Change is in The Air: An Interview with Change Leader, Judy Bowers

Change is in the Air

 

Miranda TroyBy Miranda Troy

TLG Senior Consultant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serendipity is one of my favorite words and I am always happy when this “development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial state” transpires in my life. This month the events of chance that came together were three: 1. I joined Turknett Leadership Group (TLG) as a Senior Consultant and blog contributor 2. TLG’s theme for the month of March is “Change is Constant (Or Not)” and 3. March is National Women’s Month. There is a single person that encompasses leadership character, a reputation as a change leader and a passionate advocate for women, Judy Bowers. Serendipitously, she said yes to an interview with me.

Judy and I knew of each other and respected each other for many years at Autotrader.com. We finally got to meet in 2020 through another former ATC alum, Heather Markle, a mutual friend, amazing entertainer, and connector of women. Shortly after meeting, I had the honor and privilege of coaching Judy as she navigated a new role at a new company and a change in leadership on day one. Judy embodies the profession of change leadership and applies her change principles to her professional and personal life.

Judy and Miranda

Q: Tell me about your background and how you became a change leader.

A: This is a timely question as I recently created a career journey presentation for my leadership team at McKesson. It was an incredible exercise in taking a moment to step back and truly review the major life events and professional accomplishments that brought me to this point in my career. I wanted to make sure that I had a representation of my personal and professional highs and lows; as this is what brings your authentic self forward.

Through completing this exercise, I found that I am driven by three C’s: Curiosity, Courage, and Change. These three C’s led me to start or (in some instances) build new roles, create teams, and build skillsets. It was during one of these ‘fill the gap needs’ that I created my first change management role at AutoTrader.com. I saw a gap and a need to ensure our team members were engaged and informed on the company strategy. I built on my project and program management skills and pulled in my Organizational Communications degree to create the first change management role in the organization. I was in the role for five years and feel that I successfully addressed that gap and employees were more informed of the direction the company was going.

Q: What are the core responsibilities of a change leader and how do organizations benefit from having a change department?

A: You know, this is interesting. From my perspective, responsibilities will vary by company, by department, by business unit, and by need. I have seen the change leader role used to describe sales account management, describe technical changes as well as changes with people in organizational transformation work.

For me, there are three pillars that make up the foundation of change management: Communications, Training / Development, and Adoption. Adoption is where my passion lies. I find that it is often the most overlooked OR it becomes too focused and misses the bigger picture. I have also found that adoption will not be successful if you have not established strong relationships.

Organizations benefit from change management based on what their need is and how clearly and cleanly they want to adopt change.

Q: What is the best leadership advice you have received? 

A: I actually have to share two.

Early in my career, Rebecca Watson, a retired Autotrader.com executive told me, “Do the work that others do not want to do., that hard project or program that others don’t want to tackle. Walk towards it, not away.” This became my guiding light for work efforts and work adventures.

Later in my career, Joe George, a Cox Automotive executive, mentor, and friend, taught me to understand that everyone is bringing their full self to work. There are three parts of one’s whole self: the person work is expecting, the person that home is expecting, and the person that they are. I took this advice to heart and became intentional about “meeting people where they are”. In order to do that, you first have to ask them, “How are you? What’s going on?” This is also how you start to build strong relationships which as I shared is a critical skill for a change leader.

Q: What is the biggest change initiative you have implemented at work? 

A: There really isn’t one change initiative that stands out. I think I am in a state of constant change.

During the growing years at Autotrader.com, we did not sit still. We were constantly moving to the next growth or milestone. The key to that success was having a strong NorthStar, and a clear plan of how to get there.

The development and stabilization of my change management team and my change leader role during that time gave me the skills to keep hunting for the answer. When I wasn’t able to get approval for much needed headcount, I partnered with HR to help create a Co-Op/Intern program and volunteered to be the first team to take on a student. When I needed to move the needle on employee engagement, I kept trying different activities and efforts until they stuck, and the engagement score increased by 11 points.

Q: What is the biggest personal change you have faced?  What did you learn?

A: I have one word for you, 2019.

I married my long-term boyfriend of 12 years, I started a new role at a new company and lost a parent, all in one calendar year. From such complete joy to intellectual stimulation to utter loss within twelve months was a LOT of change. And then, a pandemic.

Through all of these changes, I learned, as many of us have, that resilience is a life skill that will pay you back tenfold. I learned that asking for help and seeking support is one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself (and your family). Lastly, I learned that meditation DOES work.

Q: This is National Women’s Month and you are a fierce advocate for women.  As a woman in corporate America, what is the biggest challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?

A: Imposter Syndrome, the doubting of your abilities and the belief that you don’t deserve what you have earned. It never quite goes away. I do think that it keeps me on my toes and that there is a real skill to training yourself to stop the negative thinking and move forward. And, when I reflect back on my 3 C’s, Courage is definitely what helps me overcome it.

I really enjoyed a recent women’s event at work that featured Dr. Jen Welter, the first female coach for the NFL. She talked openly about her feelings of Imposter Syndrome and said, “So much of what we grow up into – or believe we are capable of – is what we see” and advocates for representation across the board.

Q: COVID-19 has changed how we interact with others in the workforce.  What advice do you have for others as we continue to navigate this new world? 

A: Meet people where they are. If you have a group of individuals who aren’t using the video option, don’t enforce it. Understand that there is probably a good reason. And get comfortable with workout clothes and hats.

Over-communicate and check in with people. Do the random check-in and just ask people, “How is your day? Week?” And, don’t make it so hierarchical. We are humans at every level and titles shouldn’t matter.

Q: What is one thing that people assume about you that is not accurate?

A: I have two. The first is that because my chosen profession is change management, people assume that I am accepting of all things change or that I love change. The truth is that while I know how to manage change, I walk through the same change cycle as everyone else and I don’t always like it.

The second is that because I like to rock climb, people assume that I don’t have a fear of heights. Wrong! I have a fear of heights, but rock climbing is the most “Zen state” you can experience. You are so focused on the moment that you are fully present, and the fear is not there. Now, when I make it to the top, the fear has resurfaced a few times.

Q: What book are you currently reading?

I am an avid book reader, so I tend to keep a stack of books in every room of the house and a few books on Audible. I also host a quarterly book swap but in light of COVID, I had to do a “Pandemic PIVOT”, so my best friend and I created a mobile book swap event. We drove around town to about 14 locations and safely traded books. It felt very old-fashioned and was quite fun.

Think Again by Adam Grant is my professional interest for the quarter. I actually
posted it on LinkedIn so I would feel a bit more pressure to start and finish it. Please join me in reading it if you are able! And hold me accountable by sharing your thoughts via my LinkedIn post.

Q: What is the one piece of advice, the “one thing” that you would leave with others?

A: Understand your value AND know your personal values.

When you understand your value, you can be your own cheerleader and be proud of who you are, what you have learned, and who you are becoming. I think that it is important to remember that your value is not your rating on a performance evaluation.

I think that everyone should go through the exercise of establishing their personal values, keeping their values front and center, and reexamining them often. When you know what your personal values are, they become the guideposts for your life decisions. You become unequivocally strong about them and you don’t hesitate to make decisions because you are living a life aligned with your personal values.

Thank you to Judy Bowers, an amazing change leader, a fierce advocate for women, Peloton lover, gardener, artist, and a friend.

I encourage you to follow Judy on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/judybowers