Optimistically Embracing Change – A Q&A with Chief Change Officer, Jeff Outten

Recently, we announced that DHG plans to merge with BKD effective June 1, 2022. Leading up to the announcement, our leaders spent countless hours in discussion, and central to these discussions was how this change would impact our people and our clients. When I look back on our announcement day, February 17th, a monumental day for both firms, I will never forget the interactions I had with our people and our clients – witnessing the overwhelming excitement was not only energizing but also reaffirming that this was absolutely the right decision for the future of our firm.

As we navigate the integration of DHG and BKD to form a new, national Top-10 firm, all our team members have the opportunity to be involved in the process and help shape our new firm. While the future is very bright and rich with possibilities, I recognize that change comes with challenges and questions. There is no better person to help us successfully manage change than our Chief Change Officer, Jeff Outten. I recently had the opportunity to ask him a few questions to help us navigate the next few months.

MS: Why is embracing change important for our people?

JO: I want to start with a misconception I frequently hear that change management is only a skill set for our senior leaders. This statement is not true; every single person in our firm can “be the change” and impact our new path forward.

In fact, learning to embrace change can be a valuable asset for individual growth and development. Not only does change add core competencies, such as agility and adaptability, to your toolbox, embracing change can help develop your “brand” and position yourself as an innovator and trailblazer among your peers and leaders. During the change process leaders rely on team members who are positive, curious, and proactively seek opportunities to be involved. If you have an idea or question, now is your time to speak up.

MS: What do you see as key characteristics for successful change influencers?

JO: This list could go on and on, but I will keep it to a few key characteristics.

  1. Develop relationships built on trust. Trust is where it all begins. When experiencing change, you want to be surrounded by people who have your back. You build this trust in your day-to-day interactions – it should not just start when a change begins, and it cannot be built overnight. Be transparent, do what you say you will do, and communicate frequently to build this trust with your teammates and peers.
  2. There is no substitute for optimism. Not only is optimism a core competency at DHG but it is also a critical characteristic in the change process. You make the weather and while there will be inherently challenging days, embracing change begins with an open mind and optimism. A quick mindset shift can make all the difference during times of change.
  3. Apply equal doses of patience and persistence. Change does not happen overnight and there can be setbacks. You must be patient with the change process, but you also need to be persistent to keep pushing forward.
  4. Be a team player. You have heard me say this before, but change is a team sport. The best way to embrace change is together. The more fingerprints we can get on a project, the better – it increases collaboration, diversity of thought, and innovation. Be willing to jump in and collaborate with others during times of change.

MS: If someone is struggling with change right now, what would you say to them?

JO: During integration, it is critical to focus on what you can control. Focus on your performance, your optimistic mindset and serving your clients. Keep your eyes on the horizon with a focus on the big picture.

It is equally important to remain open to new possibilities. In life, rare opportunities present themselves to do something genuinely special. When presented with such an opportunity, do we continue down the road of familiarity, or do we have the vision and courage to embark on a different path, perhaps less traveled, and strive for a new destiny? We are embarking down a new path towards a new destiny with some uncharted territory. Take time to reflect on what you enjoy most, your strengths, and areas of development and remain open to exploring new career paths and possibilities. As I look back on my career, there were many times that change opened a door to a path I did not even know existed, and I would not be where I am today if I did not optimistically embrace each of these changes. This is an incredible opportunity – let’s make the most of it!

Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your wisdom and knowledge to help us strengthen our change muscles as we prepare for another monumental day in our history, the first day as a new firm on June 1, 2022.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Matt Snow
Chief Executive Officer
Matt.Snow@dhg.com
Jeff Outten
Director, Change Management
Jeff.Outten@dhg.com

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