In this interview, Nancy Zentis, PhD. shares her thoughts on women and their work in OD Consulting. Ms. Zentis has been an OD Consultant for more than 25 years. These days, she teaches others the art of OD Consulting and offers OD Certification Programs online and in the classroom in many different regions and countries.
Why did you want to work as an OD consultant?
I wanted to learn a profession that would advance my career as a consultant. I also had a passion for improving organization effectiveness and alignment for long-term sustainability. I want companies to stay in business for 100 years or more if they are still.
What aspects of this field are important to you?
I want to improve organization value, leadership practices, employee engagement and satisfaction.
What changes have you seen with respect to Women and OD Consulting over the years?
More females are entering the field than males. Women are finding greater acceptability than before with senior leadership. The changes over the years have been related to more involvement of women in the strategic planning of the OD Initiative.
What tools do you use the most as an OD consultant?
I’m most familiar with the Warner Burke action research model, NTL-Gestalt method, problem solving tools, Team Building tools, Facilitation tools, 7 S model, STAR Model, Action Learning Tools, Strategic Planning, SWOT Analysis, and Project Planning.
Do you think female OD practitioners use a different set of tools than their male counterparts?
Yes, sometimes. More of the softer skills to get people to build relationships and trust, and open up more freely and express themselves, and encourage collaboration and dialogue. Whereas, men might be more comfortable with logic and mathematical tools, rather than maintenance or process tools.
During the last 25 years, have any of the OD tools changed?
No, I think the same tools have been around, but they became more accepted. Assertiveness, Appreciative Inquiry, Positive Regard, Collaboration, Dialogue etc, have been around for a long time.
How has your career evolved over time?
My career changed after learning about Action Learning Coaching and the Action Research Model made it easier for me to work with clients on projects.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in OD consulting?
Finding opportunities when the economy takes a downturn. Getting organizations to buy in to the benefit of Organization Development as a long term change process was particularly challenging.
How have women contributed to the field of OD?
I think women have brought about significant changes in the areas of leadership development, culture change, behavior change, ethical behavior, open space, large scale change, and appreciative inquiry.
Which women do you think have made impressive contributions to this field?
Yes, although many are not listed as pioneers – Margaret Meade, Virginia Satir, Mary LIppett, Jane Mouton, Rosabeth Moss Cantor, Isabel Myers Briggs, Kathy Dannemille, Edy Seashore, etc.
What are the most important lessons you have learned during your OD consulting career?
The lessons I learned are: listen to the client, ask questions to determine the issues, and collect data to verify the gaps and root cause. Don’t jump to solutions or allow senior leaders to short-cut the process.
What can you say to women who want to get started or grow in this profession?
Identify what area you want to focus and build your strengths. Continue to learn facilitation skills, process skills, business acumen, strategic thinking, team and leadership development, and build your cadre of tools. Look into action learning and know how to use the OD models and tools. Learn how to apply the knowledge in practical ways.
My opinion is that women in OD are very adaptable, open, encouraging, and are able to get beyond the politics of an organization. Their leadership and facilitation skills are exceptional in guiding senior leaders to take risks and to be open to feedback.
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