I was working with a coaching client the other day when they expressed feeling overwhelmed. We had spent the prior sessions evaluating their past job experiences to understand what they needed from their career going forward. We were right in the middle of the process where we were sorting through all the information they had gathered about themself. And so I said what any good coach would say at that moment, “Have you seen the Netflix show ‘Get Organized’?”
I recently binge-watched the Netflix show “ Get Organized with the Home Edit “. The show centers around two women, Joanna and Clea, who run a home organization business called The Home Edit . In each episode of the show they work with a celebrity and non-celebrity client to provide beautiful color-coordinated organization to whatever room the client needs.
After spending 6+ months primarily confined to my Brooklyn apartment, the idea of watching a team of women organize a room within an inch of its life was deeply satisfying to me. I’d already taken up baking during this extra time at home, so I thought why not embrace the art of organization too. And while I learned all about how the right clear bin can change your life, I was more intrigued by how similar the process of organizing is to the change process, through which I guide my own clients.
Joanna and Clea say they follow a three-step process of Edit, Categorize, and Contain. In reality, they actually have a four-step process. Their real first step should be called “Align” because the first thing that Joanna and Clea do when they meet with their clients is to understand the client’s goal. What is it they are trying to accomplish? How do they want to use the space in the future? This is important because there are different plans that could be developed for each space depending on what the client is trying to achieve.
This is similar to working with a Coaching or Consulting client through the change process in that we have to be clear on our goals. Otherwise, it can create more problems for us later. I love to use the framework GRPI to help me remember the importance of aligning on goals before I start a process.
It’s during the “Edit” part of the process where we start to see some initial progress. This step also illustrates why Joanna and Clea are able to achieve results that you and I struggle to achieve on our own. During this phase, The Home Edit team takes every item out and examines it to determine whether it should remain or be tossed. For every item, Joanna and Clea may ask their clients whether they want to keep it or not.
This part of the process takes a lot of time as they are taking inventory of every single item. But this investment is crucial. This is why Joanna and Clea are able to get results while the rest of us struggle to organize the hanging items in our closets. They start from scratch and pull everything out, whereas you and I aren’t going to those lengths. Quite simply, without the help of a professional, we may not be willing to put in the work. Instead, we try to take the easy way out and that doesn’t work.
I follow a similar process with my coaching and consulting clients. For a consulting client, I may spend time completing interviews across the organization before I even put together a change plan for the client. When working with a coaching client who wants to explore new career opportunities, we first start by going back through their work history to identify what things they liked and didn’t like. What did they need to “get rid of” for any future career opportunities? What did they absolutely need to keep as they moved forward? This part of the process can take a few sessions to get through as we have many different work experiences we can mine for information. This stage feels rewarding. With each keep/toss decision the client is gathering a lot of information which feels like progress.
And then comes the next part of the process, which Joanna and Clea call “Categorize”. At this point in their process, every item is still laid out and it looks a bit like a disaster zone. Even as the Home Edit team starts to group items together to create meaning out of the chaos, visually it still looks chaotic. So as I am watching the Home Edit team sit in the middle of a pile of stuff late at night before having to reveal the makeover to the clients the next day, I have a bit of anxiety. And I bet if the client was in the room during that part of the process they would have had a panic attack. As a result, this is the hardest part of the process.
And this is where some of my clients start to freak during their own change process. While my clients are categorizing the information they have learned about themselves, they still see a giant mess and start to wonder how we are ever going to clean this all up. Whether you are engaging in a big change project at work or going through a personal change, there is a point in the process where progress slows and people are tempted to give up. Doubt starts to creep in. Exhaustion and impatience start to take hold as people are tired of the change process by this point. Perhaps they start to even question whether this whole undertaking was a mistake
However, we need to recognize that all change is a mess in the middle. In fact, Kanter’s Law states that “Everything looks like a failure in the middle.”
This is the easiest moment to give up during a change process. We have tons of excitement, energy, and optimism at the start of a project. And then reality sets in, obstacles arise, and progress can slow. If we give up at this point then we will absolutely experience failure. The failure is in giving up. Harvard Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter says this, “Those who master change persist and persevere. They assess and adjust. Those who recognize the struggle of the middle succeed. They have stamina, they are flexible, and they expect obstacles on the road to success.”
If there is one lesson to remember about any sort of change, whether its a personal change or a large-scale organizational change, it’s that we have to prepare for the hard work in the middle and push ourselves to see it through. Obstacles are not signs to give up, rather they are tests that challenge us to dig in.
In one especially anxiety-provoking episode of “Get Organized”, Joanna and Clea couldn’t find the right size bins they needed to complete the room transformation for the “Parks and Recreation” actress, Retta. Even Clea started to freak out over this late in the game obstacle. Thankfully, Joanna stayed calm to keep the team moving and eventually a member of the team showed up with the right sized bins about an hour before Retta returned.
And low and behold, over the next hour they are able to hit their last part of the process which is “Contain”. At this point, all the items are put into containers, labeled, and are placed in their new spot in the home. By the time the client returns, everything is organized and beautifully contained. It all came together in the end. It just took work, the right processes, and perseverance to get to that end result.
So getting back to my coaching client who was starting to feel overwhelmed. I did in fact ask them if they had seen “Get Organized” and they had. We talked about the Categorize stage and how even as a viewer we were starting to feel anxious and worried for the Home Edit team. However, that hard work they put in during that stage was the reason they ended up with a beautifully organized room that impressed the client. And so my client recognized that they were in that difficult and challenging “Organize” stage. Giving up wasn’t an option. We reconnected with the goal we set in the beginning. We talked through where we hoped to land on the other side. And then we recommitted to working through the process in the meantime.
If you are thinking about making a change in your career, download my free guide “10 Signs You Are Ready for a Career Change”.