As part of my series about the “How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta, a Change Management Strategist and Advisor. She helps professionals and organizations to successfully lead and manage change in today’s disruptive and fast-paced environment. With over 20 years of experience, working with a broad range of organizations globally including RBC, TD, Deloitte, Loblaws and JP Morgan Chase, she has helped today’s industry leaders manage their Strategic, Technology and Regulatory Change Initiatives, and more fully realize their return on investments.
Through her company, OliveBlue, she helps her clients overcome barriers and resistance to change, as well as the financial fallouts of failed organizational projects.
She is the founder of The Change Leadership — a series of events and conferences focused on preparing leaders, change professionals and organisations to lead change in today’s fast-paced and disruptive business environment. And in so doing, positively impact the welfare of their surrounding communities and the economy.
She holds a BSc honours in Business Information Technology from London Guildhall University, an MBA from Warwick Business School, and a Change Leadership Certificate from Cornell University.
She works closely with executives and professionals to provide coaching and advisory to help them more effectively lead and manage change in their organizations. She is a published author, an inspirational speaker and change catalyst.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I was brought up in a time with the career advice of “get a good degree, get a good job with a good company and you will retire there.” Shortly out of University, I landed my first real job — feeling positive and bright eyed — filled with optimism. Unfortunately, my employment was disrupted by a Merger and Acquisition during the booming dot-com era. This led me to the tough realization — no job is permanent, and change is inevitable.
My story and exposure to global business environments has given me an ability to think outside the box. Now, I work with organisations as a Change Management Strategist & Advisor to help them implement changes to achieve their organizational goals. I am also the Founder of The Change Leadership, an organization which provides resources to better equip leaders and professionals to lead and respond to change. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am very passionate about change.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
At the time this didn’t seem funny, but looking back at the memory, I smile.
Originally, I started out as a business and professional development coach, and decided to host some workshops.
To create momentum and interest, I hired someone to hand out flyers at the subway.
Excited to see the fliers handed out, I arrived at the subway, only to find all my carefully designed invitations tossed on the floor.
Thank heavens for this experience, I learned early on to know your audience and to understand where to best connect with them. Handing out fliers at a subway, not the best approach but a valuable lesson learned.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My accountability partner, Joel Emuan, made a BIG difference in my life. Five years ago, I shared my plans with him, however believing that I needed more time to prepare, study, develop the product, and the list of excuses just goes on.
My accountability partner immediately set me straight and said, “You’re ready, you’re not going to be any more ready than you are right now, go ahead and do it”.
That pushed me — to take a leap, even though I thought it wasn’t the right time — his belief in me made all the difference.
Today, I’m glad that I listened to him. If he hadn’t pushed me, maybe I would have pushed it to the next year and the year after.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Originally my company focussed on career and business coaching, our purpose was to help people achieve their dreams and goals. It was fairly broad. However, I since narrow my niche, but expanded my purpose and vision. Our vision and mission are to help professionals and organizations more effectively lead and respond to change better and faster — reducing the devastating social and economic fall-out of failed corporate and organizational change. We believe that change done right has a positive impact on lives and our communities
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell our readers a bit about what your business does? How do you help people?
Our primary goal is to equip and empower professionals and organizations with the “what, when and how” to overcome challenges and successfully lead and respond to
change in today’s fast-paced and disruptive business environment.
We do this by providing organizations change management advisory, consultancy and training to help them equip their leaders and teams to successfully deliver change initiatives and projects, leading to increased adoption and greater return on investments.
We also provide our online Change Leadership Accelerator to help teams within organizations and professionals learn and gain practical knowledge and tools on how to successfully lead and manage change.
Which technological innovation has encroached or disrupted your industry? Can you explain why this has been disruptive?
I wouldn’t call it technology, let’s be quite honest — the pandemic has disrupted all industries. For my organization, we had to shift our physical events to virtual for now, and start exploring other income streams. On the flip side, the advancement of technology has created more opportunities are we are able to reach a wider audience instead of only local audiences or those able to travel.
Now we can offer online programs, events and conferences — reaching more people, around the world.
Some other technologies disrupting our events space is AI, Virtual (VR) and Augmented (VR) reality. Though still in its infancy, it is helping to provide more options. We all have gamification for game-based learning perspective, an area that has really picked up pace.
What did you do to pivot as a result of this disruption?
The Change Leadership Accelerator was launched in late 2020 to help teams within organizations and professionals learn and gain practical knowledge and tools (what, why and how) on how to successfully lead and manage change. Now, more than ever with the fast and disruptive pace of change, people need support to respond better and faster to the uncertainties stemming from disruption and technology in today’s rapidly changing world.
Was there a specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path? If yes, we’d love to hear the story.
There was not a ‘Aha’ moment, per se. It was always in the works. But the pandemic sped things up very quickly. We created the Change Leadership Accelerator Program based on demand. Many people were reaching out to me on how to effectively lead and manage change.
With the Change Leadership Accelerator Program, I was able to provide from the experience I had accumulated over 20 years and present in a very practical and simplified manner. It includes monthly coaching, videos, worksheets, audio and quizzes to help participants achieve their desired success and build their change leadership toolkit.
So, how are things going with this new direction?
Amazing! Our signature course, the Change Leadership Accelerator, has helped those responsible for leading change in their organization see positive results and work more effectively with their teams to successfully lead change. It has also helped some participants accelerate their career growth.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this pivot?
A surprising feedback I have receive is how this program, which was meant for the corporate space, is being used in the participants personal lives. What a joy it is to hear positive change in many people’s lives.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during a disruptive period?
Empathy and Emotional Intelligence alongside being agile — we’re constantly being faced with an increased pace of change. Change is happening quickly and teams need leaders to be agile in order to respond to the changes, and make the best decisions. Also important is people, they are the ones who will lead and implement the change, and when you are able to support and connect better with your people during the disruptive and emotionally volatile times, you will get the best out of them.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Like I mentioned earlier, Empathy. Having empathy in the workplace matters. Leaders who have the ability to understand the needs of others and being self -aware will help inspire and engage with their team more effectively.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Communicate and communicate some more. During turbulent times, organizations need to rethink their strategies to deliver multidimensional messages to their anxious workforces.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make when faced with a disruptive technology? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
Responding defensively — If we see a change as a threat, we tend to react defensively — taking immediate, aggressive action to protect ourselves. If, however, we see the change as an opportunity, we tend to be more deliberate and reasoned in our response.
Overreacting to change — And wanting to act so quickly that they do not take the time to also do the right diligence and engage the right stakeholders in the change process. While speed and agility are important, when not done right, you can easily race off in the wrong direction or off the cliff.
Slow to adapt or respond — Putting off the need to respond to change until it is too late or feeling they are immune to the change, thereby missing opportunities. Think Blockbuster or Kodak, and more recently, think of organizations that did not have remote working capabilities or an ecommerce presence online.
Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to pivot and stay relevant in the face of disruptive technologies?
Great question, especially in our current times, here are my recommendations:
1. Respond with Agility. Encourage the norms and behaviours that value and reward flexibility and creativity both operationally and personally.
2️. Prioritize Business Readiness. Be sensitive to the business environment and prepare for change in advance of the need to respond to change.
3️. Support your People. Focus on people as the most valuable resources. Acknowledge and support wellness and mental health.
4️. Encourage & Reward Social Consciousness. Ensure you have the values, structures and processes needed to cultivate inclusive workplaces.
5. Be a Change Leader. Focus on both you and your team’s development as change leaders and change advocates.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are so many, but the one below is a reminder that defeat will come, but that is not the time for us to give up. With change often comes risks, but we must not be afraid to take those risks, but instead we must be willing to learn from it and set sail again.
“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.”
― Napoleon Hill
How can our readers further follow your work?
I would love for you to visit www.oliveblue.com and www.TheChangeLeadership.com. Be sure to connect with me LinkedIn or nor Change Leadership Linkedin Page. You can also learn about our online program here Change Leadership Accelerator