Zendesk Women in Leadership series: Taking charge during change

Executive coach Libby Gill and Zendesk’s Caitlin Keohane hosted a panel featuring leaders from Calendly and Accenture on how women are leading with impact

Published October 18, 2022
Last updated November 3, 2022

Leadership skills are forged during crises, and the past couple of years has challenged even the most effective managers. With the advent of digital-first work and evolving expectations of employees, this new work environment has compelled leaders to change their approach.

Zendesk’s Women in Leadership (WiL) series recently explored some of these challenges in an event focusing on effective change management. Top executive coach Libby Gill delivered the keynote on “Leading with impact: Manage complex challenges with executive presence.” She was then joined by Tina Dobie, chief customer officer at Calendly, and Felicia Jones, managing director at Accenture, for a panel discussion about becoming more agile and purposeful change leaders. Zendesk’s own Caitlin Keohane, senior vice president of global customer advocacy, hosted the event.

Big change energy
The only constant is change. But when there is too much change in an organization, leaders and their teams often suffer from ‘change fatigue.’ The challenge for leaders is to keep motivation high and transform this into ‘change energy.’

“Recognizing ‘change fatigue’ comes with knowing your team,” said Dobie. “If there’s someone I have not talked to in a while, I check in and say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ Because I want to create that open environment for people when they feel overwhelmed—and they want to talk with someone.”

Gill suggests that leaders keep an eye on worker burnout—especially if they work long hours from home. “We need to insist on personal time off, vacation time, and mental health check-ins,” said Gill.

Dobie adds that even small check-ins over Slack can help keep workers’ energy up. “It is easier to do virtually because we have the tools to communicate really quickly,” she said.

Women are well-equipped to handle change
Women make up close to half of the US workforce, and for many, it should be no surprise that women leaders rank better than their male counterparts in how they respond to a crisis.

A Harvard Business Review analysis shows that women leaders frequently prioritize risk-taking, favoring new strategies and embracing change in business strategy.

“I think women are more nurturing, and it’s easy for us to show compassion for people,” said Jones. “We feel better when we pull people in and work together. When we’re aware of our strength and don’t try to lead like our male counterparts, that’s when we shine.”

Pew Research also found that women in business scored higher than men on many important leadership qualities, including resilience and results-driven attitudes. Women also earned top marks for motivation, bold leadership, and teamwork.

Dobie added, “Context is so important, especially in times of change. As women, I feel like we’re intentional about setting the context for what’s going to happen with a strategic change or shift. We do a good job spelling out implications and communicating what’s to come.”

The change checklist
Organizational change has to start somewhere—but where? Gill believes it is smart to start small. “I have my clients set a yearly vision, and then begin to break that down into quarterly components,” explained Gill. “I run my business with 90-day plans—and those little steps add to big changes over time.”

Gill’s change checklist suggests leaders ask themselves five questions before they implement any changes in their organization:

  • Why is change necessary?
  • How do we prepare for change?
  • What is the roadmap for change?
  • Is the process culture-aligned?
  • How will we measure success?

Zendesk’s commitment to women in leadership
Want to lead a remote workforce more intelligently while gaining the necessary visibility necessary to the next level? Join us for our upcoming Women in Leadership event on December 6, 2022, on Standing out in a digital world: Keys to thriving professionally as a leader.

To learn more about Zendesk’s Women in Leadership series, sign up to be a part of the community here.