You can’t control the external as much as you can control the internals. That’s Robin Vandekleut’s main gist for her new book called Unfinished Business. Robin tells Alicia Dunams how change is all about working with people. Nobody likes change being done to them, but they’ll feel part of the solution if you can make them part of the process. Join in the conversation to discover how to inspire others to change. Tune in and make change work for you!
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Unfinished Business With Robin Vandekleut
I’m super excited because we’re going to be interviewing a self-proclaimed business transformation and cultural enthusiast, Robin Vandekleut.
She is passionate about engaging in conversations with leaders on how to best grow with their organization and face the new frontier ahead of them with their teams fully engaged and their organizations thriving. I’m excited about Robin’s book called Unfinished Business: Make Change Work For You Not Against You. Robin, it’s so great to have you here on the show.
I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you so much for the opportunity to chat a little bit about this book baby that has been released.
My first question is why did you write a book?
The long story short is I’ve been at this for many years. During that time, I worked with hundreds of teams and leaders. I used to see common themes of what people were challenged with during change. I thought, “I have learned a bunch of stuff that can be used and reused because the reality is when you do change, it all has to do with people.” People don’t change. Over the generations, they tend to be pretty much the same. I thought, “Let’s capture it all in a book and see if that can help folks going forward to see if they can help them navigate the order, disorder and reorder that comes with change all the time.”
You are a change expert. Tell us a little bit about some case studies or examples of organizations you worked with that have harnessed the power of change to their benefit.
Nobody likes change being done to them, but they want to be part of the process with co-creation and co-accountability.
I’ll tell you an organization that caught me by surprise but I was delighted to be in it. Most of my business is pivoting into a digital format. Prior to that, I used to have to be onsite and breathe the air of these organizations. I got myself into one of Canada’s Top 100 Companies because I wanted to see what makes them top 100. There were a lot of phenomenal things about this culture and about who they hire. People were full of integrity and risk-averse.
I won’t name names because the thing that I was chosen to do with them was they wanted to grow and expand quickly. They wanted to have their people who were risk-averse, risk-tolerant and full of integrity pushed to the far reaches of what was acceptable from their internal dialogue around risk. They expanded the risk margin and wanted their people to work towards the margins of that so that they could take on new clients and grow the business.
It’s a massive change. It’s more cultural than anything else. They did a lot of great things and phenomenal communication. They took the time to get their people at the frontend, but the challenge was they didn’t have enough diversity in their organization. They hired and screened for a real particular type of individual, which was a phenomenal individual, but if you put that individual in a risk environment or ask them to be riskier, it was a real challenge.
The beauty of where I work is I tend to be at the front end of these things. I’m the jump-start queen of change. I don’t often see the tail-end of it. This was long ago enough that I followed up with this group because I wanted to see how they managed. To their credit, as bumpy as it was, they reached their five-year stretch goals amazingly well, but it was a bumpy ride because it was a total shift, a counter-cultural, counterintuitive way of being. It was fun to get in there, set them up and get them going in the right direction. Honestly, it’s the caliber of people that were there that make it to the end because most of them would never go that far. It was a great experience.
I would love to hear from you because you’re an expert when it comes to change and supporting organizations in change. What about your personal life? Tell us a little bit about how change impacted your life.
Massively in a good way. What happens in childhood forges some values in who we are, our character and resilience. I happen to have the privilege of growing up in a military family. We moved every two years. I had four high schools. There was a lot of change in turmoil, different new schools, new communities, new cultures and new languages sometimes.
It forges resiliency in my character that is not uncommon that you’ll find with a lot of military kids. There’s an optimism, flexibility, adaptability, curiosity and courageousness that gets encapsulated in this lovely military life that we get exposed to. I love change. I decided to leverage that internally on who I was, and make a career out of it for years and help organizations embed that DNA that was in me into their organizations.
That’s what you use these stories in your book, Unfinished Business: Make Change Work For You Not Against You, which is available on Amazon. We want everyone to go and buy the book. Let’s get a sneak peek of the book, Robin. What are 1, 2 or 3 life lessons that you want to share with our audience at home that are in your book in terms of being able to make change work for you?
The first thing is, and this may catch a few people off guard, change is good. It’s not always comfortable. That’s why some people go like, “Do I have to change?” At the end of the day, if we didn’t have change, we wouldn’t even be where we are now as a society. If you go back and even look at Industrial Revolutions, the steam power, electricity, nuclear and digital, we would not be able to do this had there not been an ongoing change and evolution going forward. That’s the package, foundation and perspective that I take. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It just means it’s good for us.
The other thing that’s important that I want to leave people with is change needs to be done with people, not to people. People will go with you if you do change with them versus to them. Nobody likes to have change done to them, but they don’t mind being part of the solution as it was going forward. That’s a good one to remember.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, you go with others.
This book is focused a little bit on business leaders. We can transpose it to life but the reality is you need to have and take people with you all the time. The last one that I want to leave people with from a business perspective is change needs to come. Adapting to change needs to come from the inside out, not the outside in. Change often hits us from the outside in.
The only way that individuals or businesses can survive is if you build the tools from the inside out because you can’t control change. It’s going to happen but you can control how you’re going to manage that as an individual and organization. That’s what I help organizations do. I call it bounceability. I know bounceability is not a word but I made it up. How does your organization bounce? How can it learn to bounce regardless of what hits it?
It’s the importance of being agile, talking with and changing with your team versus talking to, talking at, or creating change to a team or organization. What a powerful difference. We’re going to jump into the lightning round, Robin. I want to hear some of your initial responses to the following question. What is your favorite book?
My favorite book is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.
I listened to that audiobook when I was traveling around Europe. It’s a game-changer.
Tears in my eyes. I read it. I get it. It’s about resiliency. What is it that makes people survive? That’s why it resonated. It was good. I was not in Auschwitz, but I was through a lot of change and things that were done to me. There’s an ability to relate on some small scale.
Man’s Search for Meaning is a must-read for anyone. Your favorite author?
Viktor is up there. It’s not so much an initial author but it’s the way that authors write, storytelling, using metaphor and word pictures to drill home a nugget of truth. You had me at hello. That’s how I roll. It’s any author that uses story and metaphor. I tried to do a fair bit of that in the book as well too because I get it. Story is one of the most powerful communication tools.
What is your legacy, Robin? What are you going to leave behind?
Honestly, what I would like to be known for is whatever business and people I encounter, I would love for them to feel like they’re in a better space after having met and engaged. Leaving people better than I found them is my legacy. I hope and that’s what I’m trying to do.
When you do change, it all has to do with people.
The next question, which bounces off from legacy, is what are you writing next? I know you finished Unfinished Business.
I’m going to write a book that has been in my head for many years. It has to do with who I’ve been exposed to but it’s a book around margins. That sounds dead boring but it’s not boring. It’s taking that metaphor of a margin, and what it was used for in our growing up in life and applying that to margins in our work-life, family life, financials and creativity. There’s a bunch of different reasons why margins exist and we forget about them. It’s about learning to live in the margin instead of marginally living. That’s the working title. I don’t think it’s going to be official but that gives you an idea.
It’s something to look out for, but first you want to get the book, Unfinished Business, that’s out. Robin, what are you reading next? What is next on your nightstand?
I don’t know if there are any Canadians out there reading but Chris Hadfield got his latest book out, which is not my genre. My genre is true stories about overcoming adversity and business books. Chris is a very popular Canadian astronaut. He would tweet, do all kinds of social media and send pictures from the space station when he was up there.
He has got quite the following. He has written a book about a murder that takes place on the space station, The Apollo Murders. It’s a thriller but knowing Chris, it’s also very factual. When he is talking about what corner the guy was hiding around in the space station, he knows that corner. It should be interesting. It’s a little bit of true life and mystery. We’ll see.
I love when our non-fiction authors recommend a fiction book to read next. That’s fantastic and fun. It can’t be all serious. That’s awesome. Robin, where can people find out more about you? Where can they find you on social media? Where can they buy the book, Unfinished Business?
The easiest thing is to go to my name, RobinVandekleut.com. On there, you’ll be able to click right away through to Amazon if you want to buy the book. I’m also on pretty much any social, so google my name and figure out what I’m doing on there. I’m on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
What is one piece of advice you want to leave our audience?
Storytelling uses metaphor and word pictures to drill home a nugget of truth.
I want to encourage you to consider flipping the script on change. It gets a bad rap. I’m a big believer that what you look for, you’re going to find. If you flip the script on change and make it something good, start looking for the good. Let me know what you find. It would be great. Give me a little comment or something. I would be curious to see what you find out. It’s a good challenge to change our mindset.
This is so great to connect with you. I want to thank you for being on the show. Thank you, everyone, for reading.
Thank you, Alicia. It has been a joy. I appreciate it. Take care.
All the best.
- Robin Vandekleut
- Unfinished Business: Make Change Work For You Not Against You
- Man’s Search for Meaning
- The Apollo Murders
- Instagram – Robin Vandekleut
- Twitter – Robin Vandekleut
- Facebook – Robin Vandekleut
About Robin Vandekleut
Robin is a life long subscriber to the philosophy of “know better, do better”. Meant simply as a call to action, that with greater understanding requires a greater call to excellence.
Growing up in a military family, she learned from a very early age that change is an inevitable part of life and how you manage that change determines your personal or professional growth. Robin has a heart to connect with people from all walks of life, encountering them where they are at, providing them with the information and tools required to “know better, do better.”
In her professional journey, Robin started A Creative Voice Communications, a successful communications company that evolved into a change management business, from which she was able to take on high level contracts within the Government of Canada.
With a drive like no other and an insatiable curiosity, Robin graduated with her Executive Master’s of Business Administration from Queen’s University while continuing to work a “9-5”, which greatly expanded her capacity and catapulted her into a new field of work with leaders.