn’t happened that a lot of employees are looking for, which is leaders looking at their teams and saying, you guys really came through for us.

You really did the work when we needed you to do the work. And Thank you. We owe you gratitude. Instead, what they’re getting right now is like, why aren’t we back to normal? Why don’t you want to be in the office? Why am I getting resistance to change? And so I think until We acknowledge that there is a bit of a reckoning and that doesn’t mean giving into every employee demand that you’re hearing I know there’s a lot of conversation about what sort of benefits and and you know, the compensation conversation is real but Sometimes just validation and acknowledgement can go a really long way towards mitigating some of this change fatigue.

I know we’ve put you through a lot. I take accountability for that. These are the things we have to do. I’m going to be really smart about taking things we don’t have to do off your plate so that we have space for what’s essential.

Carolyn: Well,

Jenny: I see the role of the leader.

Carolyn: and it’s almost like learning how to say no to some of these changes. Like, no, we’re not going to do that right now. And I see that happening across some, some of my clients, um, where they’ve had to scale back, um, and they’ve had to change the size of their organization. And so they don’t have the same number of people to.

Manage new projects, and as a result, things are not like changes that were scheduled are not happening anymore. So, it’s a really, really interesting point that you’re saying there, um, around, like, it’s not playing catch up. It’s acknowledging what has been and asking people or except what am I trying to say here?

I think it’s kind of acknowledging the, the hard. Past few years and saying, Oh, let’s take a breather.

Jenny: Yeah, we don’t have buffer right now. There’s not a lot

Carolyn: Yeah. That’s the word I was looking for.

Jenny: Yeah, we really need to build that buffer back up. It’s like we spent down the savings account and everyone’s operating, you know, paycheck to paycheck and their emotional workload. And we need to sort of build that back up.

And we don’t build that back up when we sort of introduce. Optional, arbitrary, unnecessary projects, something I’m calling unworkable work, things that are either not necessary or not achievable that could really be shelved to give people a chance to sort of catch a breath. Um, but there’s not a lot of, um, in a lot of cases, there’s not a lot of interest in leaving space in the workday for, for catching up.

That seems to be a loss of productivity and, you know, it’s kind of at odds with the, the mentality of a lot of, um, I think our shareholders. Today. And so I’m really trying to push leaders who want to have a sustainable, you know, employee retention, employee engagement model to just be okay with your employees, not being maxed out.

That is not a healthy situation.

Carolyn: Well, you can actually be more productive and I mean, that’s another podcast all on its own. Um, but you don’t ask a sprinter in the hundred meters to keep sprinting day after day after day, they need to rest and renew and build up their energy to be able to come back and sprint. Um, I love that concept unworkable work.

What, what might be a few examples

Jenny: Absolutely. So, um, this is actually fodder for my next book. I’m really excited about this topic, but unworkable work by my definition is, as I mentioned, work that’s either not necessary or not achievable. And I think, um,

Carolyn: But Jenny, everything is necessary,

Jenny: Right. I know. That’s what the bar has gotten really low. Like anything that could improve any business function is necessary.

Right. So any, you know, if we could use AI to write this report 2 percent faster, if we could, you know, if we could switch project management tools and save somebody three emails, we should do it. There’s a lot of, um, like that, that, um, the quantified life. It’s happening in our day lives where we’re counting our steps.

And I think it’s happening in the office where we’re trying to like squeeze the last little bit out of every employee out of every process, out of every app. And you know, the downside of that is just that we have this really low bar. If it could help in any way, do it go, you know, and unfortunately if we’re not calculating the real impact and costs of change, then we end up where we’re at, which is.

With, you know, 10 times the number of changes, um, and, you know, I think Gardner said that we went from 10 planned organizational changes in 2022 to two in 2016, uh, up from two in 2016, a tenfold increase in eight years is unsustainable. So, um, the idea being that, to your point, we need leaders to have a decision framework to say, if it doesn’t meet this kind of higher bar of criteria, then we probably need to shelve it.

For these other things, we only have so many slots. We’re going to be putting improvement projects in, right?

Carolyn: right. And that still is going to be productive. It’s not going to cause us to miss our goals or, or sacrifice customer, high customer service.

Jenny: Right. I love mentioning little’s law, which is this philosophy that if, as you increase the number of projects work in progress, you decrease the throughput for any one of those projects. So, basically, the more projects you have in play, the slower each one of them is going to take. And so I like to ask organizations.

Would you rather have 10 things take 18 months to complete? Or would you rather sort of slot in 3 or 4 things at a time? With a burst of energy, a success around whatever that change was, and then move on to the next one, which by the way, that next one is going to be, um, informed by the previous change project.

You’re going to be smarter than you were three months ago, and you’re going to have a better change launch because of a success that you’re coming off the heels of. So if you can stack your successes, instead of having these long drawn out initiatives that are, are taking up a lot of energy and sort of sucking the enthusiasm.

Out of the innovation and improvement space for your team, you’re going to see more enthusiasm and less change fatigue for the same exact projects. It’s just really about sort of stacking them for success.

Carolyn: Ah, well, Jenny, um, I learned so much from your book, uh, and I just, it was, it was so easily digestible and it didn’t take forever. It wasn’t complicated. And that, I mean, writing simply, I think is a real gift. Um, I have yet to, I think, find that gift. Um, and so I just, I thought it was a really, really helpful, a helpful book for leaders.

It’s just

Jenny: Thank you. We wanted to write it so you could hear us at the conference and read it on the plane home and and actually put into play some of the exciting things you might have heard on the stage. So that was definitely the intention. Thank you.

Carolyn: And so where could, um, where can people find you and your work and your book? And of course, we’ll have all these links, but can you just

Jenny: Yeah, absolutely. Change fatigue is the name of the book and change fatigue dot com is where it lives along with a quiz that helps you figure out what kind of change leader you might be and an online course, really inexpensive set of templates and tools if these are challenges that you’re facing in your organization and I do business as build better change and I work with companies that are dealing with this and would like a support team member beside them, not just giving them templates, but helping them customize those to their needs.

So, um, would love to find you in either spot.

Carolyn: great. And so those templates, um, at changefatigue. com, would that just be for, like, the, the average leader who’s trying to implement some of these things and be a really strong change facilitator? That’s, that’s, that’s for them.

Jenny: Yeah, our templates are really aimed at a specific project, right? So if you’re like, okay, we definitely, somebody says we need a new project management tool. It’s a set of things to help you think through whether or not you do need it. And if you do how you’re going to manage that change successfully. So everyone from project manager to the, you know, the, the accountable person on the project can all really benefit from the hands on stuff,

Carolyn: for all different types of changes, you’re saying not just yeah. Oh, wonderful. Wonderful. Well, Jenny, before we close off, I always like to ask my guests 3 questions. Are you all set for those?

Jenny: Yeah, absolutely.

Carolyn: All right, uh, so these are all in connection to my quest to help leaders deepen their relationship with themselves.

So that’s why I love to get guests in on that conversation. So the first one is really about, um, a really pivotal moment in your life where your self awareness really went to a whole new level.

Jenny: For me, um, during the pandemic, I decided to become certified as a professional coach as well. And there was a huge light bulb moment that sort of reflected back on my entire career and helped me define the next stage, which is the difference between coaching and advising. And I hadn’t really absorbed this until I was being trained on it.

But the sense is a coach is somebody who believes. You have all of the answers and they’re really great at asking questions. And an advisor is somebody who’s been there and has the experience and is going to give you some shortcuts and ways forward. And I realized, you know, in this conversation, there is a, an enormous need for both, right?

Because we all have our own internal wisdom. We all know some of the things we need to know about a problem, but then we also like, why should we make the same mistakes that others have already made? So it was, Incredibly insightful to me to see those as two different talents And to be really thoughtful about when I was bringing each one into the room and very specifically Ensuring that the person I was connecting with was seeking the style I was bringing right?

So if someone felt like they had it in them and it was just stuck then they need coaching if somebody is Looking at a precipice and trying to figure out how they’re going to get across, they might need someone to help them build a bridge. And so, um, being able to switch between those two thoughtfully has been really, um, an incredible shift in the way that I interact with my clients,

Carolyn: Yeah. And an awareness of, of where you are and where you need to be with that person.

Jenny: Yeah, there’s nothing like advising someone who would really rather be coached and they’re feeling talked at and they’re getting there. Like, I feel like you should be taking notes and that is not a situation you

Carolyn: Yeah. Thank you. Um, so the second question is, is really about, um, techniques to help keep you present and calm and so curious what works for you.

Jenny: Um, I loved when I read your question about a ritual of practice that helps you stay in a state of calmness. My brain went to this, um, Ram Dass quote that I love. So my answer is I turn people into trees and what I mean by that is he talks about when you go out in the woods and you look at all the trees like some are bent and some are straight and some have leaves and some are evergreen and you don’t look at the tree and have Judgment you, you understand that it has a part in the forest.

You, he said, you look at the tree and you allow it. And, um, this concept of looking at the people around you and sort of saying, you know, it’s not I’m to this, you’re to that it’s that we all bring, you know, something beautiful to the forest. And so turning people into trees just means appreciating them for exactly who they are.

Carolyn: I mean, I love I love doing this podcast. I love these questions and very rarely is has there been an overlap of answers. It’s just amazing what people do. I’ve never heard the tree thing before. I’m going to, I’m going to look at my family members as trees now and see how that goes. Our little forest. Um, and now our last question, uh, gets into this.

this connection between, um, music and this feeling of, of being connected to something bigger than who we really are. So is there a type of music or a song that really makes you feel connected to like a bigger, bigger thing in our universe?

Jenny: Yeah, I mean, as much as I love my kitchen dance parties, when I think about Connected to something bigger. What immediately comes to mind is, um, what I’ve heard referred to as voo sound. And it’s, um, it can be anything from, um, Gregorian chant to Tibetan throat singing to sitting in your yoga class and chanting, but the essence of it is that there’s this deep.

Vibrational thing happening. The throat and and chest are actually vibrating. And from a like physiological perspective, it’s said to stimulate the polyvagal nerve and kind of bring calmness. Um, I’m not a scientist, but it feels really like something powerful happens at that like deep. Um, and I think there’s a reason that that’s, you know, meaningful in so many cultures and spiritual traditions.

Just that deep sound. I just love it. for

Carolyn: of people at work.

And so I, I trust that our listeners have found a few golden nuggets. So thank you so much for coming on the show.

Jenny: having me.

Carolyn: Okay, so change fatigue, it’s real. And how can we help address it? There’s so much change going on. You know, one of the things that sticking with me was from the beginning of our conversation and. I don’t think I ever admitted to change fatigue because I didn’t want to do it because it didn’t feel like I was being a good employee.

So if I had a little inkling or a little question, I wouldn’t surface it. And here’s my takeaway. The biggest takeaway from this conversation is we need to hear those little inklings. And so there’s two things. If you have a little bit of resistance or a little inkling about a change, please share it.

It’s not good to keep it to yourself. It can help the process. And if you are a leader, Search in mind for those little inklings, look for those resistance resistances, if that’s even a word, but look for the resistance. Nurture it, find it, get curious. This is going to help us combat change fatigue. It will help us identify and prioritize the change that needs to happen so that we can stay away from the unworkable work that Jenny talked about.

Thanks so much for tuning in. Uh, really appreciate your support and if you can, I’d love it and really appreciate it if you can leave a review on whatever platform it is that you’re listening to this on, it would really help. Um, we’re starting to see the podcast trend up in several categories. And so your continued support by leaving a review could really help us out.

Keep at it. Um, I’m cheering you on and I’m really excited to bring you some more guests.


EVOLVE Podcast Episodes


We're so glad you're here. Thanks for joining us

Thank you, we’ll see you soon!

Thanks for sharing your info with us! You’ll find a confirmation page in your inbox shortly. If you need to make any changes, just drop us a line at media@carolynswora.com.

Now, let’s get to the fun part! On the next page, you can pick a date and time that works best for you using our Calendly link. Once you’ve selected a slot, you’ll receive an invite via Calendly to confirm the time. Can’t wait to chat with you soon.

Skip to content