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Corporate Corner: DG Organizational Consulting

Kershner Sledziewski Law proudly works with individuals, businesses, entrepreneurs, lenders, investors and more throughout the Chicagoland area. We love hearing what our clients and friends are up to, and making connections to help your businesses grow. We spoke with Diana Goldberg, the founder and principal consultant of DG Organizational Consulting. Diana focuses her practice on strategic direction. She works with organizations to develop shared, compelling visions; achieve them through collaborative planning, design, and implementation; and create sources of stability amidst transition.

Diana completed her master’s degree in Organization Development from American University in May 2018. Organization development is a field that focuses on increasing organizational effectiveness through a multi-disciplinary lens including social and behavioral sciences, business management and economics, sociology and anthropology, neuroscience, change management, and more. The values underpinning organization development form the foundation of Diana’s consulting practice: collaboration, participation, exploration, and integrity.

In June 2018, Diana joined the Board of Directors of the Organization Development Network of Chicago (ODNC) as their Program Chair; she was elected as co-president in January 2019 and continues to serve in that capacity, as well as recently forming a Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Diana also facilitates a mastermind group in Chicago for women in non-traditional careers. Prior to consulting, Diana worked in non-profit administration, programming, and communications.

Our discussion with Diana provided us with insight on the steps one must take on tackling organizational development and why it is important to establish within a business:

What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced as an entrepreneur?

I would say there are a few major challenges I’ve come across. The first one was feeling like I was doing everything alone and figuring everything out by myself. I spent a lot of time in the beginning building a network of colleagues in my field and then doing the same outside of my field. Now, I have people I can call on for support or to bounce ideas off of, which has been invaluable. In the same vein, I tried not to reinvent the wheel. If I wasn’t sure what to do next or where to turn, I asked people and did research.

The hardest things for me to do have been the ones that meant I had to put myself out there for the world to see. I found it easier to do background and logistical work sometimes (like setting up a bank account, etc.), because I could do that by myself. However, building my website, for example, was a huge challenge not just because I had to figure out how to talk about myself and my business, but also because once I finished it… people could actually see it. It can be scary to put your big dreams out there into the world. Once it’s out there, people might reject it! So it was about having the confidence in myself to do it anyways.

What is the best advice you have received so far? How often does this advice apply to your career?

The best advice I’ve gotten so far is to just start with something – and where you start doesn’t have to be where you stay forever! I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, and especially with my own business, I wanted everything I did to be absolutely perfect because in a way, everything I do reflects me because I make all of the decisions. That means I can get paralyzed or overwhelmed because there’s no one telling me what to do, so I can do... anything. The possibilities are endless, which is both thrilling and terrifying. A highly successful consultant who’s been practicing for decades told me that every few years, she switches her focus, and she looks at everything as a learning opportunity. Once she feels that she’s learned what she can from one focus, she switches it up a bit.

So my advice would be to just do it – start somewhere, with something, and it doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be forever. Just make it “good enough” for right now, or for the next 3 months, or for the next year. You can always revisit and change it.

My other piece of advice is to be prepared for the ups and downs, and build in supports for yourself. Owning and running my own business is amazing, and most of the time I love it. It’s also really challenging sometimes. I have to rely on myself – a lot of the time, I don’t have a ton of external accountability or support. That was part of why building a network was really important to me, too. I’ve built structures to create that accountability and support; for example, I started a Mastermind group for women in nontraditional careers, where we meet monthly to discuss our goals and the progress we’ve made towards them. We help each other work through challenges, celebrate our wins, and make sure we’re on track with our plans and goals.

How do you achieve work-life balance?

I think keeping a balance requires consistent attention – it looks different depending on what’s going on both in my career and in life. In my experience the balance continually tips back and forth, so part of it is maintaining an awareness of that, and making sure it’s not getting too unbalanced for too long. There are crazy busy weeks where it feels like I’m completely focused on work, and calmer ones where I’ve got a lot more free time. So it’s also about allowing myself to enjoy the free time when I’ve got it. For example, I often have evening meetings, so I give myself permission to take a break for a few hours in the middle of the day, whether that’s to meet a friend for brunch, go to the grocery store, or just relax. It can be hard to do that and not feel guilty about it though, because of course there’s always something work-related I could be doing.

For me, this question is also about time management. I’ve had to figure out how to plan my time and make routines that work for me – again, without any external guidance or structure. There’s no office I need to show up at by 9am every morning, and I also don’t get to leave at 5. I’ve come up with flexible routines around daily activities that set the tone for my day. My favorite is that if I don’t have an early meeting, I wake up at 9 and have my breakfast and tea at a leisurely pace (yes! I fully appreciate the luxury of giving myself relaxed mornings!). Then I head into my (home) office and it’s work time.

There are other strategies I employ, too: I always work in my office, so I actually can leave it and shut the door behind me. Strict daily schedules don’t work for me (love to make them, have never followed one) so I create weekly goals that I can achieve with whatever combination of hours works for me that week. I’m really protective of my evenings that don’t have meetings and of my weekends, and I schedule in time specifically not to work. There are times when I have to prioritize and let things go that aren’t important in the moment (this can be hard, as I’m a master at what I call ‘productive procrastination).

Maintaining balance is still a constant work in progress, but I think that’s part of its nature. I’ve learned to go with the ups and downs and actually work with them instead of against them, and most of the time, it works out pretty well!

What is one feature you would include in your dream home?

Well, thanks to Junilla and to Kira at Baird Warner, I’m living in my dream home! But if I could change something, I’d probably somehow magically transplant a forest into the backyard of my condo in the city.

What is your favorite restaurant?

I grew up in Skokie so I have a whole list of suburban go-to’s, but Akai Hana in Wilmette is my all-time favorite. I’m allergic to fish but I still love Japanese food, and theirs is the best! I love dumplings and eat them everywhere, and their gyoza is still my favorite.

In the city, I joke that it’s probably the last restaurant I went to. But if I had to pick a go-to, I’d say Mas alla del Sol in Edgewater. It’s delicious Mexican food – try the queso panela!

Do you have a favorite quote? What is it?

This quote goes with a piece of artwork, “falling into place,” by artist Brian Andreas: “Deciding everything is falling into place perfectly… as long as you don’t get too picky about what you mean by place. Or perfectly.”

It’s up on my office wall, and I love it because it reminds me that I have the power to choose how I view and react to my circumstances. And also that I need to watch out for my perfectionist streak and not let it rule my life!

What are the most important steps to organizational development?

In my opinion, the most important step is to first figure out where you want to go. Having a clear, shared vision is vital; otherwise you don’t know what you’re working towards. What kind of ‘development’ are you looking for? Why? What do you hope to achieve? Are there problems you’re trying to solve, or just a sense that ‘something’ needs to change? Once you know where you’re going, the next step is to figure out where you are now. In my work this involves data collection and analysis – most importantly, talking to the relevant stakeholders in order to determine the current situation.

When you know where you are and where you’re going, you can begin to figure out how to get there. What needs to change in order to get to your desired future? What are the steps you will take to get there? Define the changes and steps clearly and explicitly, including how people will need to change their actual behavior.

What are common mistakes or misconceptions people make/have when developing their organization?

People often overlook the need to acknowledge, account for, and guide people through the psychological effects of change. Leaders expect that if they come up with a plan or design a new process and communicate it clearly, everyone will see that it is an improvement, accept it, and start doing it. Most organizations don’t realize that it’s also critical to acknowledge the psychological and emotional impact of change. Even overall positive changes involve shifts in identity, behavior, and knowledge. Everyone has reactions to change; some may be excited and impatient, while others are hesitant or afraid – sometimes for very good reasons, which can be important to understand and address. All of these reactions are normal, and helping stakeholders through them is a vital aspect of change management and a key indicator of the likelihood of a change effort’s success.

Another major oversight is not involving people in decisions that affect them. When working towards change and development, it is highly beneficial to treat employees as valued sources of information and knowledge and to give them a say – to the extent possible – in decisions that affect their work. Front-line employees likely know best what they need to do their jobs better, and that information, once gathered, can be used to inform broader strategy and decision-making by leadership. Employee participation builds engagement and commitment to a change effort, makes employees feel heard and valued, and provides an important perspective on what is needed to achieve an organization’s goals.

Are there any tips you would be willing to share on how people can optimize their resources to develop/pursue their goals?

I would start with two questions: What are your goals? And what are your resources? A lot of the time people think they’re clear on their goals, but they actually aren’t. Really think about where you want to go and why it’s important to you. In an ideal world, given all the resources and time you could want, where are you in 1 year? 2 years? 10 years? It’s helpful to think about different timeframes because they will give you different answers. I’ve found that both myself and others work best and are most motivated when our work feels connected to a bigger picture long-term goal, and we have concrete short-term goals that feel achievable.

It’s also pretty common for people not to truly recognize and acknowledge their greatest resources and strengths. It can be easy to focus on quantitative stuff (how much time and money, how many people, what supporting technologies, etc. do we have?) but it’s really important to ask yourself what your (less-tangible) strengths are, as a person, team, and organization (depending on the situation). These are the things you do really well – so well, you probably take them for granted, or you don’t realize that not everyone does those things well. Look back at what you’ve accomplished. How did you do those things? What skills and resources did you use to get there? Build on that when to determine what your assets are and how you’ve used them successfully in the past. Once you can see what’s led to your successes, you can apply those resources and processes strategically to your current goal(s).


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