As part of our ongoing Leadership Connect Series with Teranet’s thought leaders, we speak with Mary Chatson, Director, Strategy, Organizational Development & Change, HR.
1. Tell us a bit about your career path and how you came to hold your current position.
My career path has been a long and winding journey. I have a business background but early on in my career I acquired a taste for technology. I started in Marketing working on interactive voice recognition (IVR) systems. That was back when if you weren’t able to pick up a phone call at work someone answered it for you and wrote down a “call back” message for you to follow up on. It doesn’t seem like much but automated attendants, voice mail, call trees were all pretty cool back then. It was a lot of fun working with clients to configure the system to their needs, train their users, and then of course answer a million questions—some of them how-to and some of them related to bugs in the system. I’ll never forget the day that one of our “automated call-back services” called 911 with a “your library books are overdue” message. That was a fun day—and a private behind-the-scenes joke: guess you shouldn’t have given the library your work phone number.
From that point on, I was hooked on technology and working to connect people and technology to get the best results. I like interesting work and interesting people and that is reflected in my career journey.
After my initial role, I moved on to work for a number of technology companies. In those years, I worked across all parts of the business in leadership roles within publications, training, product management, project management, content management, software development, operations and transformational projects. While leading a digital transformation initiative, which took the organization from being print-focused to digital-first, I had the “a-ha” moment that while I always loved the details of the technology, what really had made me successful throughout my career was my ability to bring people along with the change. After that, I made the decision to pivot my career exclusively towards change management. I took a giant leap into the retail space enabling change at scale with 95,000 employees across the country. I learned so much about the complexities in the ever-dynamic retail world—but ultimately I still had the itch to return to a technology company (yes, I also learned a lot about me). That brought me to Teranet—technology, people, change and a lot of experience with accountants, lawyers and change—with a mandate to strengthen our change management muscle across the organization.
Six years later, it always makes me smile when I hear the words “change management” popping up in discussions. It is a great indicator that our leaders and teams have embraced change management and brought it to the work that they do every day. While the project manager in me longs for every initiative to have all the ticks and checks of the full change management process, we all know that the single largest determination of whether an individual will make a change, is their direct manager’s perspective and ability to guide their team through the process. I know Teranet is stronger because our People Leaders have now become change leaders.
Today at Teranet, change management is still a key part of my role although how I deliver on that is quite different. My work is focused on enterprise-wide organizational effectiveness—strategy and corporate strategic initiatives (including policies and programs, organizational structure, M&A transitions and integrations, business continuity—a lot of business continuity these days with COVID-19 response and a new hybrid workforce model), organizational development (including learning, engagement, inclusion & diversity), internal communications, and change leadership.
I am currently working on my International Coaching Federation (ICF) certification through the Co-Active Training Institute. The common denominator for me has always been about getting results through people.
2. How does your role tie into the modernization and innovation of solutions offered by Teranet?
We live in a VUCA world—volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. I love that word—even the sound of it reflects the emotional sway, sometimes tidal waves, that we experience every day. Success, sometimes as simple as basic survival, is about balancing it all—our personal lives, the day-to-day operational responsibilities of our business, responding to whatever comes up, and then the constant change of continuous improvement through modernization and innovation of both our products and our processes.
At Teranet, we aim to create value for our clients/customers every day to help them be successful in a VUCA world by delivering world-class products and information, great services, and rock-solid reliability—from our people to our technology. Making that happen takes the incredible passion, drive and collaboration of each and every one of Teranet’s team members. For our team members, change is constant—we innovate and modernize so that we can deliver better results for our clients, our customers and our shareholders.
My job is all about creating a bridge between what we do today and what we need to do differently to get to a better tomorrow by giving our team members what they need to be successful as we make these changes. That means different things for different people and different situations. One of the best things about my job, no day is ever the same—plotting out the journey so that we can all see the roadmap to success, connecting the dots by bringing all of the stakeholders to the table, creating a place for them to provide input to create a better result (and a better change experience), building confidence and cohesion across the team, empowering leaders to coach/guide their team members, getting answers to questions (which is way more than the simple “communication” that it looks like), providing training, continuous learning/feedback loops and a framework to help keep the focus during the messy middle of adopting the change.
Fundamentally—change management is all about coaching and mentoring individuals and teams so that they can bring their best self and skills to the table to make a difference—for their growth, for our collective learning (including mine), for the cohesion of our team, for our clients and for our business.
3. What do you think has been the key to keeping your team at Teranet motivated and engaged?
My team. That is an interesting concept. I am fortunate to have a small and mighty direct-reporting team. But the reality is that “my” team is so much broader than just that. My team works as part of a broader team construct working across the organization—whether it be those focused on projects, processes, technology, organizational development and HR—at all levels ranging from individual contributors to people leaders to Executives. What keeps us engaged and motivated? I think it is the opportunity to work with great talent at every level and in every part of the organization. We have a unique vantage point seeing Teraneters in action every day and seeing our business operate in real-time. We know that we make a difference every day by helping our colleagues succeed—individually, as a team, and as an organization. And of course, we get to learn a lot too from the individuals we work with and the projects that we are involved in.
4. What do you think is the key to change management?
Change management is one of those concepts that means different things to different people. But really, change management is about giving people what they need to be successful during change and acknowledging that change is about 99% of everything that we do in the workplace today—back to the VUCA world.
Change management is really about common sense, the concepts are basic fundamental truths, but executing on it successfully is a lot of intense interpersonal and collaborative work. Just because you build something great doesn’t mean that people will adapt the way they work to take advantage of it (I learned that one early in my career.) Almost everything we do these days requires people to change their behavior and work differently. When people do change behaviours and we operate, execute and evolve as one aligned team—great things happen including achieving the desired return on investment for the change.
5. What type of professional is the type of talent Teranet seeks today?
We look for top talent at Teranet. We live by our values and that makes “how you do it” as important as “what you do”. We look for experts with both high IQ and high EQ—and for those that know that success doesn’t happen in silos. When you join the Teranet team, you can expect to be working daily with cross-functional team members across the business who are passionate about making a difference for our customers/clients and in our communities, and pursue continuous learning and improvement personally and professionally in all that we do. Together we are stronger.