Helen McGrath, Senior CRM Consultant with HartSquare talks about career change, managing organisation wide change and delivering at that.
1. What first prompted you to change management?
My background is strategic marketing and communications in the charity sector. In my previous role at Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), as my role progressed and the nature of projects at RNIB changed and developed, I became the lead for working on organisation-wide, cross functional projects from a marketing and customer-focus perspective. More often than not, these projects were projects of change, for example customer relationship management systems, charity acquisitions, and helping people with sensory loss get online. At first it was an organic progression for me to work on these type of projects, and then, as my interest grew in this area, I sought out these types of projects, or was nominated to be that lead.
2. Take us through your (change management) career to date.
I have been working at Hart Square since April 2016. Hart Square provide independent consultancy services to help with CRM and technology challenges, delivering digital transformation programs and sustainable change. We focus purely on the non-profit sector, with clients including professional membership bodies, trade associations, charities, voluntary organisations, healthcare and education bodies. It’s a very varied role with a great client base. I have worked with organisations to develop strategies, delivered business process reviews, help organisations choose a technology partner, and support organisations through their digital transformation program.
3. What are your key strengths and how have you used them?
First and foremost, I’m resilient which is essential in change management. This in turn helps me drive a project forward and be outcome focused and deliver what’s required. I’m analytical and logical, which aids problem solving. I’m a reflector by nature and my considered opinion really helps me with project challenges. My marketing background gives me an understanding of the drivers for change, and my communications skills and being approachable support stakeholder management and workshop delivery.
4. Take us through your thought process while deciding to get accredited. (what need arose in your career to make you take the decision)
I wanted to make the formal career change from strategic marketing to project and change management and felt that one of the ways to demonstrate that I was serious about this career development and move forward was to gain some accreditation. I also have the APMG Agile Project Management certification, which complements the change management really well.
5. Why APMG Change management certification and how did it help?
APMG Change Management certification is well-known and widely popular. The content looked solid, well-structured and interesting. So, then the key question quickly came to be about choosing the right provider to deliver the course. I thoroughly enjoyed and benefited hugely from the course. It has been such a good investment for me. It armed me with a toolkit to deliver change in my projects, helped give me the confidence to change jobs, and demonstrated that I was committed to making that career move.
6. As a member of the Change Management Institute, how do you think has it helped you in your career so far?
As a member, I attend as many of the events as I can. I get to hear from interesting speakers from a variety of sectors and gain insight into their challenges and their approach to solving those challenges. The events provide food for thought – fresh thinking and inspiration - plus I get to network with other professionals. The latter is really necessary as the role of a change manager can be isolating at times, so it’s essential to be in good company and know that you are not alone in facing your project challenges.
7. What factors of your role as a change manager are easy?
I would say the project documentation side of the role and project governance – such as reporting and minute taking, and chairing meetings. I have had a lot of experience in those areas in my previous roles.
8. What characteristics and skills do you think make a great change manager?
Resilience – each and every time is the critical skill. There are lots of barriers to be faced through project and change management delivery and sometimes it can be an uphill battle, so being able to stay focused and deal with setbacks are necessary skills. I think other key skills are:
- Ability to thrive under pressure
- Active listening
- Being self-motivated
- Stakeholder management
- Being approachable
…and ultimately deliver!
9. What is your advice for change managers or project managers who wish to be change managers?
Identify how your current skill set aligns with the Change Management Institute competency behaviours to identify any gaps and to help understand yourself better and how to position yourself. Volunteer for a change management project if you can, or shadow somebody working in that area. Follow thought leaders in change management on LinkedIn to gain insight and network with change management professional by joining the CMI.