You haven’t heard from me in a few weeks – well it’s been busy that’s for sure!  We had a very successful Change Leadership Summit, went to Berlin for a visit to daughter Violet and then had high school graduation for Lily.  Whew!!  I was also able to do the closing Keynote for the PMI Great Lakes Chapter (very impressive volunteers) and present at the ACMP Annual Conference.

The biggest reason however has been my own issue and perception.  At the end of the last summit, someone who truly has my best interests in mind suggested I should be more formal and “guru-y (I know that’s not a word) in my newsletter tone.  I am after all a Change Management expert (cue scary music).  So, I tried.

I was able to send out one formal Change Management newsletter, but then stalled, and now I recognize that I can’t communicate that way. My goal in work and in life it to uncomplicate things, to translate from complex to understandable and to create a community where jargon is sidelined, and kitchen English is embraced.

So my apologies for my foray into formal.  I’ll just have to communicate authentically, or not at all.

I do have something amazing to tell you however about skunks. Real stinky skunks.

About a month ago we began finding eggshells and broken eggs in the chicken coop and on the ground around the coop – so Jay set up a trail cam to see what was going on, who was stealing eggs.  It was a skunk!  He was living in the barn and apparently loved eggs – we let the chickens free range during the day and leave the run and coop open during the day, and our friend “Pepe” thought it was great that he could run into the coop while the chickens were out and have a snack.  How do I know this?  Because when I went to collect eggs one day, we (Pepe and I) made eye contact while he enjoyed egg sushi on the nest.  So we began the trapping quest, baiting our opaque skunk traps with marshmallows, peanut butter bread, and eggs (when we used cat food – a cat did show up to eat it) this skunk was hard to trap, he ignored our efforts.

We were busy getting ready for the graduation open house and crossed our fingers that he wouldn’t spray before the party.  The party was a skunk-free success and finally we seriously focused on catching the skunk.  So we cooped up the chickens and cut off all barn exits with traps and after a few days of this we caught him and took him to State land about 8 miles from our house to relocate him.  Melanie and Jay were brave, opened the trap of and didn’t get sprayed.  We were in a celebratory mood this week – such a relief to have the skunk gone.  Last night, we went into the barn to find 5 baby skunks – seems that Pepe was a Peppa and a Momma!

This makes me think of issues that come up during change. Whether they are stinky because of the people involved or the amount of work and monitoring they create it is sometimes easier to not be serious about problems and hope they will resolve themselves by just going away.  But sometimes, as with our friend Peppa, problems that are not addressed seriously right away can linger and create more problems or more serious issues.  When we have a negative co-worker or employee and we don’t seriously address the issue and hope it resolves itself, we are in fact creating more problems. Emotional contagion is real and can easily spread to others so that you end up with the original negative person and six additional cases of negativity. When we are leading a change and hear that a unit or department is struggling, we may dismiss the issue and hope it goes away – but again, postponing the focused work of addressing the underlying issues and frustration they cause- creates more issues to deal with in the future – possibly stinky-er issues.

According to our google research, young skunks – unlike adults, spray at everything.  We have no way of knowing how old they are, but they looked like teenagers to me (and we know they tend to be stinky-er), so back to trapping.  We will drop them off on the State land where they will hopefully reunite with their mother. This may be a continuing saga – I hope not. But when you have the urge to do something or anything to avoid seriously addressing issues with change – think of us and our teenage skunks, and it may not seem as hard to hold your nose and deal with what is lurking in your workplace.

Update: We were able to trap all 5 small skunks within a couple of days and dropped them off with Momma – it was delightful and terrifying to watch them wander out of the traps and explore their new environment; all is well.