Once upon a time
Once upon a time, a clever group of female entrepreneurs started their businesses – each of them in their very unique way with their minds full of knowledge, their hearts filled with hot burning enthusiasm and their eyes directed to their goals, unswervingly going their way with the power of support they got through one another. For each one of them who needed help, some advice or feared losing track, two others stepped in and coached her until she was on her way again. They called themselves “The Powerwomen” and that was who they were.
Some day, another group of women suddenly appeared at the horizon. That different and similiar at the same time. The “Strong Females” too started their exceptional businesses to make this world a better place, to enrichen lame market supply with their powerful insights, experience and intuition and on the way they supported each other as much as they could.
After nearly two exhausting years of existence, the meetings of “The Powerwomen” started to crumble apart. The once new task of entrepreneurship had started to feel like everyday life, their energy was fading and the first existence-threatening challenges had been taken brilliantly. Fewer and fewer women came to their meetings and one day they asked themselves the overall-question: “Why?” It meant everything. What is our matter of existence? What is our purpose? How can we reanimate our team spirit? What do we want to experience together? Once they began asking themselves these questions, they couldn’t stop their ideas popping out of their mouths. They wanted to do little workshops at the beginning of their meetings, discuss current and delicate business-matters, collaborate, get to know the work-places of the others and last but not least: Have a good time together.
Oddly, these were the exact words the “Strong Females” used to define for their meetings and goals only a few blocks away, without any knowledge of what was spoken at the table of “The Powerwomen”.
Both parties made big posters called “Vision Maps” with their ideas on it and hung them up at their locations. One sunny day, a “Strong Female” passed by the map of the “Powerwomen” and in a way of naïve and positive thinking she thought she might have found likeminded people and maybe future friends. She hardly could wait for the next meeting to introduce her so distinct idea of connecting these two groups and form one. Why not join forces? By doing so, the network would have grown a bit. Of course they would have to get to know each other in the first place, but then a bigger network meant more power, ideas and support too! The strong value of personal connectivity could have stayed through chatting times at the events and moreover – the group would not have been THAT big – it could even save the two groups of being a dying breed through more members in one place! What benefit would there be to organize two events with the exact same topics instead of one? It seemed ridiculous not giving it a try.
The “Strong Females” were curious, but reserved when they first heard about that idea. In the end they decided to give it a try and opened their doors for the “Powerwomen” – but none of them came. Instead something remarkable happened – they didn’t show up at any event anymore and remained silent where they once wouldn’t stop telling their stories to one another. The network suddenly felt barren like a desert with only a hay bale passing by once in a while when some woman pose a question nobody would answer. The “Strong Female” who had had the idea of connecting the two groups noticed this and tried to arrange a second try. Everything would be better once they got to know each other personally, right? Suddenly it began to rumble and the “Powerwomen” started to speak up about everything they didn’t like anymore to her as well as to one another. Some of them even cut off all the leashes and left the group. It somehow felt like the “Powerwomen” were in danger of falling apart.
This is a true story. The naïve and positive woman – it was me. In my mind I couldn’t think of anything more logical and sense-making as bringing these two groups together. Through this whole process, I learned a lot about corporate culture I want to share here with you.
#1 Whenever change is wanted, management has to commit.
Without the support and authorization of the top of the company – nothing will change. In this case I wasn’t the manager, we were equal, Therefore it only showed up faster: As not everybody was involved in the decision of getting to know the other group, the members partly were not committed.
#2 Change has to be felt as an inner urge out of the people that are affected.
Will and power have to be created in the hearts of each and every person involved. Some will remain in resistance – this is good, each company needs people who preserve and defend what once was achieved. But it can never be the majority.
#3 Involve everybody.
It is not enough to write protocols of meetings only a few attended and provide this information. They will not feel the words written down, especially if it contains something important like upcoming changes in corporate structures. Resistance is guaranteed in this case. If a lot of them don’t seem interested in being involved, rather ask yourself: Why is this the case?
#4 Be passionate.
You really have to want what you say you want. Half-hearted actions will be punished immediately. Be prepared to spend your time and/or money in advance without knowing if it is going to work out. Just because you feel it is worth a try.
Of course these experiences differ from environment to environment and can’t be transferred on a 1:1 base from a professional network by choice to a corporate culture. But in fact, I think it makes the forces working visible more rapid and severe.
As a consultant: Be sure to scrutinize these issues in advance, before starting the change-process. Let management be aware they are a role-model and have to commit. Tell them that they really have to want this change process and that it needs time to create the inner urge of this change in their team, it will probably consume most of the time. Use methods that involve everybody and include those that want to take part in the process and need their time to be part of it. And whatever you do: Act full-heartedly.
In my case the process is still in progress. The “Powerwomen” have got the chance to take this energy of resistance and transform it into their re-birth. I so much wish them strength and luck on their way of doing it. Or maybe they decide that their time is over and that the purpose of the network was to strengthen each other at the beginning of their way into entrepreneurship. Both ways are good ones. However, it should be continued or closed clearly. For unfinished projects tend to dissipate energy without our knowledge.