February 5

Episode 21: Learn How to Manage Change With Anna Tubina


In this week’s episode, Mike invites Anna Tubina to discuss how organizations successfully plan for and undergo systemic changes. She explains the emotional and mental prerequisites needed for change to occur. Mike learns what it means for leaders to be allies for change. Anna talks about how to create change when you feel stuck, professionally or personally. The two share the role of conversational communities in driving change through exchanges of wisdom and perspective.

Anna is a Change Practitioner, Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator, and a Health Coach. For the last several years, Anna has worked in individual & organizational development and change. Anna is currently employed with the City of Toronto as a Change Management Consultant and supports major IT initiatives on the people-side of change.

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…

  • Change requires a positive and constructive emotional microbiome around the work and a mindset that doesn’t feel burdened by progress.
  • Establishing an emotional microbiome that is open to the idea of change encourages staff to shift to a flexible mindset.
  • Demonstrating how changes have improved work environments helps staff value the process of implementing changes.
  • Leaders who act as allies in the change process invite staff to see change as a goal, not a burden.
  • If you feel stuck, it’s useful to examine both the logical and emotional perspectives involved.
  • Establishing conversation spaces within your community allows coworkers to find both shared and unique perspectives.


  • “Two-directional conversations are always helpful.” – Anna
  • “[Leaders] have to help their staff see change as an opportunity.” – Anna
  • “It’s not done until the behavior is changed, and behavior is changed in such a consistent fashion that it becomes a habit.” – Mike

Links & Resources Mentioned…

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Read The Transcript

Mike O'Neill:  

Hello and welcome back to the Get Unstuck & On Target show. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders, and we're speaking with thought leaders to uncover tips to help you break down the barriers that may be keeping you or your business stuck. Joining me today from Toronto is my friend Anna Tubina. Anna is a change practitioner, appreciative inquiry, facilitator, and a health coach.

Welcome Anna.

Anna Tubina: Thank you so much, Mike. Thanks for welcoming me to your podcast humbling experience. I've learned a lot from your previous speakers and,  it's just great to be here with you.

Mike O'Neill: Well, I'm confident that our listeners today are going to learn a lot from you. Let me share with our listeners a little bit more about you. For the last several years, Anna has worked in the areas of individual and organizational development and change.

Anna is currently employed with the city of Toronto as a change management consultant, and she supports major IT initiatives on the people side of change. So I've asked Ana to give us her insights on how to manage both the head and heart issues when leading organizational change. Anna, why don't we just jump right in, you know, from your perspective as a change consultant, you're helping large organizations implement complex change.

How would you define success when change is done well?

Anna Tubina: Yeah. And thank you, Mike, for, for leading us into the conversation with this question, because I think it's very important,  in a holistic holistic sense of things. I think, change can be considered successful when the, it's driven. For example, if it's driven as an initiative, as an initiative from the top, it's being well met and lead by.

At the bottom, over organizational structure and essentially the initiative and the change becomes the spirit of what their communication it becomes everybody's business.  I like to define a successful change as such, because in this case, people are already invested in what's going on. And as we know.

Human nature. When human beings invest in something, it becomes dear to their heart. And here you go, you'll already have less change resistance, like a recipe for decreasing the change resistance, let your people be egaged and just in what's happening, doing the change.

Mike O'Neill: So you're describing the importance of involving all of those who are going to be impacted.

By the change in the process, if you want change to be successful. And that makes good common sense. You know, what I'm also mindful of is that for change, to be successful, certain things need to happen on the front end. What might be some of the prerequisites that should be in place for change to be successful.

Anna Tubina: Yes. And I think that's a very important conversation about the prerequisites of the successful change. Because often when we talk about change management in a traditional approach to it, we think about certain structures,  the strategy, the communication tactics, the training tactics that need to be implemented to guide people through the change process.

And that is very important. That has to be there. And of course it's a part of my job or a job of any change leader practitioner. But I think there is more to it. And I think there are two main areas of prerequisites of a successful change. One area is emotional and I refer to it as a forming, healthy, emotional microbiome in the organization or in the team.

And the second piece to me is the mindset, instilling the right generative opportunistic mindset. So those are the two important, key prerequisites for me, that enable and prepare our organization for any change that it's coming this way.

Mike O'Neill: So Anna you described two prerequisites. Why don't we, go through each of those in little more detail the first, can you elaborate please?

Anna Tubina: Absolutely. And, I think number one for me is emotional piece that emotional microbiome as I refer to it, and I really like to use this analogy and I borrow it from a nutritional science and a gut health. You know, because we'll know that it's important what is the composition of the bacteria or, or microorganism in our gut.

And similar to that, I define emotional microbiome as in the organization, as a mix of emotions that are prevalent and dominant in the organization or in the team at the point where change is starting. And of course it's a dynamic process. You know, we can be having a very bad diet and then we can jump and start eating healthy foods, probiotics, and things like that.

And we can shift that with microbiome in our gut. And similarly to this emotional microbiome is not something that is fixed and it's a good, and it's good news because leaders can do a lot to make sure that the dominant emotions are. Not fear, not feeling of stuckness, anxiety, and mistrust. That would be unhealthy emotional micro-biome from my perspective.

And I like teams. I like to see teams either be in the state or shifting towards a mix of emotions where there is trust, there is hope, there is curiosity about what's coming. That's what I call a more healthy, emotional microbiome or landscape.

Mike O'Neill: So you introduced me to a new term. I appreciate that. If that is the first prerequisite is what is the second again, please.

Anna Tubina: So, and I think at least in, in my, in my view, once the emotional landscape is more positive or at least neutral, and people are not affected by the negative emotions. They're not stuck in that state.  The organization is ready to, to do the mindset work, which is the second piece that I think is very important.

And that is the shift from viewing, the change as a set of unconveniences  and troubles, shifting that towards viewing the change as a opportunity. And that's where it's hard to underestimate the role of leaders because often, often leaders think that once they, once they employ change lead or change practitioner person on the project, the work is done.

Not all the leaders think that way, but some leaders do tend to think that, you know, it's the burden off their shoulders. And in a way it is because a change person is responsible for strategizing for doing the risk assessments for building all the plans and implementing that. But the important part is the change person has to become an ally,  for those leaders, especially for the mediators and leaders who are leading, the teams, as an ally in the change journey, because those leaders have to take those employees,

the staff who belong, who reports to them through the change journey, we have to tap into the coaching skills. They have to help, they have to help their staff to see the chages an opportunity. And it's a perfect, a perfect opportunity to start a two way communication, to implement conversational practices.

You will get together with your team and ask questions like, you know, what do we want to achieve as a team? What are the things that we've always wanted to achieve, but we probably couldn't do it because of lack of proper technology. So what this change, what kind of opportunities does this change mean to us?

This is a perfect opportunity to just to form a share the vision of the future. And really for you view the change as a vehicle to evolve. You become a better version of ourselves as a team and really come out on the other side of this change, having a better quality of service or better quality of your operations, depending what kind of initiative we're talking about.

So this is a mindset.

Mike O'Neill: I appreciate your clarification. You know, in my introduction, I said that I'm going to ask you to speak on the challenge of managing change from both a head and heart issue. Of the two, does one typically need to come in before the other? Or do you, can you speak to that? If you want to get head and heart appealed, is there a more.

Better approach to get a head in heart buy-in

Anna Tubina: Well, I think recognizing that it can be subjective and depends on the scenario on the change, but to me, the heart comes first and it's not only because, I recently discovered that I'm a highly sensitive person, so I naturally read a few people's emotions very easily.

And, not only because of that, but also because, the reason there is a concept in,  in the psychology that says that emotions are the form of communication. Emotions is something that we can read and translate into feedback. And I think from that perspective, emotions,  especially negative emotions, those emotions that keep us stuck, or unwilling to go through the certain processes through the change they can serve as a beautiful pointer.

On, our next target. What it is that we need to put into what conversations do we need to hold? Maybe what additional training we need to offer for people to feel more at ease. With what's coming their way and therefore, to be able to shift in the right mindset, get more curious, get more open and be willing to spend time on the change. Because change implementation always demands,

it demands additional time, on the employees, on the leaders. And that's where people often get uncomfortable because they have their own things to do. They have their plates full. And they, don't always, they're not always willing to put an hour and a half in the training per week plus additional time to kind of refresh the materials, you know, but once the emotions are more at ease with what's happening, once they are more welcoming, once their mindset is shifted, they will be willing to do that.

And then we come to a scenario where, the changes will likely to be sustained adopted and then sustained. And really that's what our top leadership is always looking for because it's about an ROI on their investment. It's about the adoption. It's about the speed of adoption. It's about the budget.

Mike O'Neill: You know Anna.

Thus far, we've been talking more in the context of implementing change in an organization and the, role that you are speaking from in your role there in Toronto is you're helping the implementation of major, IT changes. And that would mean we are going from doing it this way to doing it a new way. But you know, it seems to me, as we're talking about just the nature of change is that is true when you get major change initiatives, but isn't change coming at us fast and furious from all parts of our life.

Do people just sometimes shut down because there's too much change going on at once.

Anna Tubina: I think so. And that's one of the very common issues that change practitioners and leaders need to face.  There was a term change situation, or, you know, how tired is the organization because of how many changes are coming their way.

And you know what, that's where, from my perspective, two things help. First of all, instealing clarity, and translating the bigger why in terms of the business needs. Why the top leadership team has made the decision to implement the change into what's in it for me kind of messages. Well, the employers don't understand what this change will do for them and for their team.

And that's where important to work together, where a change practitioner and the leaders of a particular team, that's very important to work together and spend that time together. Because only those leaders know those teams the best, you know. That's one thing. And another thing I like to quote,  an expert in habits, Wendy Wood who says that, make sure you enjoy, the new behavior because it's not remotely the working

you're not going to stick to it. And, you know, from, because I really view change process is a way to instill a set of new behaviors. We're an organization. And the process of going through change, in an, in a, in an ideal scenario has to be. Filled with pleasant emotions. And so people wanna do another step and another step and another step forward.

And hopefully the new behaviors, the new systems, the new tools and new processes simplify their work. And hopefully they can understand it and see how it's going to make their life easier and more pleasant. So they are more willing to go through that process.

Mike O'Neill: You know, as we were kind of discussing this and I'm listening to you speak, I'm trying to kind of imagine a major change initiative.

And you mentioned that your thought is, is when you're looking at change, you have to be mindful of the heart side, perhaps even before the head side. My natural tendency is to think more of the head side to be thinking about the logical aspects we're going from this to that. But you introduce something, very important and that is you characterize leaders, as they have to be seen as an ally

to this change. They need to be seen as this change is not being enforced on the organization by them, but these leaders are coming alongside the folks in the organization as an ally. And what I think you're encouraging us to be mindful of as leaders is that if your natural tendency is to be thinking about implementing change, primarily from a logical linear

head perspective. You're trying to caution, take a time out, be mindful of how change probably is perceived individually and collectively from a heart standpoint. And so you're really encouraging us as leaders. It's both. Head and heart. And as leaders, we need to understand that we have to be a resource to the folks in the organization, the stakeholders who are impacted by the change.

And you made a very interesting point, and that is there's sometimes a temptation to when the change is implemented to put a real fat check mark, next to that's done. And what you are saying is it's not done until behavior is changed and that behaviors changed on such a consistent fashion. That it's now a habit.

Am I hearing that? Okay. Is that about right?

Anna Tubina: Yes. Yes. Thank you. I appreciate that. The recap you're absolutely right. You know, we've talked about the importance of, a new type of relationship between the employees and their leaders as the organization or an individual teams only through change. And those are coaching relationship.

And those relationships are really embedded in the co-creation into the, in the conversational two-way conversational practices. Because that can open up a new possibilities in how that team can go through change. What leaders can also do in the times of change. They can try to assess the strengths of their team or the team members, and try to see how they can lean on those strengths in the time of change, because people perform their best

when, you know, when they lean on their strengths, it's easy and it's pleasant for them to lean on their strengths and to be at their best. We all love to be at our best. So really it's an opportunity for your team to be at their best and support you as a leader because you don't have to go through that alone.

And also if you have a change practitioner a change leader you have to rely on them. And it also has to be a conversation. It's, it's very much, both ways. It change leader on the own they can't implement the change, for the whole organization. But at the same time, without a change in it, it's much harder for the leader to carrying that burden.

So it's very much collaborational co-creational and, vision driven process in mind.

Mike O'Neill: Well, it sounds to me that the city of Toronto is fortunate to have you there as a change facilitator.  I don't know if all of our listeners have the luxury of someone with your type of skillset, but you're giving us some great guidance, the same type of guidance you're giving, the folks there with the city of Toronto.

Anna in our time together, I would also like to kind of get some input from you on circumstances, situations where perhaps you got stuck. Or perhaps an organization you're a part of got stuck. And what did it take to get unstuck? You know, we've been talking about change thus far, sometimes change as a result of an individual or an organization feeling stuck, but how would you speak to that question of situations where either you or an organization you're a part of got stuck.

Anna Tubina: You know what I think I can, we've talked a lot about business side of things, but probably I'm inclined to give it more, personal example because I think it will support what I was saying before, but more on the personal level. I came to Canada 13 years ago from Russia and the first years, or I was really in the first few years, I was really in a situation of being stuck and not knowing where to move.

Even though, you know, I got a job. I was employed by an amazing leader by amazing team who I'm still in touch with. And I'm very thankful, but inside I was still stuck. And I think when I go back and try to analyze what was going on. I was exactly stuck on two levels. I was stuck on an emotional level.

I was experiencing confusion with a loss of my connections that were all left back in my home country. And I couldn't really allow myself to move on for a while. And the second thing that was keeping me stuck was a constant comparison. That mindset, that limited, limiting mindset, that whatever's not good enough in Canada questions, even why am I here.

You know, and the moment I remember at the end of my third year in Canada, something shifted in me. I stopped comparing the realities in Canada, the realities in Russia. I just realized that. I don't need to let go of everything that I've accumulated in my home country. I can build on what I have, as I look for new opportunities that this country, this city, the new job of mine the new language have to offer.

And that was kind of a rebirth moment for me, so to speak. That was the beginning of a new life, where I build on what I had and I continue to develop. So, as you can see in this personal example, it's again, that dual of emotions and the mindset worked out nicely for me. And even ever since then, you know, I use emotions as my communication tool, even the internal, emotional state.

I use it as communication. I use it as a pointer to, okay, what is the areas that needs my attention. And I really truly believe that an organization can use the same approach. To identify the areas of tension, talk through them, come together to identify the shared preferred vision and the future, and then lean on the strengths to create a plan, a strategic and tactical plan, how to move on to that future.

And in that sense, you know, conversational to directional conversations, are always helpful.

Mike O'Neill: I introduced you at the beginning of this podcast as a friend, I didn't necessarily share how you and I came to know each other, but it was through an online community, comprised primarily of consultants.

What's different about this online community is these consultants are literally from all over the world. And what we are trying to do as a community is be supportive of each other. And what I'm finding is, as I participate an we come together at least once a week, via zoom, as, as I'm listening to Ana share her wisdom, it was just clear to me.

It's that type of wisdom I would love to share. With,  our podcast listeners. What I did not mention is Anna has advanced degrees.  She's very, very smart, but that wisdom is not just classroom smart. She has a, a practical wisdom that I have benefited from. And, I want to thank you for at least given our listeners a little bit of a sense of kind of who

you are. And so as we kind of wrap up our time together, Anna, as you kind of reflect on the things we've discussed, what might be the things you would like our listeners to really kind of grab onto as takeaways.

Anna Tubina: Yeah. You know what it's I actually would like to anchor my last words to what you just said about the community and the importance

of, finding the community, that professional community, just maybe forming a conversational circle at work, that was help you to move your thoughts forward to see the situation from a different angles and to feel that you belong that you're not alone. I think that is very important. You know, my previous, my previous, thoughts was about, you know, working side by side, whether it's a change practitioner in your team or your colleagues, but I think it's always possible to find a way to form a community that will uplift to you because you know what?

In my 10 years in Canada, I wouldn't be where I am right now. If not my first work and my first community at work at this point, if not, the community that you have just mentioned where we meet regularly and support each other. And if not my colleagues at work, many of them are willing to share the experiences their your points of view.

And it's all like pieces of treasure for me, really, we can really lean on each other and move forward together. Especially at times like as such, I need this 2020 and 2021. Those are not easy years for us.

Mike O'Neill: We are recording this, in mid January, I suspect that this will be published probably later in February, but my sense is some of the things we've been dealing with for almost a year now will still be with us and as connected as we might feel

via zoom and alike, there is still a sense of isolation. And I appreciate you saying what you said, and that is, it doesn't matter how, but you're stressing the importance to be in community with others and in doing so, we can together get through whatever it is that we have to get through, but we'll be doing so together.

Speaking of which Anna, if people wanted to reach out to you online, how's the best way for them to do so?

Anna Tubina: Well, I think it can be just as simple as looking me up on LinkedIn. I guess that's the simplest and only way to reach out.  And I'm very welcoming, very welcoming, new connections, new conversations, and new ideas.

Mike O'Neill: We're going to be including Anna's LinkedIn, profile in the show notes. But for those that just want to jot those down right now, spell your name for our listeners, please.

Anna Tubina: It's Anna a N N E to Bina, T U B I N A

Mike O'Neill: Excellent. Again, we're going to include that in the show notes on a thank you for your time today and thank you for your friendship.

Anna Tubina: Thank you, Mike. I appreciate the opportunity and I appreciate the conversation and ongoing partnership. Thank you.

Mike O'Neill: I also like to thank our listeners for joining us for this episode of get unstuck and on target. Anna is typical of the great guests that we have lined up. We upload the latest episode every Thursday, and I hope you'll subscribe.

Be it Apple, Spotify, whatever your favorite platform might be. But if you've been listening to my discussion with Anna and you're realizing that something's keeping you or your company stuck, let's talk simply visit unstuck.show to schedule a call. And on that call, we'll explore. What's got you stuck and perhaps what's gotten your company stuck and what might be the things that you could do.

To overcome it. So I'd like to thank you for joining us, and I hope you have picked up on some tips that will help you Get Unstuck & On Target. Until next time.

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