4-minute coffee chat with Susanna Wolz

Change and Communications Leader

There’s so many ways to be part of change in the workplace, tell us a bit about your background and experience in leading change?
​That’s one of the things I love about the industry – that people come to it from a variety of backgrounds and experiences! It adds a richness to discussions and I so value diverse approaches and respectful debate to encourage the most appropriate, human-focussed outcome. I came to change management in a round-about way. After almost 15 years in communication, engagement, public relations, I was looking for something that would provide a new challenge – one that could use my skills to positively influence long-lasting Behaviour. I accepted a four-month contract (which turned into 10 months!) at Health Support Services (part of WA Health) and worked on the most complex, rapidly changing project in my career - talk about baptism by fire! But I got through it with the support of incredible Project Managers (shout out to Sam Aly and Gary Fosberry!) and we got through it together and all learned so much. That project made me realise that I had been pretty sure (read full!) of myself, just assuming that change management was another word for communication (a common mistake as we know!), and so knew I had to upskill. I took a bite of humble pie and took it upon myself to complete PROSCI’s Change Management Practitioner course and continued my learning journey with a Certificate of Engagement from the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2WA) . Now hooked on the topic, I have just enrolled at Griffith University to study organisational behaviour which starts later this month.

I became a member of ACMP, IAP2WA, subscribed to newsletters and started to attend events and webinars dedicated to change management where I could pick the brains of some incredibly experienced practitioners and grow my network of sounding boards – that’s been invaluable! Almost three years later, I’m on my fourth contract at Health Support Services working as a Change Manager in cybersecurity to shift mindsets and encourage safer online practices. I am supported by an incredible team and under the leadership of Samantha Francke – a true leader, mentor and supporter in every sense of the word! – and I’m loving it. I am so grateful for the opportunities this journey has brought me, the people who took a chance on me and, honestly, so glad I took the risk in shifting my career and invested in myself to get there.

What facets of leading and managing change do you most enjoy?

I love being a contractor and working on different projects each time! So far, I have supported staff/stakeholders during the de-centralisation of a business function, the recuperation of time off in lieu entitlements, the implementation of a new invoicing system for doctors, and digital information security during COVID. I love working “with” people to implement change, not doing it “to” them. The challenge is never ending. I am continually asked to use a multitude of skills and methods as no one solution is ever the same. I am never bored and never out of work for long – which is always a risk as a contractor! Tell us a piece of advice that has stuck with you? “Just because you work with senior, male colleagues who wear blue/black suits, doesn’t mean you have to dress like them or be like them.” You’re a young (ish) female in a male-dominated world so you already stand out – so stand out!” I now own a red suit, a burnt orange suit, a pale pink one… and have half my head shaved. It may sound a little trite but being authentically “me” means I can 100% focus on my work. It means I stand out, I am remembered (which is helpful as a contractor) and has also served me well in helping to build genuine, meaningful relationships with stakeholders. “If you can’t change the people, change the people.” It may sound a little harsh but if, after you have tried every tactic you can think of and you still are challenged or there are people actively trying to derail a project or your efforts, it may be time to consider moving people on. For me, this is a reminder to not take this personally – this is not a failing, it’s just not necessarily about you. Be brave enough to have brave conversations and realise that sometimes “it’s not me, it’s you” and that’s ok.

What do you find most valuable about being a member of ACMP?

The events and the brains trust! I value that it’s a global platform and I hope to complete the Certified Change Management Professional (CCMP) https://www.acmpglobal.org/page/ccmp course soon – the more I know about different approaches and ways of working, the better!

Tell us a book or movie you think everyone should make time for...

Wild Tales. It’s a witty, razor-sharp, sometimes dark Spanish film about revenge. It’s hilarious and sad and one of my all-time favourites. It’s also the only movie I have been to see twice in a cinema! It’s ultimately about consequences, empathy and serves as a reminder to be kind and treat others how you want to be treated. I take that approach very seriously both in life and at work and think it underpins what we do as human-centric change professions.