Your Brilliant Career Podcast

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This podcast provides an injection of energy and practical insights to women who are committed to their career. I share tactics, tools and stories that inspire capable women to think bigger and unapologetically achieve the success they deserve.

One of my early realisations was that there are many unwritten rules about career success that no one tells you. Smart women are tired of generic career tips. They want accessible, relevant and practical tips. Each episode includes content that inspires women to step up in their career and experience the energy and reward of being more.

Your Brilliant Career is a podcast that aims to help more women rise and reach new heights in their career.



In this episode, I'm joined by Dr Kate Byrne, owner of EVER Change and Communication, a business focused on helping leaders drive and deliver organisational transformation. Kate is also the host of a brilliant podcast, The New Way.

In our conversation, we discuss the complexities of organisational change and how to navigate it effectively. The reality is, change is not going away. According to Kate's research, change will increase exponentially over the next 20-40 years and it's crucial to understand why change at work is so painful and how to manage yourself and your teams through this process.

Kate is extremely generous with her insights as to why change at work is in fact so challenging and provides 3 practical strategies (the 3 P's) for mid-level leaders to enable them to manage change effectively, PLUS a whole lot more.

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Links we talked about on the podcast include:

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Dr Kate Byrne on LinkedIn

Website: EVER Change and Communication

The New Way Podcast

What's your change leadership style? Take the Quiz:


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Your transcript

Gillian: Ever wondered why change is so damn hard and how you can make it easier for you and your team? Maybe even do it in a way that supports your career and reduces stress when it hits. Because let's face it, change, well, change can take up a lot of energy. For most experienced leaders, hearing those words, organisational change, it can cause a nervous twitch.
[00:00:24] I understand that completely, and I have something that can help today. We have a special guest, an incredible woman named Dr. Kate Byrne. She's the owner and driving force behind Ever Change and Communication, a company dedicated to making change, not just smoother and more manageable, but truly effective in enabling results.
[00:00:46] Kate is a friend and peer. She’ll feel like your friend by the end of this episode too, I assure you. She has such a lovely demeanor and she's such an incredible expert. And I think what I love about her most is that she doesn't just talk about change, she lives it. Like she advises executives on change management, she crafts strategic narratives. She's even the host of the New Way podcast.
[00:01:10] So in this episode, we're going to be exploring why change is so challenging and what we can do to navigate it more successfully as leaders. You definitely want to stick around to hear Kate's four very specific strategies, and they're tailored for mid-level leaders who often bear the brunt of major changes in organisations.
[00:01:30] And these tips are invaluable and they will help you in your career when change inevitably hits. And I think, you know, refining our skills at adapting to change is crucial and it's just one of those things that separates high performing leaders from the rest. So I know you're going to get a lot from this episode. So let's listen to Dr. Kate Byrne and let's dive in.
Gillian: [00:02:38] Welcome to the podcast. It is such a pleasure to have you here today.
[00:02:42] Kate: Oh, Gil, I'm thrilled to be here. I've already loved the conversation we've been having before we hit record and I'm excited to continue it.
[00:02:50] Gillian: I know it's, it's like a real treat hanging out with a friend for half an hour, but having a really interesting conversation around change, and why it can be so painful because it can. But maybe to kick off, tell us a little bit about you, like how did you land in this place, Kate? Okay, and what makes you so passionate about helping organizations navigate change successfully?
[00:03:12] Kate: Ooh. don't quite know how to answer that question succinctly, I'll give it a go. This is a space I've been working in for a very, very long time. I've always had an interest in communication. That’s what I, studied at uni and, I realised when I started consulting, I realised that change is about communication a lot of the time. And I got really interested in the people side of change. It’s one thing to be in the project management or program management kind of part of change. That's any project is a change. Any program is a change. But, yeah, I just got really interested in the people side.
[00:03:52] I saw a lot of investment going into. the project, for example, like a new IT system. Let’s invest in the IT system or a new office space. Let's invest in the building or a policy, whatever it might be. But I noticed there was a lot of resistance, and just not a lot of focus on the people. So a lot of frustration there and I just, I've always been interested in it. I'm super nerdy about it. I'm, I was drawn to it. Yeah.
[00:04:20] Gillian: I love that. I feel like my experience is very similar. Do you know what I mean? You have these experiences yourself on the ground and I think it gives you a very different perspective that allows you to then operate on the other side of the fence and add value in that way.
[00:04:34] So, so what do you think, I mean, you've got your own experience and now you've got all this wonderful experience of leading your own organisation. What is hard about change? Okay. What's the big thing that really challenges most people and organisations?
[00:04:49] Kate: So that's a really interesting question because not all change is hard. Not all change is bad. I bet you can think of times in your life where change was exciting. It was something you were looking forward to. It was super easy. Maybe you moved into a new house that you loved. Maybe, you got married and that was a really exciting change. So change in our life sometimes is the most, delightful thing.
[00:05:17] But at work, things are different. I think there's probably three big reasons why change at work is painful. I'm just going to use the word painful. I think the first is, we just don't have the bandwidth for it. A lot of people are already very busy. We haven't planned for change. We're already full. Our schedules are full. We have not planned for change. So we don't have the bandwidth for that.
[00:05:39] I think the second reason is everyone has a bad experience. The amount of people that talk to me about change and they use words like it was forced on me. Have you heard people talk about change at work? There's a, you know, an organisational restructure, you get a new manager, something or other, you weren't involved in it. So it was forced on you. They made this happen. This happened suddenly. And that kind of language means that people had a bad experience. And so I think people are coming from a bad memories, you know. Like I haven't had a great time.
[00:06:13] And I think the third reason is that I'll just talk about myself. Sometimes I get a response, a reaction to the idea of change. There's something, I'm going to talk about work, but this applies to all aspects of life. If I hear that a change is coming, there might be a part of my job that I really enjoy or that I’ve finally figured out and I work with these stakeholders and we finally got this system happening and it's going really well and something is going to change and that pisses me off or I get worried about the uncertainty of it.
[00:06:45] And so that third reason why change is hard is because of the emotional dynamics to our response to it. And if we're in any kind of people management, leadership, team lead role, we're not just having to think about and manage our own response to that. But of course, all the people around us that we care for.
[00:07:08] So I think they're the big reasons. But, the good news for me, but the annoying news for most of us, and I'm human too, sometimes I'm just not up for change, I understand. The news is that change isn't going to go away. In fact, there's a whole lot of research out there that proves that change is exponential. That means there is going to be more and more and more of it.
[00:07:32] It's going to double down on itself. Gil, do you feel like there's been more change at work with your clients, like since COVID or since before COVID to now. That change has sped up? I feel that way. What about you?
[00:07:44] Gillian: Most definitely. And I think also if you look at the corporates. And in fact, we did this, social post recently, and I just did this Google search on, downsizing, retrenchments. Like major, major change in organisation structurally. And Kate, what came out in the feed was mind blowing. So, when you think of today's business environment.
[00:08:07] There are so many people that are experiencing a huge amount of uncertainty and change, and I suspect, Kate, and I'd be really interested in your, your perspective here, it's really how the organisation changes that process in terms of creating context and what it means for me and all of those sort of things.
[00:08:27] Kate: Yes, you're right. I totally agree with that, that it is about the organisation and the context setting and the way that it goes about changing the way an organization goes about changing or introducing new ways of working. At work change is about new ways of working. It might be a new system. It might be a new place.
[00:08:46] You go to a new office or you're working from home. It might be that you have a new manager or a new team or a new organisational structure. They're all new ways of working. So that's the banner and absolutely providing the context, the way that the organisation changes is the key factor that can make or break the success, not just for the person, not just for the individuals and our teams that we look after and the people we work with, but for the entire organisation's performance.
[00:09:15] The whole reason why it's hoping to change in the first place is usually to improve performance and so all of that is wrapped up all together. But that idea of, we do have to, we've got to pay attention to change because things are just going to change more and more and more. Someone called Michael Simmons, who is a very smart fellow, wrote this great article a couple of years ago about the exponential growth of change.
[00:09:41] And he forecasts, and I've got to tell you, I think he's being conservative here, that in 20 years’ time, change will happen at a rate that is four times more fast, more change than there is right now. And in another 20 years’ time on top of that, in 40 years’ time, the rate of change at work and in our lives is going to be 16 times more than it is right now.
[00:10:08] Gillian: Gracious. it's interesting cause I feel like people are always waiting for the lull, you know, we'll just get over this patch and then things will settle down. But what you're saying is we need to really integrate this, particularly if you're a leader into your leadership style, this agility to be able to deal with this constant change that is going to be part of your gig.
[00:11:51] Change in organisations, it just hits the leaders so much, you know, not the ELT, that band in the middle who are managing the people, they seem to be the ones that just feel it the most and are very responsible for creating the right kind of change. We’d love to hear your insights.
[00:12:14] Kate: Yeah. I totally agree. I think, and I mean this in the most honourable way, that middle management, that is the engine room of the organisation. Wherever you're working right now, if you're at that level, the place cannot survive without you, like it just can't, it just can't. For people managers, your role is critical and yeah, you are often left out of those decisions and kind of collaborative, strategy and planning to do with change. But, that's changing there's more co design happening, I've seen that all over the place. But whether or not that's happening, and whether or not you have any influence over the change, there's definitely some things that I see as kind of like very helpful, no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the type of change.
[00:13:04] The first is to reflect on what the change is bringing up for you, your response. Remember how I mentioned that idea of part of it is we don't have the bandwidth. We've had bad experiences before, and we might be having a response. How does uncertainty make us feel? What does that trigger in us?
[00:13:22] You did all of that kind of thing. So, reflect. I like to, I think thinking about it with three P's is really helpful. First, think about the project. So this actual piece of work, maybe it is introducing a system, it's changing where you're going to work, who your team is, who, whatever the project is. Think about the challenges that are coming up for you. What's worrying you about, what's challenging you about the project as you understand it.
[00:13:53] The next thing is to think about the people side of things. What challenges are coming up for you when you think about the people side of this change, that might be the people you work with, the people you're responsible for, if you're a people manager. It might also be, if part of the change involves, you're going to have a new boss. That's a big change, big people change. And so kind of thinking about it from that perspective.
[00:14:18] And the third is personally for you, what does this change mean for your career, the goals that you had this year, when you're thinking about your professional goals what does it bring up? Does it bring up anything to do with any doubt you have in your abilities. This might be overkill, but on a personal level, you might also think about does that change challenge your values or your beliefs, is there something really serious coming up for you there?
[00:14:43] So I think those three P's are a really helpful way of reflecting and getting a clear picture. Oh, another P, a clear picture of your response and what you think about the change. Something else that's really helpful is, if you don't have this already, I strongly recommend setting up a board of advisors, just for yourself, a personal board of advisors.
[00:15:06] This is a concept that I've found so helpful and many people that I've worked with also find this really helpful because they don't have, of course, where you work probably has a board or has a very senior level. I'm talking about something like that, that can help you steward yourself through the change on a personal level. The roles that I think you should think about filling for your personal board of advisors are having a sponsor, having a mentor, having a peer, having a friend outside of work, and having a coach, an executive coach, for example.
[00:15:47] And if you think it's worth it, also having a counsellor or some other kind of healthcare provider involved as well. And that's not just a once off for the current change that you're facing, whatever the new way of working for you is, but that's something that you might like to evolve and nourish throughout your career.
[00:16:08] That can be a really helpful little strategy to have personally. And then, the next thing that I always recommend, and it is never going to serve you wrong, is clarifying expectations with your boss. And this is no matter how senior you are in the organization. For example, we work with a lot of public sector organisations. If you are the secretary of the department, then I strongly recommend that you clarify expectations with the minister about what's required, what they're hoping for, what their intent is, what the goals are and put agreements in place. Put agreements in place with your manager, and then do the same for your team.
[00:16:52] If you're leading people, if you have any influence over a team of people, don’t wait for them to come to you. Be the one to have that conversation and clarify expectations. And then there's one more, the last one is to rest. So many people, especially people, managers and leaders, there is a tendency that I see over and over to just work harder, to go oh shit. There's more to do. Okay. I'm just going to work harder. If that's you, dude, you have got to rest. And by rest, I don't mean scrolling your phone, even though that's what I do a lot of the time. But there's a lot of research out there about the power of high quality rest. And in fact, Gartner recently released some research, they did research into organisations and corporates saying that when it's available, rest can contribute to a 26 percent increase in In your performance. So feels like opposite world. If you're someone who just, the answer is always to work harder, to work harder, to work harder. But research says that that will decrease your performance. And in times of change, that brings up uncertainty, strong emotions. There's a lot more for you to deal with. You need to be performing at your best. So you've got to rest.
[00:18:09] Gillian: Yeah. I love these points, Kate. I think they're so practical. That's what I absolutely love about them the most.
[00:18:15] Kate: Oh, good. I'm glad.
[00:18:16] Gillian: Yeah. Yeah. Well, we love a good, practical, accessible, relevant tip. Don't we? It just packs such a punch.
[00:18:21] Kate: Well, I do. I do for sure. Yes. And I think that change is kind of, either it feels really conceptual and unimportant and not related to us until, it's right at the time when it's happening. And then we're very, we're overwhelmed. We're annoyed. We're tired. You know, and kind of pissed off.
[00:18:38] Gillian: Yeah. Yeah. Which is, which is so hard, but I love all your tips. I think they're so great. I think the three P's bring such self-awareness into the process and how you're actually thinking about things. Because if you're on autopilot, sometimes you're not even aware how you're thinking about things. And your board of advisors is really savvy, right?
[00:18:55] Like get the right people around you to support you in a, in a difficult time and clarifying your expectations. That's a really interesting one. And my question around that is. What if you have a boss who isn't clear on the expectations? Like, would the advice be to you try and be proactive in bringing to your boss or someone else, what you think the expectations are and trying to ignite that conversation and getting clarity around things. What happens? Cause sometimes there is ambiguity in an organisation.
[00:19:29] Kate: Yeah, for sure. This is a very common situation that you can go have a conversation with your manager and say, Hey, what's up with this? Can you tell me more? And they say, no, I can't. I don't know more either. I'm in the same boat as you. And I'm, I'm really not sure. And I, I won't, I'm going to a meeting next Wednesday and I might be able to tell you more then.
[00:19:48] But until then, I don't know, you know, those kinds of things. In that situation, I still recommend clarifying expectations and setting team agreements. Your manager or boss is part of your team, setting team agreements. There are always agreements that you can make and find. And I think that's incredibly important to combat that idea of uncertainty, which can kind of, you know, unravel a lot of people's day to days. So even in the midst of uncertainty of which there might be uncertainty for months about stuff about an organisational restructure, for example, where is your team going to end up in the organisation?
[00:20:31] You might have heard whispers about it. But there's not going to be any definites for months, perhaps. In that situation, you can still set team agreements about how you as a team are going to work together, how you and your boss are going to work together, or you and the team that you steward are going to work together.
[00:20:50] Think about what you need at that ground level. And the kinds of things I like to have at that ground level - what are our working hours? How do we show up and engage with each other? How do I contact you, you know, if there's something that's come up, is it through Slack? Should I send you an email, call, text message? What can I call you after 7 PM? Is there a time when we shouldn't, because remember we need that rest. How does this team work together, what are some of the key principles about how we work together? That's important for us to continue performing in this environment.
[00:21:27] So that might have to do with things like there's always agendas for meetings or there are no surprises. We’re never going to have a surprise for you. You're always going to find out as soon as, you I know something if, I can't always share information with you, the reality is that sometimes, uh, information is confidential for some reason to do with, and I'm talking in very serious change.
[00:21:49] Sometimes, for example, a merger or an acquisition, it may be that certain information can't be disclosed until a certain time, but as soon as it can be. I'm going to let you know, and I'm going to let you know everything I can. And we're always going to look for opportunities to include your team members in as much as possible.
[00:22:12] So there are always agreements that you can set. I think you've got to read the room about sometimes the change comes from the top and we don't have influence. You, people know if they've got influence in situations and you can kind of sense it and you know, the relationship that you have with your manager and the leadership team and where, what your position in the organisation is, but there are always, always agreements that you can put in place.
[00:22:41] Gillian: Yeah. There's always things that are in your control to put in place. Absolutely. Regardless of the level of disruption which is so helpful. Kate, you've given us such great tips today. I love this. I love that.
[00:22:52] Kate: I'm glad. I'm glad.
[00:22:54] Gillian: Yeah, I think they're fantastic.
[00:22:55] And the point about rest, like we all know that, don't we? You know what I mean? Like when you step back out of the madness for a little bit and you recalibrate and you step back in, your work is so much more effective.
[00:23:09] Kate: Yeah. Oh, for sure. one other thing that was super interesting for me. Last year, we undertook a significant industry research project and we asked more than a thousand people involved in change and team leaders, people managers. Yeah, we, we made sure we, we partnered with a very well-known research company to do it.
[00:23:30] And we asked. What is going to make the biggest difference for you, for the success of change in your organisation, the success of the change. And overwhelmingly the top two responses were leadership skills and communication skills.
[00:23:47] Gillian: Yes. They’re intrinsically linked.
[00:23:52] Kate: They are intrinsically linked. That is very clever that you know that because a lot of people don't, a lot of people don't realise that communication is how you operationalise your leadership style.
[00:24:08] Communication is how you bring leadership to life. So they are intrinsically linked and if you have any influence at all, which you do, even as an individual contributor, you have a lot of influence over yourself, how you show up. If you're a people manager, you have a huge amount of influence and how you communicate says everything everyone else around you needs to know about your leadership style.
[00:24:32] Gillian: Absolutely. And that's why people quite often, you know, in disruptive times can either create amazing career opportunities for themselves, and it might be a delayed effect, you know what I mean? When things recalibrate or the opposite can do a lot of damage to their, their reputation and professional brand.
[00:24:49] So it is even why you might feel off the radar during all of that change happening around you. No, one's off the radar. We're all on the radar.
[00:24:56] Kate: No one. It's so true. It's so true. We're all on the radar and huge opportunities, huge opportunities for sure.
[00:25:03] Gillian: Kate, a very important question. Where can people find you?
[00:25:07] Kate: The easiest way to connect with me is over on LinkedIn. I'm at Dr. Kate Byrne. And our website is au. I will say if people are interested in learning about change and leadership, I created a quiz a while ago that people can go take for free. We're not gonna sell you anything. And you can go grab that quiz at
[00:25:33] Because everyone has strengths and everyone has a leadership style involving change right now already. And it's such a cool quiz to go do. We share so much information about how to make the most of your strengths and that. So I strongly recommend, if you're interested, go check it out.
[00:25:50] Gillian: Yeah, we'll definitely put that in the show notes because that that'll be a great thing for people to Go and do something practical after hearing all these wonderful tips today. So thank you so much. I feel so honoured to have all these great insights from such an expert as you.
[00:26:05] And I just know our listeners will, will just find them so valuable cause they are in that zone right now where change is constant for them. And I think they're just coming to terms with that. So building that skillset to be able to deal with it more effectively is so valuable. So thank you, Kate.
[00:26:21] Kate: Oh, honestly, it's my pleasure. Like I said, I'm a major dork on this stuff. I hope that it has been helpful and thank you. It's been so much fun chatting today.