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York University Liberal Arts and Professional Studies

What I Learned in School Last Week

In high school, my career ambition was to be a history teacher. Although my career path led to business, teaching played a significant part, from training frozen yogurt franchisees, to running a bank’s corporate learning and development consultancy, to teaching college courses in my spare time. Teaching has always been in my blood.

My latest teaching experience happened last Sunday when I guest presented at a Master’s level change management course at York University. I met the professor, Len Karakowsky, through a mutual friend and I was delighted to share my perspectives on change with his students.

Len is the professor you wished you had in university: friendly, interesting, engaged, intelligent, funny, positively cynical and exploratory. He is also someone you wished you met earlier in your life. What a great person.

The session was entitled “Change Management and the Cultural Connection,” which is an area I love. This was a hot topic for the students too who were all human resources professionals with personal change experience from different private and public industries. 

My session was planned for ninety minutes followed by a lunch where I would get the chance to chat with the students. I shared my insights on how people, leaders and organizations change and then asked the group to solve change challenges that I had experienced through the Kraft – Cadbury integration. 

My opening presentation was very interactive including excellent conversations about people’s current situations. The time flew and we ended up reconvening after lunch and talking for over three hours. I didn’t want it to end.

As I was driving home I thought about what I had learned. I reaffirmed that change management is about helping people move from where they are to where they need to be with the least amount of disruption; it’s not about ‘being right’ about how to change. The business of change management with its frameworks and proprietary methods can forget this purpose. Selling certifications can get in the way of ensuring people get the hands-on experience and support they need to effectively change.

Len kindly mentioned that Change with Confidence will be on the course’s reading list next year. I am thrilled because having my book available for students was one of my primary objectives for writing it. 

I learned a lot in school last week. Maybe the biggest lesson is that teachers learn as much or more from their students. I am looking forward to the next time I get to learn from them.


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