Lockdown Economy Mexico in a Change Management Consultancy with Gloria de León
The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Megan Cansfield
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview, we meet Gloria de Leon, the founder of boutique consultancy Ad Hoc that helps leaders to manage change and has been active on the Latin American market since 2007. While the online world was filling up with many “how-to” offers, Gloria and her business partners paused their activity to observe the market. A big advantage was to hear how people from around the world reacted to the crisis and what they were concerned with. That allowed Gloria together with the think tank AlterContacts to spot an opportunity to help decision-makers deal with the post-crisis. Gloria also shares her perspective on the future of facilitation. According to her, the quality of in-person meetings has to improve which will give rise to methodologies such as Lego Serious Play.
Can you tell me a bit more about your consultancy? How long ago did you start it?
Gloria: Actually, I call my consultancy a “boutique consultancy” company because we are just a few people. We started in 2007, so actually, we have around 13 years of being in the market.
That’s quite impressive. Can you tell a bit more about what it is that you do?
Gloria: We have two big chapters. The first one is to help them in change management processes, mainly in IT implementations. Most of our clients are part of IT areas in big companies. When they implement something new, they invite us to manage the change. This is one part of the business. The other core is training in Lego Serious Play methods. I am a trainer on that. I train future facilitators in order to deliver solutions using these methods. And we have another area, which is about how to help managers or directors in order to improve their leadership, whatever leadership means for them. We are also a group of mentors that help the directors in order to make better decisions.
Driving change, mentoring, and facilitating — that all sounds to me like things that happen in-person, in the office, on the spot. And of course, there’s a lockdown; the whole world was asked to stay at home. How did that affect your business?
Gloria: Actually, considering that we have a change management mindset, what we started to do is to find a new way to do things. The first thing we did is to stop doing things and to observe what was happening. In that observation and sharing with other partners in other countries as part of our network in another context, we found an opportunity to create a kind of mentoring for the decisionmakers no matter the size of the company in order to help them with how to overcome these crises. There is also an economic crisis in Latin America that we are facing, and I think for the world in different steps. We decided to stop doing things and not to communicate anything because we saw the network and the internet was overcrowded with information about how to do this, how to do that. So we decided to step back, observe, and detect an opportunity to help people.
From the initial pause in all the activities, then you found a way to prototype something new and start designing something new for people to actually manage that crisis in their own companies.
Gloria: Yes, actually, another crisis: the post-crisis. Because I think that a lot of our competitors, trainers, and “experts” decided to go outside and show people or teach people how to manage the crisis. But what we see as a company is a big opportunity to help people in the post-crisis process in order to make better decisions. For example, the first thought of an owner of a company in this situation is to reduce their size, to refocus on specific things. This is a common, natural decision that the people used to do in the past. But considering that we’re facing a totally new environment in which no one of course was prepared to face that, I think that — we as a company think that — we have to step back and take a kind of different decision, to “explore” different possibilities.
Do you also do that online, or do you plan to do it more in person when the lockdown is lifted and you can actually go to see people?
Gloria: We’re doing that now online, and for us, it’s a big opportunity because our clients were not prepared, and maybe they didn’t accept to have things on a remote mode like this, in virtual mode. But actually, because of this situation, the clients are open to retraining, to be mentored, to have consultancy in this way. So we are doing this in a remote way, and the thing that we design actually is planned to do in a remote way. The nice thing is that we are able to use people or to include consultants of different countries as a part of the contact network. As you know actually, we are using part of the members in order to offer solutions in Latin America. And otherwise, clients would not be able and open to having these consultants on a virtual mode.
Basically, it opened up a little bit of a new proposition that you could introduce where they are more accepting of remote consultants, more accepting of remote help and mentoring.
Gloria: Actually, in a lot of ways, of course, they wouldn’t accept it.
I have to ask, though, because we know that a lot of businesses have been experiencing a slowdown, to say the least; maybe businesses that you’ve been working with as clients have also been experiencing that. Do you see any sales done at the moment, or do you envision them coming in soon?
Gloria: Actually at this moment I don’t think people are ready to buy something because they are fixing things inside their businesses and in their lives, so I think in a few months companies are going to be ready to have help.
So even though you used your time quite proactively to develop a new proposition and you see that the market is ready for that proposition, there’s still not as much interest to pay for it right now, today?
Gloria: No, actually, they are interested in paying now, because what we are offering now is to manage this now. I misunderstood the question, actually, they are ready to pay for that.
Well, we’ll see how it goes, right? Of course, wishing you all the success! Do you have a lot of contact with your clients to test your ideas with them, or do you have contact with your competition? How do you stay on top of what’s happening and what they are doing?
Gloria: Actually, the nice thing, first of all with other contacts, is that we have the opportunity to share between countries and between continents because we have people in some countries. Also, I am part of the network of facilitators of LSP, Lego Serious Play. Because of those reasons, I have an extremely good opportunity to share and hear what is happening in different parts of the world. What I’ve found is mainly people, in general, were not worried about being infected by the virus. The main worry was the sustainability of themselves, no matter if they were clients, competitors, or alumni of LSP. The main worry that I found is how to be sustainable on that. So, yes, I have the opportunity to hear those stories, and because of that we, with other contacts, designed this product.
So, actually, how to survive, how to survive this crisis: is that what you mean?
Gloria: Yeah. Not this crisis, the post-crisis.
I know that you are one of the twelve master Lego Serious Play facilitators, right?
Gloria: Trainer. We only have two masters. I am part of the two masters’ twelve trainers in the world.
All of the activity is based around facilitating dialogue for other people, and in your role, you teach others to do that, so you teach facilitators how to do that. Do you see a big change in that area? Do you see a lot of people cancelling their training or signing up? What is the dynamic there?
Gloria: To my surprise, no. It happened as exactly the opposite because in terms of training, people have come to me specifically to ask for information about when I am going to start training people, so there is a clear need. Human beings, we are designed to be together in contact, so in this “new normal,” I think there is a big opportunity for face-to-face meetings. Because of that, the quality of these meetings has to improve. People in the meetings will have less time than in the past, and because of that reason, this kind of method like Lego Serious Play is very useful because the method gives the opportunity to speak, to hear each other, to share, and to unlock new knowledge about things that matter for us — for us and for them. So actually, to my surprise, the method will be more useful once we could have meetings together, and of course, with these new rules about distance, all the things are going to change. Of course, we’ve been through that on sessions, but I think that kind of meetings with that kind of method will be very helpful for the organizations.
I think that a lot of the facilitators are going to be happy to hear this. From what I heard from many facilitators here who are not teaching others how to present but more so they work with companies already, they struggle because they had a lot of events planned and most of those events got cancelled, and they tried to transfer it online and it doesn’t seem to work as they would hope. As you said, we have to be in the same room together; it’s just a different thing. Do you have any advice to give to those facilitators? To the people who you’ve trained maybe in the past?
Gloria: Actually, yes. I am advising most of them about being serious when they choose to use Lego Serious Play. Lego Serious Play is for face-to-face meetings; it doesn’t work so well in the distance because the power of the method is the 3-D perspective, and this meeting between you and me is not really a meeting, a three-dimensional meeting. So considering that, I think a risk of bringing Lego Serious Play in this remote mode is to damage the quality of the delivery for the client with the method. I think we have to wait and be professional, to remain serious about the use of the method.
Yes, absolutely. If the name of the method has the word “play” in it, I think we need to be especially serious about this kind of thing.
Gloria: I did a post today about that, because I have a quotation request from a potential client and he told me that someone else offered him a thing that is not difficult, so when I saw the proposal of my “competitor,” I said, “Come on, they have to be serious when they offer the method.” Part of the principle is because in this case of this playing, playing is associated with fun, and fun is associated with playing, laughing all the time, or being entertained. And this method is not for entertainment; it’s not just for fun.
Well, hopefully, the people who are watching us can also go and read your post about that since you published it. And I’m just going to ask you shortly about this: what is the future? You mentioned this briefly already during the rest of the interview, but maybe something else that you missed out? What is the outlook in the coming months, for you and for your business?
Gloria: I think it is a challenging time in order to continue doing the thing that we love to: that is, helping people to manage change. But also, it is a big opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to find different competencies within us in order to develop different things.
That’s excellent! That’s a really good finishing touch, I think. Thank you very much, Gloria, for sharing this with us.
About the Guest
Gloria de León is a founder of Ad Hoc el cambio a tu medida, a Change Management Boutique Consultancy Firm in Mexico City. The company is focused on delivering solutions ad hoc to our clients’ needs, we do not offer a method, we offer solutions. We are part of a Latinamerican Network of Consultants with presence in Guatemala, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panamá, Bolivia and Chile. Gloria is a Senior Change Management Specialist. She is also one of the twelve Trainer of Facilitators in the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Method of the Associations of Master Trainers in Denmark, able to certify facilitators around the world.