Chip Neidigh

An Imperfect Metaphor

My wife is a biochemist by training, and she was the one who came up with the name “Catalyst” for my fledgling consulting practice in 2006.  A catalyst is a substance that accelerates a reaction without itself being changed by the reaction.  I thought that was a perfect metaphor for the work we do– encouraging change in others.

As we end 2012, I’m realizing that the metaphor is incomplete.

Indeed we catalyze change, so that part of the metaphor works well enough.  However, I myself am often transformed by my interactions with you– my clients and colleagues.

Here are three lessons I learned from you in 2012:

Transformational work is spiritual work. Transformational work that ignores this fact will have a short shelf life.  Leaders are often encouraged to focus on modifying behaviors in order to get better results.  We build incentives (and disincentives) to help reinforce desired behaviors.  But this approach only lasts as long as we can maintain the incentive system.  Once we no longer have the energy (or desire) to maintain it, old habits reappear and hard-won ground is lost.  Sustainable transformations require shifts on the inside, because what’s inside us finds a way out.  For many personal changes, healing and growth are the only way forward.  Many of you have pursued true transformation this year, and you and your organizations are reaping the benefits.

A victim mentality provides fertile soil for self-deception. For some reason, I personally experienced more relational conflict in 3 months during the Fall of 2012 than I had in the previous 3 years combined.  In several of these conflicts, it was easy for me to feel victimized.  When I slipped into this role, it was easy for me to overlook or ignore my part in creating or perpetuating the conflict.  I’ve had numerous clients experience the same dynamic this year.  The best way out of this trap is to acknowledge our own mistakes and courageously pursue reconciliation.

Building teams is hard work. This summer Christin Nevins joined the Catalyst OC team.  I’m thrilled to have her on board, as she brings experiences, perspectives, and personality traits that are highly beneficial to our clients.  Although I often lead ad hoc teams of consultants, this is the first time I’ve had a direct report in years.  Christin challenges the status quo I’ve created, forces me to clarify how and why we do things, and demands meaningful work and growth opportunities.  All this requires my time and energy, and it uses muscles that have atrophied a bit.  But, as you know, it’s worth it.  You have encouraged and inspired me, by passionately leading others through adversity in pursuit of your own visions.

I’m grateful for you, Catalyst OC’s clients, colleagues, and friends.  You continually challenge me to improve my craft and do my best.  I consider this work a sacred calling, and I’m honored that you not only allow yourselves to be transformed through our work, but that you transform me, too.

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