What watercolours are teaching me about change and leadership – 1: Working out where to start

In lockdown, I am, like many, trying to maintain healthy boundaries around work and personal time and that’s a topic for another day.

I’ve been enjoying taking up some old hobbies and some new ones, too. One of which is painting with watercolours. I have this ‘future state’ vision of being able to sit in some idyllic spot in the world, capturing the moment in watercolours.

At first, I approached it front-on – starting with a blank sheet of paper, some lovely tubes of colour and various brushes and… nothing happened. It was like I was afraid to get the paper dirty, didn’t have an image in my head to use as a guide and had zero technique.

What made me freeze? ‘It’s just paint and paper… just start’ I thought. I made some attempts at forcing it but it wasn’t really working.

This is often how a lot of change practitioners and change leaders feel – everyone is telling them to ‘just start’ and, for a lot of reasons, that is not as easy as it seems. And, for a lot of changes we are trying to land, there are real consequences that weigh on us as well.

What to do?

So what did I do? I realised I had to learn HOW watercolour works – it is a very organic process! And it won’t be forced. It also doesn’t always do what or go where you want it to. What helped the most was to have some exercises to practice, to learn how each brush worked and how the watercolour behaved. And just play, rather than have a ‘project’ to achieve or finish and let it tell me how to do this, rather than the other way around.

And that is what a lot of change leaders and practitioners find helpful, too. Park the project or outcome and learn more about how your people behave (or not), how will the ‘change’ work (or not), what are the real-life impacts on your people and practice gathering this intel with some core tools. THAT helps you lead and land the change with your people, rather than work against them.

In my next blog, I’ll continue to share more about what watercolours are teaching me about change and leadership.

Let’s continue the conversation, how we can help:

  • Coaching – Bringing in an ‘outside’ coach can help and that’s where we come in. We are ‘neutral territory’ and our focus as a coach to you is helping you achieve the outcomes you need of the change. Learn more about our coaching services.
  • Plan to Land Change Workshop – we work with the change leader and their steering committee or project team to build the change strategy for the change and the action plan. Learn more about this hands-on and immersive workshop.

Watercolour by Vicky Emery.

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