Episode 218 – Being a Change Superhero with Lucinda Carney

Lucinda CarneyIf you’re overthinking things and tying yourself in knots, make a cup of tea and have a listen to this. Lucinda Carney is a woman who Gets Stuff Done, and in this conversation she reveals how she does it.

It’s a great example of how creating content – in this case a book and a podcast – can support whatever business you’re in: Lucinda is CEO of a tech company, and both How to be a Change Superhero and the HR Uprising podcast provide the context that helps their customers make the system implementation successful.

A brilliant case study and a shot of pure writing adrenaline, all in one conversation.


LINKS:

Lucinda on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucindacarney/

Actus site: https://actus.co.uk/

HR Uprising: https://hruprising.com/

Lucinda on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LucindaCarney

Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky

The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/

PI Virtual Writing Retreat, 25 May 2020: https://alisonjones.lpages.co/virtual-writing-retreat/

PI-Q webinar: Customer Success – A matter of business life or death, 10 June 2020: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pi-q-webinar-customer-success-a-matter-of-business-life-or-death-tickets-105026001598

See all PI-Q webinars and replay links: https://practicalinspiration.com/pi-q

The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge Sep 2020: https://alisonjones.leadpages.co/proposal-challenge/

Alison Jones
I’m here today with Lucinda Carney, who is a chartered occupational psychologist with many years’ corporate HR experience leading and delivering system and culture change. And in her role as CEO and founder of Actus software, she works with a wide range of business professionals in a range of sectors and share that knowledge through powerful case studies. She hosts the number one ranking HR Uprising podcast, and She’s the author of How to be a Change Superhero: the business toolkit to help you to do change better. Welcome to the show, Lucinda.

Lucinda Carney
Hi, Alison. I’m very excited to be here. Thank you.

Alison Jones
Great to have you here. I love talking to Practical Inspiration authors and I love talking to inspirational authors who’ve been through the 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge and that’s how this book came about, isn’t it?

Lucinda Carney
It did indeed. Yes. Who would have thought it it’s less than a year ago I think almost exactly.

Alison Jones
Incredible. So tell you what, just tell people what that was like. We were one of those people that went in with a kind of really clearly formed I’m gonna win this kind of mentality.

Lucinda Carney
Gosh, no. And I found you through a friend of mine who recommended the book challenge. It’s one of those things where I was saying I really should write a book. It’s been something that I’ve had at the back of my mind for about 10 years genuinely, I’ve even partially written things before. And she said, You should just do this and look great. And I got on it. And it was such a fab structure. I was it was my dream to win it because and actually being one of the winners on that particular one was so massive for me because it meant I went, Oh, it gave me the confidence that the book was worth writing. No, the structure of it was just great. So I had clarity. It gave me clarity as to what the book needed to look like and brought it to life by doing the 10 Day Challenge. And then as you know, I went and did the bootcamp as well, but being one of the winners gave me confidence to go, well, you can’t dilly dally anymore. You just got to get on and do it.

Alison Jones
I think we should put Michelle’s comment, ‘You should just do it’ – that should be like a mantra we put above everything that we put out. Brilliant. And it was quite a busy challenge that, I remember actually you were up against an awful lot of really good, really good books. But one of the things that really struck me about your proposal was the way you brought in the organizational development aspect into HR. And it struck me that that was not something that I particularly seen before. And I just found it really interesting. So just just talk us through, you know, how your background pulls all that together.

Lucinda Carney
It’s interesting that you say that, because that’s what comes naturally to me. And I think that everyone else can do it. But then when I work with people who perhaps are in HR, I realized that’s not so natural to others, and hence it there is a value in writing the book to help people. So my background, I spent about 20 years in organizational development, learning and development roles, which meant there was often quite a lot of change orientation in them. I brought in initiatives, was responsible for initiatives. And so effectively, I had to be a change agent within the organizations I was in. Because I’ve got a qualification in psychology and a masters in chartered, In fact, in organizational psychology, lots of the theory I suppose I’ve absorbed and therefore I apply. And also, I spent a number of years being a trainer, a corporate trainer, so we’d be training people on how to deliver change effectively. So using things like Cotters model and the various models we look at. So all of those things I know people find hard or don’t necessarily know how to do. And it’s a combination of both having almost the interpersonal skills of being prepared to be a change agent, but also the knowledge of what to do, how to communicate it in the structure of it, that I wanted to combine together. And that’s really what the concept of the book was how that fits into ideas, really, that lots of people don’t know what od is, it’s organizational development. And it’s sits really alongside HR. In organizations you can debate whether or not it should sit above it or below it, but one of the differences between HR and organizational development is it is much more about change would very often set into if you’re managing change, people change, then it would be more of an open ideational development focus. So an HR person might do OD work, they may be a change agent, because they’re having to deliver OD initiatives, for example.

Alison Jones
You know, it’s funny I didn’t really know much about… I knew the phrase, but I didn’t really know much about organizational development before talking to you, and it always strikes me as quite odd that although Human Resources sounds like it’s more about humans and organizational development sounds like it’s more like about organizations, actually, there’s a really strong human element in it. And very often, HR can be very much more about the organization and systems, processes. What irony?

Lucinda Carney
That’s a really valid point. Totally. I’ve never thought of that myself, I think it’s really true. And also the whole OD thing, I remember when I first set up on my own about 10 years ago, and I put on ‘OD consultant’ and I remember someone saying: ‘You’re an odd consultant? What’s an odd consultant?’ They were really mystified. So it’s good to demystify that.

Alison Jones
Not an overdose consultant at all, that’s a completely different thing. And change obviously, it’s kind of the one constant In every single business at every level at every size in every industry, has that become. You think because we’re all having to do it, we’d be getting better at it. Is that your experience?

Lucinda Carney
I think it varies. What I do see a lot of and obviously this has come about because also we have we have software, we work with clients to try and deliver cultural change. Often the software might be a catalyst for that. But we’re all aware of those sorts of statistics where they say that 70% of change initiatives fail due to people issues and that sort of thing. So I think we still have work to do in terms of change. I have a personal view, that one of the reasons I think we don’t do change well often is because there are too many new change initiatives coming along the line. So we don’t follow through, we don’t finish and get the value therefore by sort of… I’m demonstrating a curve here. You can’t really see that but we tend not to finish, the end of change is often quite hard, which is this consolidation and turning it into business as usual. And often the people who are involved at the start of the change, they may be a bit tired by then or actually, I think there’s a case I make it in the book that different personalities are more appropriate at different phases in change. I’m someone who is a great starter of things, I am not great at finishing and dotting the i’s and crossing the T’s. So I would need to work with the team of people who would be good at pushing it through and turning it into something realizing the real benefits of it. And you find many businesses I’ve worked in one which was definitely like this, where you get almost change fatigue, you’ve not finished one project, then along comes another one. And then I think that initial one gets forgotten and that’s why it’s just there’s so much going on. We don’t see it through to completion. I think that’s where we have issues still.

Alison Jones
We get a bit of change drunk, don’t we. People just think if I’ll sit here long enough there’ll be another change along in a minute at any point.

Lucinda Carney
Well yes, that’s one of the reasons why people resist it because sometimes it will go away if you hang around long enough.

Alison Jones
And it’s interesting what you say about the different types of people as well. It’s like the difference between leaders and managers, isn’t it?

Lucinda Carney
Yes. And they do make the case again Cotter who’s big about the change he there, his eight step model, he talks about leadership and management, and it’s their different skills. And often leadership might be more transformational, it might be more about driving or creating a vision for change. The management bit would then be the bit where you need to manage it through to completion and manage people through the change. So you need both skills, but they’re subtly different.

Alison Jones
Yes, and there’s different types of people have the genius in different ones. Yes. And let’s talk about… I mean, I’ve just tried to work out a really tenuous connection here, but yes, I’m going to go with it. So you’ve got that starting energy, when you have the idea of the book, you come out of the proposal challenge, the proposals are shiny, and then there’s a real implementation period isn’t there? So just talk us through how is that as a reflective change practitioner – how did you find the process of writing yourself?

Lucinda Carney
Yes, that is because I’m not great at finishing. But actually, I’ve been quite good on all my deadlines with this. I know thinking, I think it’s actually because you said, you said something earlier and said sometimes a shorter deadline is better than a longer one. And so, for me, once I had the plan, I then agreed a deadline. And I think it was the end of September. And I thought, well, that’s what the summer holidays in it, which could be a good or it could be a bad thing. And how I just basically put myself under pressure or short term targets to do it. And I didn’t find that that hard from the point of view that I knew what needed to be written. A lot of the content has been in my head or I’ve trained on it before. Anyway, it was just about getting it down. And then it was about breaking it down. For me, I’m someone who I do work quite well in the mornings. I’m quite goal oriented. So I would pretty much say I want to write 3000 words a week. That’s a And I can break that down. If I do 500 a day that’s done, you know, some days you get onto a roll of 1000. Sometimes you’re really struggling. But I would try it wherever possible to do that as early as possible in the day. So that was my big rock – anyone who’s listened to Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which links to what I’ll talk about later – Stephen Covey talks about having big rocks in terms of priorities. And so it became one of my important things, and I felt good if I’d achieve that bit of working. So I just structured a lot of time over the summer to do a bit of it every single day, which you could argue is a bit out. I’m not generally that good at being that structured, but it was quite goal oriented. And it was a shortish period of time, so I kept that sort of adrenalin and that buzz of being. “Yes, I’m going to do that and get there to hit that deadline.” So that’s that’s how I did it really.

Alison Jones
They normally say it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon but you kind of made it into a sprint.

Lucinda Carney
Well, I don’t… Yes, it is. Little little bits of running. I wasn’t certainly wasn’t… I’d have little breaks here and there, and it was about getting those chunks in. I do remember one chapter that was really hard. And I think I remember putting out on Twitter or something where I realized that I just laboriously spent hours writing it, and then when I read it back. It was absolute nonsense. Oh, it just wasn’t right. It was completely different, too theoretical. It wasn’t like any of the other ones. So sometimes I think you sweat them a bit, some of them, but most of it, I was quite comfortable. I knew what I was going to write. And it’s just about getting it down.

Alison Jones
And was it the table of contents that helped with that, do you think?

Lucinda Carney
One hundred percent. Yes, you said to do that quite early. Because you took us through the boot camp as well. And it’s telling you what you needed to do. So following that process, it literally – once I’ve got the thing from the bootcamp, the 10 day… where we’ve got our actual program and getting that clarity knowing what each chapter was. That was the key and then just carrying on from there in terms of that table of contents.

Alison Jones
Yes, I mean, I know I bang on about this endlessly, but it just is so transformational, isn’t it? You can sit down and try and write your book, but if you’ve actually got a table of contents, then you know where everything fits together and the the trajectory of your argument. It’s a different experience. You can just sit down and write

Lucinda Carney
Yes. And I mean, I didn’t do the posting, I know people talked about posting, I didn’t do that. But what I did do is probably with that table of contents, I did go in and sort of brain dump what I knew I wanted to talk about in each of those ones as well. So the thoughts are, there’s models, so you have a table of contents, and then you sort of chunked it up slightly going, I’m going to cover these things within that chapter. Then you have your structure, and then it was about writing it. So it just built up like that.

Alison Jones
And that’s quite a mechanical way of talking about writing the book, you talk about the the time you spend and how the structure and so on, as you know change is about mechanics and systems, but it’s also about humans and the soft bits of hard work. How was that piece, or were you just so focused on the mechanics that actually you didn’t give yourself time to think about imposter syndrome or anything of that nature?

Lucinda Carney
I didn’t really think about whether the book was going to be any good – I was focused on the actual achievement of getting it written. And because I had a publishing contract and I’d committed to doing it, it was actually going to be real. And so at the time I’m talking to you now, no one’s really read it other than my reviewers. And I was like, well, it’s just the achievement to even do it, isn’t it? So I, so that was more of the issue I didn’t worry about. And I do know that I worried a little bit about my voice. And that was an interesting one. I think when I first did the challenge. I think I wanted it to be quite authoritative and evidence based, because there’s this almost dichotomy between being a psychologist and being a trainer, and a do-er. And in the end, I realized that actually, this was going to be what I call it accessible. I wanted to do something that’s quite… I realized that my voice is something that is a much more practical handbook and when I let go of trying to be an authority and being, you know, very evidence driven and everything, although there is evidence and research in there, but when I let go of that I feel like I found my voice and it was more like me talking, it’s if I was training someone, it’s practical, and and then I was less hassled by it if you see…

Alison Jones
And I’d love that you included that in your little note, about you hoped it was both practical and inspiring, because that’s what we want our books to be.

Lucinda Carney
Well I know, I realised I’d written that. And I thought, Oh, I don’t know, I’ve just used… which was obviously how you came about it. But I thought Actually, I wasn’t trying to nick Practical Inspiration. But I thought, well, that’s why it was a good fit for us. And actually, that’s what it’s meant to be.

Alison Jones
Exactly. And I think it’s, I mean, we laugh about lowbrow, but it’s just, it’s brilliant. Because that’s what we needed. We need things that we can just take on board. It’s accessible, it’s friendly, you know, your little kind of superhero character in there is just lovely. And you know, it’s very easy to read on the page. And that really matters I think, because this is it is accessible, but it’s challenging stuff. And you’re right, there is a lot of theory, and then there’s a lot of chewy stuff. But I think your voice comes through really well because you do make it completely… it doesn’t feel like this is too hard to do. It feels as though this is chunked down. It’s accessible, it’s practical. And that element of fun somehow reduces the perceived threat on the page, doesn’t it?

Lucinda Carney
Exactly, I think so. And I thought, I thought when I read books, I actually, I was quite important to me that there weren’t too many words on the page. And the funny things I wouldn’t have thought I cared about other than I realised if I pick up a book and flick through it and go, actually, this seems quite friendly. So there were things that you advise me on that like the the quote, unquote, and just having a little splash of things and having the top 10 tips or five tips at the end and things like that, which for me, that helps me take in information. And I get more out of books that like that. So the friendly aspect of it was quite key to me, in that respect, because it makes it easier for the reader, I think it’s something that’s useful, and that’s why there’s – lots of people want stuff that actually is useful. The other thing I say, that you made, the point of which helped me tremendously, was when you said no one ever wanted a longer business book or something like that. When you were sweating about How many words you know? Yeah, no one actually wants their business book to have more words in it. So that also I thought, right. Okay, that’s not about padding it out, let’s say what needs to be said, you know, it doesn’t need to be 80,000 words. So it’s what, 40, 45,000 words. Also I would say, once you start writing the words start mounting up anyway. So, yes, it got there quite quickly.

Alison Jones
It’s funny, nearly everybody’s concerned that they won’t be able to find enough words at the beginning and then they’re desperately wondering how they’re going to keep it down towards the end. An immutable law of business book writing. And let’s talk about the podcast as well – because we’re on a podcast, it makes sense, doesn’t it? But starting the podcast was something that you did I think after the challenge as well, wasn’t it? How is that gone? What was it? Why did you do and how is it working?

Lucinda Carney
Yes, I mean, they all complement together in many ways. So I’d already planned the podcast was coming and then business book coach, I decide to do everything at once. Why not?

Alison Jones
Why not?

Lucinda Carney
Give it a bit of a road test.

Alison Jones
How hard can it be?

Lucinda Carney
Well, I suppose that’s it. You’re so busy. You get on and do all of these things at once. And the purpose behind the podcast… So the podcast I run is called the HR Uprising podcast. The software business I run is Actus software – it’s performance management software. So our customers tend to be HR managers, and when they’re putting it in, they’re trying to engender culture change most of the time. They’re trying to get people to manage others better. So a system on its own can’t do it, you’ve got to do the cultural aspects to it. And there are a whole load of skills around it. So you can see being a change superhero. If they’re an HR person or learning development person, or a manager who’s trying to do things differently, the change superhero fits there. Then you turn to my HR uprising podcast, because I’ve been around a few years now, I realized that there’s lots of information that I was giving our clients and we’ve always tried to provide value added services, that’s one of our differentiators, because there’s so many providers out there in the marketplace, how can you be different? So our value-added services was often about: here’s some change communication things. So a lot of the stuff that I put in the book were things that we would perhaps provide as part of our service offering free of charge to clients to help them get the most value out of the system and to make it easy for them to implement it. So from that sort of spun out, and it’s you’ve got the change pieces, but also the things about how to write SMART objectives, how to do a talent management strategy, lots and lots of things that I’ve written white papers on, or what people want information on. And I realized that a podcast was a really effective, accessible way for people to get hold of that information. So it became another one of our value added options. And I just started with six initially, but found that they went down really well, one of which was how to be a change superhero or along those themes and I found that people were really interested in it, liked again an accessible practical style. And so that’s carried on, so we’ve been going nearly a year. And I’m now getting… I do some solo episodes, but we also get some experts to come on so we can hear from other experts. And the other thing that I really am passionate about with is about collaboration and helping… HR can be quite a lonely role if they’re standalone. So helping people to collaborate and support each other and share information is just another practical way in which which we can do that and create a bit of a community around it as well.

Alison Jones
And is it working? Is it achieving what you hoped it would do?

Lucinda Carney
I think it’s building and I believe it’s achieving what I hope to do in that I’m getting more valuable information out to people who want it, so that that actually sort of serves my internal value actually, trying to make a difference and doing something valuable. I regularly get people contacting me through LinkedIn, all those things, saying thank you so much, that’s so practical, and was really helpful. So that I find gratifying. I believe in terms of the impact on the business, it does set us apart. I don’t know whether you see this massive… it’s still maybe early days in terms of metrics. I don’t know. We haven’t doubled the business overnight, but it’s definitely something where I feel it gives us extra credibility, and that’s where I see the book fitting in as well. Because, you know, as we bring on a new clients, you know, we can help them we’ll give them a copy of the book and the audiobook potentially, and help them to make a success of whatever it is they’re trying to achieve – people get it for different reasons – it will help them to be successful. So I feel it’s all about the credibility and it’s really important in a digital remote place actually being able to find the personality of an organization you’re working with.

Alison Jones
And that’s what books and podcasts are brilliant about. They make it… you’re human and there you are, there’s a voice in your ear, you’re reading somebody and hearing them in your head, you know, it makes it really personal and applicable and not just theoretical. So I think that’s absolutely right. Anything about the podcast surprised you?

Lucinda Carney
Well, that’s a really good question. I had to think about that. I think I’m surprised at how comfortable I’ve become with doing it in terms of building confidence, that actually people are interested in that. One of the… I don’t know, this is a surprising thing. What this has done is I’ve listened to more podcasts and myself. And I’ve realized that there are quite a lot of podcasts that I find perhaps… well it’s made me realize what I believe are my differentiators. And I think it’s similar in the book, again, is try and get to the point to try and get things over because some of the podcasts that I listened to, not yours, Alison, are a bit… I find them a bit almost indulgent, they’re a bit waffly, about people just chatting about stuff and I don’t get the point. So I try quite hard to think even when I’ve got a guest on, so we call it a masterclass: What are the takeaways, like training? What are the key points to get out of it? And it is surprising, sometimes it’s quite hard to do that, because it’s easy to go off. So trying to make sure that there are key takeaways and it’s a valuable use of someone’s time to have spent time listening to that, that’s what’s key for me.

Alison Jones
Brilliant. I’m always really interested to talk to a podcaster and get their sense of it as well. And do you enjoy it, I guess is the last question?

Lucinda Carney
I really enjoy it. Yes. And it’s a challenge – I’ve always wanted, because yours come out weekly, it’s a challenge to keep on getting that content coming out weekly, but it’s one I enjoy and thrive on. The solo episodes take longer to create now, because I haven’t got quite so much written so that I have to give myself time to write those. Because I want it to be good. That’s the other thing. Actually, there is a pressure now that you’ve got a reputation that is decent. So we’ve got to keep the quality up. And I’ve always said as soon as it stops being useful, then I’ll just stop them.

Alison Jones
But that’s quite a useful thing in itself, isn’t it? Because it’ll be quite possible for you to coast along doing what you do and using your skills. But the podcast is one of the few things that really forces you into thinking deeply and creating new content.

Lucinda Carney
Absolutely. And then you can create a blog from it and maybe a presentation, so it’s a good discipline actually to create fresh content and, yes, stretch yourself to do some research. Yes,

Alison Jones
Definitely. Absolutely. Yes. And I you know, I echo all of that. So moving to those takeaways: what would be your… so there’ll be people listening to this who will be behind you on the journey. What would be your best tip for somebody who’s perhaps in the early stages of writing their business book?

Lucinda Carney
Okay, so I have a few tips. My best tip is have that clear out, like do the 10 day business book challenge, I really would recommend that because I think it’s a great investment of time. Then, as we said earlier, write your contents page and just structure it up a little bit more. And I think set yourself a deadline. So crack on, set that self yourself a deadline, and just meet it. So just plan it in and be scheduled.

Alison Jones
It’s that simple people.

Lucinda Carney
And have confidence. Don’t overthink about the end result. So maybe that’s one of the things that I didn’t really realize until we just had this conversation, is I didn’t worry about whether it was any good or not. I don’t… I did worry about that once it was written, and getting someone to read it, but focusing on just getting it written is the key target as opposed to whether it’s good enough or not.

Alison Jones
I could not agree with that more strongly because it can absolutely paralyze you if you’re overthinking it, you just got to blast it out. And then you can go back and revise and they do say books aren’t written they’re rewritten. But if you’re constantly revising, and worrying if it’s good enough, you’re never going to get the first draft down. And without a first draft, you got nothing.

Lucinda Carney
Nobody’s perfect. And not one person is going to like every style of book so it’s just kind of – get on with it. And you did that bit about fear, didn’t you, in the bootcamp to start with because it can just stop you from doing it. I think by then I had just decided I was going to write it. So just focus on the here and now in the current rather than think too far in the future.

Alison Jones
Yes, see book writing as a form of mindfulness. That’s brilliant. Yes. I always ask guests as well to recommend a business book. I mean, obviously, Change Superhero, but other books that you think… I may have a slight inkling as to what might be coming now.

Lucinda Carney
Yes, because I mentioned it earlier didn’t I, it’s not going to be the Traction one that we were talking about, it’s going to be The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I know it’s an oldie, but it is really a goodie. So by Stephen Covey, I was lucky enough to be a trainer in the Seven Habits in my 20s. And I genuinely think that it’s an ethos and a structure, which is so powerful and applicable to work and life to your children. And using those quadrants, skills, and time management and all that side of things, getting a book written. All of those principles, I think, are still really valid. So I recommend it – it’s still a really good, quite a tough read. I think the audio book is quite good. But it’s definitely the principles are really really valuable.

Alison Jones
They are, they really are. And it’s amazing how many people think they’ve read this book and actually haven’t, or read it a lot a long time ago. And actually, if you push them on it, they couldn’t remember it. So yes, I totally agree. I re-read it a couple years back and even though I had read it I there was a lot I’d forgotten. So I think it’s worth a review even if…

Lucinda Carney
Yes, or you can go and train if you can, I mean I had to train on it so I had to know it really deeply, because it was a three day training course. But that was really valuable to me. So it’s embedded.

Alison Jones
Yes, brilliant. And Lucinda, if people want to find out more about you, where should they go?

Lucinda Carney
So I’m on most of the social media platforms. So LinkedIn to Lucinda Carney, Twitter, you’d also find me Lucinda Carney or HR Uprising, in terms of contacts in terms of websites, so actus.co.uk, you can get hold of me that way. So about us and also, HR Uprising, all of our podcast episodes are on HRUprising.com, and people can contact us through that route as well.

Alison Jones
Brilliant, I shall put those links up on the show notes of course at extraordinarybusinessbooks.com along with the transcript of this conversation. Thank you so much Lucinda, it’s always just fascinating to look back as we’re at the point where we’re publishing the book and just see the journey and it’s great that you’re so clear about the route that you took and how it worked and what worked and why, it’s brilliant. I’m sure there’ll be so much in there that’s really valuable to people. So congratulations again and thank you for your time.

Lucinda Carney
Thanks for having me on Alison.

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