Embracing Change: Lessons Learned from Stanford Graduate School of Business

On June 20th, 2015, I arrived at the Schwab Residential Center, filled with excitement and some nervousness. As a member of the Bluewolf Pack for over 12 years, I had the opportunity to apply for a sabbatical, and jumped at the chance. The opportunity to take time off to clear my head, pause for a moment and breathe, was just what I needed.

This summer, I was provided with the gift of a sabbatical. I knew that this time was precious — for me, it was a time to refresh, reflect, and learn. I wanted to embark on a new adventure: six weeks at the Stanford Executive Program at the Graduate School of Business (GSB). Made up of 168 cohorts of leaders from around the world, we all shared a common goal: to experience an enriching, thought-provoking, and research-driven curriculum taught by world-class GSB faculty, Stanford professors, and experts from across Stanford University. I was thrilled at the opportunity to meet and network with a diverse group of executives from around the world across multiple disciplines.

At the same time, I was nervous — I was outside my comfort zone, living in a new city without my routine or support network of family and friends. However, upon arriving on campus, my nerves were quelled in a matter of minutes, as we immediately broke into groups to tour the campus.

Perhaps you wouldn’t think that a tour could be so memorable, but to this day, I count it among the things that have left a lasting impression on me. Why? The tour focused on change. Philip Knight, co-founder of Nike and GSB alumnus, had a footprint in the middle of the courtyard that was emblematic of the power of taking a single step. It reminded me that one step is all we need to be in motion. And when we are in motion, there is always something around us that is changing.

Philip K Knight footprint

Change as a Verb

Change isn’t an easy thing. In fact, I would go as far to say that it is really tough! But, what I’m learning is that it’s always with us; we are constantly changing, be it our environment, our jobs, or the people with whom we interact day-to-day. And, rather than resisting change, I think our perspective on change that needs to shift. If we acknowledge and accept that change is always with us, we must learn to embrace it to truly set ourselves in motion.

I’ve been a career consultant all my life. Everyday, I am surrounded by motion — there is always something that occurs that I am unable to predict. Sometimes clients' needs change, or the project team we work with changes, or the type of work we are doing shifts. Our job is to help organizations execute their strategic vision, but in order to begin that journey, the organization itself must pinpoint that it wants to change.

The first step to make this shift is to think of change as a verb. It is an action. As I walked through the Graduate School of Business, I came upon this wall full of action words that all pertained to change. Visiting this wall became a daily routine for me, as it was a place I could go to remind myself of the change that was constantly unfolding each minute of every day. This wall was a source of inspiration and encouragement throughout my journey at the Stanford Executive Program.

Change in motion

If you're considering taking time off, my advice to you is that the time is now — be brave and ask for the time! Let me know how it’s going, I would love to hear from you. How have you challenged yourself this year? What valuable insights did you gain? Tweet me @tweetjolenec. In the next installment of this blog series, I will delve into how to lead change in your organization.


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