The Most Essential Guide to Developing Your Model for Leading Change | Marsha Acker

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How can developing a model for leading change impact your leadership?

I’m thrilled to share with you some golden nuggets from the latest episode of the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. I had the pleasure of chatting with the incredible Marsha Acker, a mastermind in executive coaching, leadership transformation, and the art of facilitating conversations that matter.

🌟 Leading Change with Clarity and Confidence
We dove deep into the essence of leadership and the pivotal role of developing your personal model for leading change. In a world where change is the only constant, understanding how to navigate and lead through these shifts is more crucial than ever. Marsha’s insights, drawn from her extensive experience and her book, Build Your Model for Leading Change: A Guided Workbook to Catalyze Clarity and Confidence in Leading Yourself and Others, are like a compass guiding us through the ever-evolving landscape of leadership.

📘 Must-Read for Leaders
Marsha’s book, Build Your Model for Leading Change: A Guided Workbook to Catalyze Clarity and Confidence in Leading Yourself and Others, is not just any book—it’s an interactive journey filled with visuals and exercises designed to help you craft your unique approach to leadership change. It’s a vibrant addition to your leadership toolkit, and I can’t recommend it enough!

🗣️ The Power of Conversations
One of the most fascinating discussions we had was about structural dynamics—the idea that our conversations have a hidden structure influencing their outcomes. By understanding this structure, we can steer our dialogues towards more productive and meaningful exchanges.

🧒 Childhood Stories and Leadership
We all carry stories from our past that shape who we are today. Marsha and I explored how these narratives can impact our behavior as leaders and the importance of acknowledging and working through them to foster growth.

🔄 The Interconnected Models of Leadership
Leadership isn’t one-dimensional; it’s a blend of behavior, growth, and values. Finding harmony among these aspects is key to thriving as a leader and driving positive change within your organization.

🔍 Self-Awareness and Journaling
Self-reflection is a powerful tool for personal development. We talked about the role of journaling in enhancing self-awareness and how it can bolster your confidence as a leader.

🤝 Creating Alignment in Teams
Marsha shared a real-life story of a leadership team that achieved remarkable results by aligning their leadership models. It’s a testament to the power of clear communication and shared understanding.

I’m beyond excited for you to listen to this episode and join us on this journey of discovery and transformation. Your feedback means the world to me, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment, like the podcast, and share it with your circle of vibrant leaders.

Remember, building a vibrant culture is an ongoing adventure, and I can’t wait to continue this journey with you. Until next time, keep leading vibrantly!


Hello, I’m Nicole Greer, your host for the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. In this episode, I share the enlightening conversation I had with the remarkable Marsha Acker. Marsha is not only an executive and leadership team coach, but she is also an accomplished author, speaker, and facilitator. Her expertise in breaking through communication barriers and her passion for facilitating meaningful conversations make her an invaluable resource in the realm of leadership and organizational change.

Understanding Your Model for Change
In our discussion, Marsha emphasized the importance of understanding one’s model for change. This concept is central to her book, Build Your Model for Leading Change: A Guided Workbook to Catalyze Clarity and Confidence in Leading Yourself and Others. She believes that leadership is not confined to a title or position, but is a quality that can be exhibited by anyone, at any level, including children.

The Pervasiveness of Change
We live in an era where change is not just an occasional event but a constant presence in our lives. It’s not about whether we will encounter change, but rather how we will respond to it when it comes. Marsha’s work provides a framework for leaders to articulate their beliefs about change and to approach it with intention and understanding.

Structural Dynamics and Communication
One of the fascinating topics we delved into was structural dynamics, a theory of face-to-face communication developed by David Kantor. This theory suggests that conversations, which may appear random, actually have a structure that can either propel us forward or hold us back. By understanding this structure, we can make sense of human dynamics and improve our communication.

The Four Levels of Behavior
Marsha and I explored the four levels of behavior that influence how we act and interact within organizations:

Actions: The visible behaviors we exhibit.
Operating Systems: The internal processes that guide our actions.
Communication Domains: The ways we express ourselves and interact with others.
Childhood Stories: The deep-seated narratives that shape our worldview and responses.

Recognizing and addressing these four levels is crucial for effective leadership and change management.

Developing a Model for Leading Change
A model for leading change consists of three interconnected components: the behavioral model, the leadership model, and the model for living. Clarity and fluidity in understanding these aspects are vital for leadership growth and aligning personal values with professional responsibilities.

The Role of Self-Awareness
Self-awareness plays a pivotal role in leadership development. Practices like journaling can enhance self-awareness and, in turn, build confidence in leaders. This reflective practice allows leaders to understand their behavior patterns and how they can adapt to lead change effectively.

Aligning Leadership Teams
Marsha shared a real-life example of a leadership team that worked on defining their collective leadership model. Despite facing challenges and conflicts, they achieved positive outcomes by aligning their perspectives and definitions of collective leadership.

Conclusion: Embracing Change with Vibrancy
As we wrapped up our conversation, I was reminded of the power of clear communication and the need for leaders to find common ground. Marsha’s insights into developing a model for leading change are not just theoretical; they are practical tools that can help leaders navigate restructuring and layoffs with minimal conflict.

I encourage you to engage with these concepts, leave comments, and share your thoughts. Marsha’s book, Build Your Model for Leading Change: A Guided Workbook to Catalyze Clarity and Confidence in Leading Yourself and Others, is a treasure trove of wisdom for anyone looking to lead with vibrancy in the face of change. As we continue on our journey to build a vibrant culture, I look forward to sharing more insights and connecting with you in future episodes.

Remember, the journey of leadership is ongoing, and with the right tools and mindset, we can navigate change with clarity and confidence. Let’s keep the conversation going and support each other in leading vibrant, transformative cultures.

Mentioned in this episode:


Marsha Acker:  So in my model for change, which took me a little while to figure out, one of the ways that I believe change happens is that I don’t believe that change happens until people feel heard and understood in conversation, and that once that happens, then change can come about, particularly behavior change.

Voice Over: This is the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast, your source for the strategies, systems, and insights you need to turn your dreams into your destiny. Every week we dive into dynamic conversations as our host, Nicole Greer, interviews leadership and business experts. They’re here to shed light on practical solutions to the challenges of personal and professional development. Now, here’s your host, a professional speaker, coach, and consultant, Nicole Greer.

Nicole: Welcome, everybody, to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer and they call me the Vibrant Coach. And I am here with another fantastic guest. Her name is Marsha Acker. Let me tell you all about her. She’s an executive and leadership team coach and author, a speaker, a facilitator, and the host of Defining Moments, a leadership podcast. Listen to this, then zip over there and check her out. Marsha is unparalleled at helping leaders identify and breakthrough stuck patterns of communication. And don’t we know that’s a thing? Oh my gosh, stuck patterns of communication that get in the way of high performance. She is known internationally as the facilitator of meaningful conversations, a host of dialogue, and a passionate agilist. She is the author of The Art and Science of Facilitation: How to Lead Effective Collaboration with Agile Teams, and, I’ve got it right here, everybody, uh, Build Your Model for Leading Change, a Guided Workbook to Catalyze Clarity and Confidence in Leading Yourself and Others. And like, let’s get a close up, it says autographed by the author, don’t you know? So I know y’all are turning green with envy. Welcome to the show, Marsha. I’m so glad you’re here.

Marsha: Oh, Nicole, I’m delighted to be here. So thank you so much. And I love that I said this to you. I love the energy that you bring. So, thanks.

Nicole:  Yeah, well, yeah, I you know, here’s the thing. I have it in me. I might as well share it with the world. Right? So that’s what we’re going to do. And, and so this book of yours, first of all, everybody I, you know, I don’t know about y’all, but, uh, when I was sick when I was eight, and now that I’m fifty-eight, I still love a book that has lots of pictures and, like, little things for me to do and fill in. So this is a fantastic book. And, you know, uh, before we get into it, though, um, this is a book for leaders. And so I’m collecting definitions of leadership. What’s your definition?

Marsha: Well, first off, I think about leadership and I think about it being a way that we show up that’s accessible to anyone at any level. I think that, you know, children can bring leadership. So I think about being in command of ourselves and being able to invite and create spaces for us to be our best. So, for me, leadership is, I think, could be evident in every aspect of our lives. But boy, do I think we are, hmm, I think we need leadership happening in our organizations.

Nicole:  So, it’s something you kind of own. Right? And that’s really what your book is about. Uh, you say in your book, actually on page 19, people, uh, that there is an importance of articulating our own model. And really, this book is about figuring out how I am going to be during a leadership change or during, you know, and here’s the thing. Um, I don’t know what you think, Marsha. Tell me what you think. But everything is changing. Like, it’s not like we’re going to have a change initiative. It’s like what’s it’s like what’s the thing we’re changing today? 

Marsha: Yeah. Nicole, I think you’re absolutely right. Never has there been a time that I think change is so pervasive. And it’s not just in our organizations, it’s everywhere. It’s a little bit like, strap in, you know, what’s the thing that’s going to be happening? And, sometimes, what are the multiple things that are going to be happening? I think yeah, it’s definitely a way of – I think it’s a way that we have to go about being in the world.

Nicole: Yeah. Yeah. So the whole book is really about figuring out how you’re going to show up for the changes that are going to come. And, in the book, you give a gentleman named David Canter. Did I say his name right? 

Marsha: Yeah.

Nicole: And he wrote a book called The Reading Room and you highly suggest this. And so everybody that listens to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast knows that leaders read. So just add that to the very tall stack on your nightstand. Um, what he talks about in his book, which you love, is structural dynamics. Will you talk a little bit about what you mean and tie that in for us?

Marsha:  Yeah, for sure. Well, you know, it goes to my definition of leadership. And, I think David would have shared a very similar definition of leadership. Is that it? We enact leadership through the way we behave. So his, um, his model for leadership and communication was defined by structural dynamics. So he was a researcher, clinical psychologist, worked at Harvard and in Boston. And then he started his research really in the early 70s. And he began, um, in the family systems doing research about how we communicate. So he did this experiment where he had a group of Harvard students actually go into the homes of families. And the students, in addition to tape recorders, sat in a home, and they recorded everything. Oh, that was yeah, everything that was said in the conversations. Um, and after a period of time, you know, he took the data and what he found through the research and really beginning to code, the way that people interacted with one another was the basis for his theory of structural dynamics, which is a theory of face to face communication. And so what it said is that actually what seems maybe random, emergent conversation that we’re having actually has a structure to it. And if we can begin to see the structure in our conversations, we can start to not only make sense of it, number one, but we can also become aware of how we’re contributing to either the conversation propelling us forward or holding us back. And so those stuck patterns in conversation, structural dynamics just gives us a sort of a shared language for being able to make sense of human dynamics, which I think are relatively complex sometimes, you know, we can kind of get tangled up and mixed up in it. So I love David’s work. He sadly passed away, uh, during the pandemic. So it’s been about two years. But he gifted us with so much really rich thinking around structural dynamics. So yes, my intent with this book was actually just to extend his research and work into a workbook.

Nicole: Oh that’s fantastic. And uh, in the book you talk about four levels of behavior, and one of them is that, uh, childhood stories. And so I have often said, you know, especially when I’m training and I’m working with teams, how you are raised affects how you’re showing up in this room right now. So is that basically what you’re saying?

Marsha:  Absolutely.  And what’s really fascinating, I think, is that through being able to identify not just the, you know, all of us will have some core stories that sit behind why we do what we do. And I think sometimes we can maybe judge the story or think that it’s, you know, I do this because, you know, I can hear my mom’s voice in my head every time I go to speak to my colleagues. Sometimes I think we can have a little bit of shame around it. And I think there’s a process or a way of actually welcoming it and, you know, embracing it. It served us. But I think we all reach points where it doesn’t serve us anymore. And so what structural dynamics helps us do is actually look at that story that happened in childhood and be able to tell the structure of it, because it’s the structure of it that will be impacting us in the room today. So if I encounter someone, I’ll just give you a really tiny example.

Nicole: Oh, I’d love an example.

Marsha:  Yeah. So for me, one of my childhood stories happened actually not at home, but in school on the playground. And I had three really good friends in elementary school. One was sort of, um, we’ll call her the leader of the three. 

Nicole: The peak.

Marsha: Yeah, two’s company and three’s a crowd. Uh, so one of the things that would happen every day is this person would actually decide, um, she called it leave out day. And so she would decide some days, uh, we would all play together, and some days we would play the leave out game. Which one person would, you know, sit out and the other person would get to be played with. So that obviously laid down a pattern for me of being selected or chosen or not enough. So I had a story about that. But what was fascinating for me is that if I could tell the structural story of that playground – so if I use the four levels just briefly, I won’t, I won’t, we won’t unpack all of it right now. But what was happening was she would make a move. She’d set a direction in a closed system, meaning she wasn’t looking for input from anybody. She just said, this is what we’re going to do. And she would do it in power, meaning that it was about the action that we were going to take. So she’d make a move and close the power. So now today, as an adult, one of the things that I started to notice is that if I were in a room with someone else who started to make moves and closed power, it would raise the stakes for me and I would get into high stakes. My palms would sweat and get frustrated, or I’d get really anxious about it, and I’d have this sort of reaction to it sometimes seeming out of proportion to what the person was actually saying. So my work to do as a leader has been to notice there’s a structural pattern, and when that structure shows up, it’s really not about the person or the topic per se. It’s about the way in which it’s being communicated. And so my work has been to make friends with move and close power. It’s a really helpful structure. I actually need to bring more of it. So that’s just a really kind of brief example of how it can show up. Like it can be helpful. So we have a structure..

Nicole: And so did one of you really sit outside of the crowd and wanted to be in the crowd?

Marsha: Yeah, we did.

Nicole:  Oh my gosh! What happened to her?. Where is she? Have you found her? Have you been looking for her?

Marsha:– Do you know, um, when I turned forty, um, she reached out and we are actually connected now, and I won’t…

Nicole:  I wonder what maturity it is. 

Marsha: I won’t tell the story, but the phrase, “we do what we do for a really good reason.” Um, and “hurt people hurt people.” Yeah. Really played out. Right? So it’s about, you know, what I can say now, it’s about having empathy for people.

Nicole: Totally.

Marsha:  We don’t do what we do for just no reason. Um, but she’s lovely. Uh, we’ve had lots of conversations about that. And. Yeah, it wasn’t for no reason, but, you know, fascinating. The dynamics that play out.

Nicole: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. And so we have to have this thing called grace for people. Empathy. Right? Which, you know, because she didn’t know what she was doing. She’s just a baby girl. Okay. All right. So what you say in the book is, is that, you know, if you’re going to be somebody who is inundated with change at work, which we have already declared is almost everybody, you’ve got to develop a model of change for yourself. Yeah. Okay. So talk about what? So wait, I got to develop a model for myself. What do you mean?

Marsha:   Well, let me let me say a couple things about that. One is that I think change at least in my experience, and this has been true for me as well. So years ago, it’s like change is happening. So how do I jump in? How do I manage it? That was definitely where I started. Let’s put all the pieces. I’m somebody who likes to have things in order: love flowcharts, love process diagrams. So let me use tools to help us, you know, look at, change or manage change. Not that those things are bad, but one of the things that’s become really clear to me is that change is going to happen. And actually we all, whether we know it or not, we all have some beliefs that sit behind how we engage with change or what we believe about change. And more importantly, especially for a leader who’s been tasked with making change happen in an organization. So lead a transformation. Change how we do operations.

Nicole:  Install new software.

Marsha:  Yes, install new software. We actually have maybe an unconscious model or belief about how change happens best. So in my model for change, which took me a little while to figure out, one of the ways that I believe change happens is that I don’t believe that change happens until people feel heard and understood in conversation, and that once that happens, then change can come about, particularly behavior change. So in my model for change, that sits as my core focus and theory about how change happens. So that might resonate for some people. Other people won’t be going, what? And I think the whole…

Nicole: What we need is a to-do list, all we need.

Marsha:  I know I’ve been there, I have been there, but I think regardless of what your approach is, what is helpful is to locate what is your model for change, what’s the core belief? And then because that is my core belief that informs how I go about working with leaders, how I coach them, what I’m helping them to do. Nicole, the best way I could describe it is that it has been the most grounding process and reflection that I’ve ever done. And I’ve done leadership development. I’ve done my own personal coach training. I helped train other coaches, like all the work. I think one of the most grounding things has been for me to go, oh, actually, that is my model for change and I don’t need to make anybody else right or wrong. So someone else sitting next to me might go, like we could have an argument about, no, this is how change happens. And I think that’s our challenge is that we have different models for change. And then we get to a change happening in an organization, and we start debating what we’re going to do or how we’re going to do it, or how we approach it, or what’s the value. And then it becomes this debate or argument between two people, rather than being able to say, actually, hold on a second, I’m hearing a really different model for change. Can you say more about what’s in your model for change? And let me share with you what’s in my model for change and why? And now we can have a conversation about what are you attempting to change? I’m attempting to change behavior if you’re attempting to change processes. It just makes us – it’s different models. Neither of us are right or wrong, but now we can have the conversation about, well, actually, we in this whole org, we probably need both of those. Of course, how do we want to approach it with this lens and help behavior happen. And then how do we want to look at processes and something else happening. So now it becomes just a way more grounded conversation. So I think we all have it. I think very few of us actually sit down to do the work to think about.

Nicole:  Oh, I would think so. You’re this book. This needs to be on everybody’s desk.

Marsha:  Yeah.

Nicole:  So go find it on Amazon, people.

Marsha: Yeah, it is on Amazon. But I find it to be a super grounding process because then we can have a conversation about what’s your model, what’s my model. And if we’re on a leadership team, that’s a rich conversation because now we can talk about how we want to lead change as a leadership team collectively.

Nicole:  Right. And it kind of lets you divvy up who’s going to do what.  You know, so Marsha is going to talk to everybody. Uh, and you can be over here writing the policy procedure manual for the change. I mean, you know, it kind of divvy’s it up.

Marsha: Yeah. Well, and it helps us get really clear about whether either of us have to be right or wrong about it.

Nicole:  That’s right. And, you know, when you first started talking about the different models, you know, one of the things that I’m sure irritates you, as we say in North Carolina, gets in your crawl is, um, is like what we’ll say. Nobody likes change. Everybody hates change. Change is hard, you know? And I’m just like, it’s really not that hard. We just have to sit down and, like you said, talk about it and then get the guy or the gal that wants to do the process in the room. We’ll get it all written up and, you know, we’ll just make it happen. It’s okay. So in your work of doing your research, where did that come up? Like, people hate change. People don’t like to change. What do you think about that? That’s everywhere I go.

Marsha: Yeah, actually, it goes back to my belief about how change happens. I think that many people don’t like change because there isn’t a great way in organizations today. I think we have lots of patterns where we talk past one another over one another, or we shut one another down. And so I think one of the things that people often don’t like about change is that change requires us to have different kinds of conversations, like, we’ve got to be able to craft spaces where we can, where someone can say, hey, look, it’s not that I’m in disagreement with the process, it’s funny because I, I spoke with someone literally just 24 hours ago who was going, it’s not that I dislike this or disagree with where we’re going, but what I think that, you know, what I think our leadership is missing is we are overloaded and we’re we’re tapped out and we actually don’t know how to make the thing happen that they’re trying to get to happen. And so what’s happening is they’re, they’re saying that in really subtle, subverted, aversive ways, it’s not being heard. So the stakes are rising for them. And so now comes the behavior of I’ll just take it offline. I’ll do this behind the scenes. We call that in the language of structural dynamics we call it a covert oppose, meaning that I disagree with what you’re saying, but I’m not going to tell you that directly. I’m just going to take the conversation offline. I’ll talk about it over the water cooler or I’ll talk about it, you know, at lunch. But I won’t say it to you. And so what happens is all that rich feedback and conversation goes offline, goes to one on one conversations, and it doesn’t come into the collective space. And so now we’re lacking data. We’ve got people pretending that they’re moving things forward when they’re really not. And then so it goes – it just comes back to I think that what happens is we as leaders aren’t paying attention to the space that we’re creating for conversation. People are not feeling heard or understood in the process. And so they dig in. And I think that sits in my experience. I think that sits at the core of why people dislike meetings, why people dislike change, why people dislike, um, the, you know, feeling like it’s just one change after the next. There isn’t just don’t think we’re great in corporate America of creating those spaces.

Nicole: Now, twice now you I’ve zoned in on something you’ve said. You said stakes are rising. And so what I’m taking away from that is, is when I’m getting hijacked by my amygdala at the back of my brain, my lizard brain, because all of a sudden, I’m sensing that this change is going to cost me something. The stakes are rising. Is that what you mean?

Marsha: Absolutely. So it’s a part of structural dynamics. Um, and what it says is that we have different behaviors. So low stakes. I’m feeling calm, cool, and collected. I’ve got lots of range in my leadership and how I show up in the communication. I can be thoughtful and intentional. I can sit here and, you know, I can read the room. I can sense that, you know, I need to bring something else, and then I can bring it. And then when the stakes rise, an absolutely a trigger has happened. A value has been stepped on. Fear. Something likely is touching one of those stories that sit in my childhood that says, oh, danger, uh, for me.

Nicole: You’re gonna be left out. She’s gonna make you left out today. Absolutely. You’re not part of the change, and you’re one of the ones that actually likes it.

Marsha: Not part of the change. And you’re going to get factored out. If so, like, your lizard brain absolutely takes over for good reason. You know, it’s got memories about things that have happened in the past. And so then my behavior in high stakes changes and I’m not my best self. I lose the ability to bring the creative thing. Now I bring the thing that feels like it’s, uh, you know, all the metaphors. Like it feels like a shot across the bow, or it feels like you’re poking someone in the eye, or you get really quiet. I find that high stakes behavior looks really different to all of us. So for some of us, we get really quiet. It’s almost like we’re physically present, but mentally we have left the building. Um, and then other people get really loud and, you know, they come forward and they argue about it. So yeah, stakes rising, different behavior. Not our best selves.

Nicole: Oh, that’s so good. That’s so good. So that’s a little emotional intelligence thing or something. I love it.

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Nicole:  Okay. All right. So we’ve got to build a model for leading change so that we can articulate it. We can share it with the other leaders that we’re going to get up with. That’s how we also talk in Concord, North Carolina. We get up with these other leaders and we’re going to carry out this change. And so you have a little diagram and you correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s like a Venn diagram where we have to come up with our behavioral model, our leadership model, and our model for living. I love that! Talk about your little diagram. I love it! If you love a Venn diagram, go down and leave a nice note that you like it, too. Okay. Go ahead.

Marsha: Well, so we’ve talked about two of those models just in our brief conversation. The first one, the behavioral model, is about having a language for being able to name behavior. So for me it’s structural dynamics. And I’ve you know, it helps me make sense of the dynamics of people. There’s lots of ways that you can name behavior. But the point is how they model, and be really clear and fluid in it, that you can bring it when you need it, and it can help you make sense of the dynamics of people.  So I think that our behavior sits at the core of everything, of whether that project is moving forward or getting held back. So the behavioral model, super impactful. Leadership model is how do I believe leadership changes and grows? How do I grow my leadership? How do I show up? How do I want to show up in that conversation? And you know, a lot of times David Canter would have said, this is our professional model. This is the way we move about our professional life. And the last one is the model for living. And I think this is where things get a little tricky because again, it’s a pattern, certainly was true for me years ago. I think it’s a pattern in business today that we will and sometimes we get told this to bring our professional self to work and leave our personal stuff at home. 

Nicole:  Oh, that’s not possible, is it?

Marsha: It’s not. Sometimes, I wish it was.

Nicole:  Yeah, yeah, it’s all one life. Because you’ll ask people a powerful question and they’re like, oh, do you mean in my personal life or my personal life? I’m like that whole put those together and then answer the question, yeah.

Marsha: Yes. So there’s no zipper for us in the morning where we take off one half. And so what David really believed really strongly in is this notion that we need actually also a model for living. So what’s important, um, the one question that I loved that he asked is what is a life worth living?

Nicole: Um, everybody write that down. What is a life worth living? Powerful.

Marsha: Yeah. And so if we’re really clear about what’s in our model for living, sometimes we can get really out of proportion. Like everything becomes about our leadership model and how we’re how we’re working. And then we sort of put the other side, you know, on pause or. Or we just sort of skip over it or it just doesn’t take as much. We don’t put as much thought or preservation in it.  And so I am really thinking about what is my model for living, what brings me joy, um, what am I about? What are my values? And then it’s the Venn of those three. How do I look at behavior and interaction relationships? How am I leading and how am I living and where am I in balance with those? And at times, where might I be out of balance and what do I want to do about it?

Nicole: Yeah, and I think that’s such a big, huge, uh, question especially, you know, where we’ve got, um, and you said something about the generations earlier, we’ve got all these generations at work and, uh, you know, our our Gen Z, you know, they, they want to have a life, they want to have a model for living. And maybe somebody that’s in my generation, you know, I just barely missed the boomers. I got in the X category, which makes me very young and hip because I have a letter and not a title. But, uh, but in my model for a living, I mean, like, I got a lot of the boomer mentality, which is, you know, get a good job, stay there, don’t make trouble and work hard. And I have done that my whole life. I mean, it did pay off. I mean, I’ve got a good gig going now. Yeah. Um, but I think having that balance is, is absolutely huge. So I think that the younger generations of leaders would love this idea. 

Marsha: And I actually think that, um, I would encourage regardless of generation I get that for some, you know, it might be a foreign concept, but I think it’s never too late to start to think about. And I do find some leaders when they get to, when they’re looking at, you know, what’s the legacy that I want to leave? Um, and what is that phase of my life going to look like? I think it’s so vital and helpful to think about what does – and I think in every stage of our life, our model for living can change. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just before the pandemic, and…

Nicole:  I;m sorry.

Marsha: Events caused me to really change. You know what is my model for living? And now I’m a, you know, I’m raising a daughter and caring for my mom. That’s just a totally different – it required some updates to my model for living.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So you’ve got these three models, these three parts to your model you have to put together. So let’s repeat them. Behavioral, leadership, and a model for living. Now early in the book page 24 I made a note. Uh, she says you’ve got to get a reflective practice. Now, you know, I don’t know where I got this, Marsha, but like, I don’t know. Was it the center for Creative Leadership? I mean, I’m like a seminar, webinar, YouTube junkie. I just hear things and I’m just like, oh my gosh. But, um, that reflection and journaling is like one of the number one habits a leader can have. And you must believe it, too. Tell me about that and your big emphasis on writing this stuff down, because again, it’s a big workbook, people.

Marsha: Yeah. It’s not a, yeah, it’s not a read it this weekend. And it is definitely a take some, some pieces and reflect, go do and then come back and reflect on what you notice. So I think what I want to say about journaling is I want to speak to all those out there who I could really have identified with a number of years ago. I thought that journaling was silly, a waste of time. I didn’t get it. I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I didn’t understand it. And one day I think in talking with someone, they just said, just grab a sheet of paper and actually let your brain talk to you through your pen.  Don’t judge it, don’t edit it, don’t critique it. Just let your brain talk to you. And I think it absolutely is a practice. I think that becoming you know, I say, I say often awareness precedes choice, precedes change. And I think one of the best ways that we become more aware is by catching sight of it. It’s not that you have to go slow all day, but boy, it’s sure helpful to find 10 or 15 minutes each day. Just let your brain talk to you and get out of your head and get it onto paper. And there’s so much research that’s been shared about, right, the act of getting it onto paper. And I know there’s so many digital options and it’s not a battle. I always fight with everybody. I just say start somewhere. So if you want to do it digitally, go for it. But there is a lot of research that points to that act of pen and paper. Um, so yeah, I think there’s something so it’s, it’s a gift. And I do think it’s a practice as well. Like it, it does take a little bit of time, but I’m fascinated in the mornings when I journal. It’s been a week. It’s been a tough week, um, for me. And I found myself waking up in the middle of the night. And so when I get up, the act of just being able to journal for a little while, it helps. It has a way of helping me catch sight of things that I can’t always catch sight of when I’m turning them around in my head over and over again.

Nicole: Um, yeah. And, um, so I have a guy I work with. His name is Don Carroll. He’s, you know, used to be an attorney. Now he’s a spiritual director and counselor and guru, really. And, uh, and and he, uh, he says, oh, you absolutely have to use a pen and paper. So Marsha is not bossing you around like Don. Okay. Don’s not here, so it’s okay. So. But like Don says, you actually. Because he’s like, it’s somatic, which means it gets you in your body and and and so you can’t, you can’t get out of your head unless you get in your body is what he says, right? You know, you got it. Yeah. You got to integrate the mind, the heart, spirit, the body, the whole thing. You got to use all the pieces of parts you were given. Um, and then I just want to give a shout out for a book. I bet you know it. But, um, for you listeners out there, um, this thing of writing first thing in the morning and just the way you described it, it sounds like The Artist’s Way?

Marsha: Yeah.

Nicole:  It sounded like Julia Cameron. So everybody write that down. Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way. And then she also has a book called The Artist’s Way at Work. I mean, this stuff is so stinking good.  So everybody, let’s just journal, okay? Let’s just do that. Stop complaining and get it done. All right, all right. So there’s this thing of journaling. So as you move through your book and let’s tell the name of it, Build Your Model for Leading Change by Marsha Eckhart A Guided Workbook to Catalyze Clarity. And don’t we need that and confidence right. And so oh that just triggered something to me. Let’s talk about confidence for a hot second. I coach a lot of people. In fact, I coached a gal earlier today. She wants to become a professional speaker. And when I talk to her, this stuff just comes out of her. Marsha, I’m like, you’re giving a keynote speech right now talking to me. You know? And, uh, she goes, oh, I have so much doubt. Um, so tell me how if I, if I figure out my, uh, model for leading change, how I’ll have more confidence.How do you see this as a confidence builder? Because tons of people are looking for more confidence.

Marsha: Yeah, I have watched it happen over and over again. It is the act of getting clear about what we believe and what we’re taking a stand for, and then sorting out. So in the model, um, in the process of building your model, you’ll think about what’s the theory? So how do you think about, um, developing leadership or how do you think about change and how it happens, but then you will go through the process of actually linking practices that you would do in the room with your team or with the people that you’re coaching or working with. And it’s the connection of the meaning. You know, how something happens to what you’re going to do and then practicing what you’re going to do and knowing what you’re going to do when your model hits the real world and changes and, uh, constraint, someone else says, no, I don’t, I disagree.  Your model is going to get tweaked. And so how are you going to navigate that? And I think it’s the clarity and the confidence that comes from doing the self-reflective work to define yours. There are you know, I’ve shared with you mine today, Nicole, you will have your own model. There will not be a lot of.

Nicole:  Get it together, people.

Marsha: You could Google uh, you could go to Amazon or Google and, and search change models and you would be gifted hundreds of thousands of them. They’re all super helpful. And at some point you have to stop collecting others and build your own, because it’s only in the process of doing that where you’re really clear about, I’m borrowing this piece from this person and this piece from this person, and I but I add in this piece and for me, it’s not really mine unless it’s got this last thing in it. And now I’m really clear about how I’d go about doing this and how I’d work with someone else who might have a different model. So I just think there are endless bounds of clarity and then confidence. But I think the confidence comes from being clear, and it’s not about being right or wrong. I think it’s just about being clear about what works for you and how you define it.

Nicole:  Absolutely, yeah. Because if you know what to do, know what you’re going to say. Know what your different parts of your behavioral model, your leadership model and your model for living, creates this foundation. I just think it’s fantastic. Okay. Now you have four levels of behavior. So there’s the three, um, circles on the Venn diagram. But there’s four levels of behavior and the first thing that people have to have is self-awareness. Yeah okay. And so I have a little coaching methodology. And uh, self-awareness is the first thing in my coaching model. So you and I are like peas and carrots. And so I mean, like, you can’t move forward and fix all these people you want to fix in your life until you take a good look in the mirror. So what’s your take on self-awareness? There’s a big portion of the book is about that.

Marsha: Yeah.

Nicole:  Well, and the whole book is about that. Right?

Marsha: Well, it comes back to the thing that I said just a moment ago. I think awareness precedes choice, precedes change. And sometimes, you know, I find I’m working with leaders and, you know, they’re catching sight of something and they’re noticing some really difficult things. And we have I think many of us have this tendency to go, yeah, it’s not that I want to see it like I want to fix it. I’m like, no, no, the awareness sometimes is the work to do. Like, I think that there’s so much gift in being able to catch sight of, oh, I showed up today in a conversation, and I don’t like who I was in that conversation, and I really don’t like the behavior that I was bringing. And I’m starting to notice, okay, here’s why that behavior came forward. Here’s why I did what I did. So now I’m aware, and I think all the things we’ve been talking about journaling, having a model for, looking at it, being clear about what I do, finding places where I sit down and just reflect on, you know, what happened or where I got into high stakes. I think high stakes is also another indicator of where to become more self-aware. Yeah. But yes, you know, it’s that process of building greater awareness because then in the next moment, I’ll, I’ll be able to pull on that memory and go, hmm. I mean, this happens. This pattern happened last week.

Nicole: I’m not going to be ugly again. I’m not doing that. Yeah, yeah. Because it was painful, probably for the people in the room and then painful for me to reflect on it. Yeah, don’t miss that everybody. And so then you’re like, nope I don’t want that pain again. So I’m going to take the higher road. So fantastic.  All right. So I love that. And I do think that people you know that’s what grandma would say, Marsha, now don’t be ugly, okay? And so everybody knows about Myrtle Claire Catherine Charlotte Hale who listens to this podcast. She was a great teacher in my life. So, you know, you do the self-awareness piece and it helps you show up better. Okay. So what are operating systems? What do you mean by operating systems?

Marsha: So operating systems there are, um, just to name them real quickly. There are four levels of behavior David defined in structural dynamics. The first are actions. So actions are probably more visible. And actually everything that we say, even in our conversation today could be coded into one of four actions. So it’s either a move. So you’re often in our conversation making moves because you’re asking a question or you’re pointing us to a different direction. So you just did it. Now as you said, what are the four levels? Um, that’s a move in the conversation.  It sets the direction. A follow completes or it gets behind it. It supports the direction that’s been set. So as I respond to some of your questions, I’m doing a lot of following because I’m supporting the direction. Oppose is the third one and oppose offers correction. So I could say, no Nicole, like, let’s not talk about that. What um, you know.

Nicole: What can you do if you want to do your book?

Marsha: I could, but I’m, you know, I’m purposefully choosing not to today because it’s not really present for me that I would push back.

Nicole: It’s not high stakes.

Marsha: It’s not high stakes. And then the fourth one is called by stand. And so by stand is more of a neutral comment about what’s happening in the conversation. So I could just bite down on myself and say I’m noticing I’m having so much fun in our conversation today. Right? So it’s neither a move or a follow or an oppose, it’s just a bit about what’s happening in the conversation. So those are actions. And the interesting part about just having the actions is that we need all four of those actions to be voiced in order for the conversation to be effective. So when I said to you earlier. You know, sometimes if people don’t feel like they are heard or understood, a lot of times what’s happening is that the voice of opposition is missing in the conversation. So there’s conversations about change. If I don’t feel like it’s okay or safe for me to tell you that I don’t like your change or your idea, I will follow in the conversation with you. I’ll say sure, and I’ll go offline outside of our conversation, and I’ll tell everybody else what I really think. And we call that in structural dynamics. We call it a covert oppose because I’m voicing a follow. But what I intend as an opposition. So that is the source where we get really tangled up in our conversations. And that’s actually what has us repeat conversations over and over again. So that’s actions.

Nicole: And that’s why all your meetings seem like the same meeting.

Marsha: Absolutely. If you look at just how many of those actions move, follow, oppose, and by stand are present and which ones are missing, it’ll tell you a lot about your conversation. So that’s the first level action. The second level is operating systems. And that’s what you just asked about. So that’s just how it’s the norms for how we work with one another. So there are three open systems says I want to hear from everyone. Closed system I shared with you in my story. Right close system is someone’s making a decision. They’re not looking for input. So there’s more hierarchy or a preference for, um, a preference to sort of hold on to tradition. So a lot of times when people are being asked to change, you’ll hear folks, there’ll be some who want to gather all input from others. There will be some who want to say, that’s not how we do things around here. That’s their way of signaling. You know, I prefer for things to be in a steady state or, you know, for there to be a more clear process. And then the third operating system is a random system, and it’s the place of innovation and creativity. But it all sounds good. It’s also the place of more independent action. So in a random system, we might launch a change initiative and just say, everybody go do what you’d like to do. Like we’re not going to coordinate an open system or we’re not going to look for someone to tell us in a closed system, we’d actually give people some level of autonomy, um, within boundaries and then, you know, ask them to, you know, take action on their own. So that’s the operating system. And then the third level is communication domains. And there are three. Power is the language of getting it done. Affect is the language of care and concern for people. And meaning is the language of data, purpose, or why? So a lot of model building is actually in the language of meaning. So it’s getting really clear about why. Like why do I think this happens. If I were going to speak in the language of affect, it would be about care and concern for others. Empowered be getting it done. So the thing about all three of those levels is that we all will have all of them. We’ll all do all of them, but we will have one that we tend to prefer, and at least one that we have a little bit of bias against. And there will be good reasons. The fourth level is childhood story, and the reason that we’ll have a for and against in our behavior will be based on our identity forming stories.

Nicole:  Mmm. See how rich this is? This is so good. Oh, my gosh. And if you thought we all need a psychoanalytic moment around here, this is the book that helps you kind of see all that. I mean it’s so good. All right. So there’s four levels of behavior. So I mean that is all we have time for on this episode of the Build of Vibrant Culture podcast. But here’s what I want to encourage everybody to do. Uh, I want you to get a pen and paper and, you know, sit quietly and reflect after you listen to this podcast. It’s the first thing I want to say. And then the second thing I want you to do is turn your computer back on and get this book right here, okay. It is the Build Your Model for Leading Change: A Guided Workbook to Catalyze Clarity and Confidence in Leading Yourself and Others by Marsha Acker. It is a guided workbook to catalyze clarity. And you need to be clear, friends, and have confidence in leading yourself and others. So it’s like a personal change model. Then you’re going to buy them for all your friends in the C-suite. If you’re a C-suite person, all your buddies who run departments and then get together and talk about this change model that you’ve put together. So do you have one story of a team or an organization that you worked with? And everybody got their act together around their change model, and they really did something fantastic. Would you tell that story to kind of bring us home?

Marsha: Absolutely.

Nicole: Um, I love it.

Marsha: I’ve worked with a leadership team that is actually defining their model for what collective leadership looks like.  So one of the things that has been present in that team is lots of innovation, rapid change, rapid success. So lots of good things. Sure. Except, um, also what’s showing up is people not feeling aligned, um, like not understood, not heard and not aligned towards the bigger, towards the bigger picture. So after about six months, that leadership team has been talking about, what does collective leadership mean to us, realizing that they all had different points of view about it, that they all had different definitions about it, some had conflicting definitions. And so what was going on is one leader would be, um, consciously or unconsciously sort of sending signals that this is how teams should be. Um, this is how we’re rolling. 

Nicole: Yeah, yeah, this is how we’re rolling. 

Marsha: The other leader would actually be contradicting. And you’ve got staff and other leaders below going just to, you know, eventually the phrase just tell us what you want us to do, okay?

Nicole: Oh that’s bad news.

Marsha:  Yeah. So they have spent about six months having a conversation of what’s it going to look like? Um, where do we disagree? Where can we start to find alignment and synergy between having different points of view, and they’re at the point where they’ve gotten clear, they’ve restructured some of their meetings. They’ve started to bring their second tier leadership team into the process. And what’s really fascinating is they’ve just recently navigated a huge, um, restructuring and layoff because there are many organizations going through that. And it’s their work that they have done around their collective leadership that has led them through that process. So while no layoff is fun for anybody on that end, they’ve done it by being able to have really clear conversations across both the top team and the secondary team. And so it served them really well to navigate really tough times right now. And they don’t have the same heated level of conflict that they were having previously.

Nicole:  Mmm, so we don’t have a lot of high stakes things going on. We’ve lowered the stakes.  That’s good, that’s good. Well, I am so glad that you have been on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast, everybody. We’ve had Marsha Acker here today, and she and I would love it if you would go down and leave a nice comment. And if you would do that, click like and uh, and tell us that you liked the podcast, share it with your friends. And again, go out to Amazon and get yourself a copy of  Build Your Model for Leading Change: A Guided Workbook to Catalyze Clarity and Confidence in Leading Yourself and Others by Marsha Acker. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. 

Marsha: Thank you. Nicole.

Nicole:  Thank you.Voice Over: Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. If you found value in today’s episode, please take a moment to leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback helps us improve and reach more like minded listeners. Remember, the journey to building a vibrant culture never stops. Stay inspired. Keep nurturing your vibrant culture and we can’t wait to reconnect with you on the next exciting episode of Build a Vibrant Culture podcast.

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