An Untraditional Lens: How Team Building Can Take Your Business to the Next Level Kimberley Jutze – Chief Change Architect, Shifting Patterns Consulting

Kimberley Jutze is a social activist and founder of Shifting Patterns Consulting, a Certified B Corporation that transforms teams for greater social impact. She helps socially responsible business and nonprofit leaders identify what’s really getting in the way of effective teamwork, build the skills to address these challenges, and put a support system in place to maintain improved performance. Central to her work is forming trusting, collaborative relationships and enabling changemaker leaders to take ownership of team building challenges and solutions which leads to long-lasting, quality results.     

What initially inspired you to make a difference and what career path did you follow?

I grew up being sensitive to the way people treated me and others I cared about. It really bothered me, and still does, to witness abuse. As a child I didn’t feel empowered to do something about it. As I became older I found my voice. I became more comfortable standing up for myself and encouraging others to do the same.

Having a purpose in life has always been really important to me. I learned about famous social justice leaders – Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and the Dalai Lama – and was inspired by their efforts to bring about large scale change that had a positive impact on the lives of millions of people. They were my role models.  Over time I realized that my purpose in life was helping people who were making a positive difference in the world develop their collective agency to achieve large scale impact.

After I graduated from high school I went on to college and graduate school where I studied political science. Early on in my career I learned about international humanitarian aid. I realized that I wanted to help alleviate people’s suffering from armed conflict and natural disaster. After working in the headquarters office of a nonprofit organization for a couple of years, an opportunity came along to go abroad where I could work on the front lines. Having grown up in a sheltered environment, I was excited to get out of my “bubble” and have a very different life experience. I spent 5 years living in Kosovo, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.

For the most part, I enjoyed my work and meeting people from different cultures. However, over time, I reached a point of diminishing returns. I was concerned about what I saw as missed opportunities to make a positive difference, not only in the lives of the people we were trying to help, but also for staff who were lacking opportunities to develop their careers. Working in different positions, such as administration and programs, and at different organizational levels, like field and headquarters, I gained a broader perspective about how organizations are structured, managed, and resourced. I learned that having a noble purpose isn’t enough. How your organization is set up and functions on a day-to-day basis has a direct impact on being able to achieve your goals. With the help of the career counselor I realized my calling was helping organizations that were doing good in the world operate more effectively.

With this insight, I left my job, moved back to the US, and enrolled in graduate school where I earned a second masters degree in Organization Development. Interestingly enough, shortly after I graduated, I went to an organization development conference that was hosted by Organization Development Network. Someone from B Lab was there and that’s when I first heard about B Corps, which are businesses that meet rigorous social and environmental standards. It was exciting to me that businesses could be a force for good. Later on, when I started my own consulting practice, I knew that I wanted my business to be a B Corp.

My plan after graduating was to join a consulting firm as an organization development consultant, but this didn’t materialize. I had a really hard time finding the right fit, especially since there aren’t a lot of consulting firms out there that solely focus on strengthening the organizational capacity of nonprofits and businesses that have a social mission. After several months of job and soul searching, I realized that my ideal job wasn’t somewhere out there. It was within me. I started my own business because I decided to create my ideal job instead of waiting for it to find me. By no means was this an easy choice. I agonized over it for a while. It’s liberating to be in charge of your career by working for yourself, but it’s also very risky because with freedom comes responsibility. The desire to live my purpose became more important than the safety of taking the first job that came along.     

During graduate school I was working at a nonprofit. My intention was to stay there while I started up my business, and then leave when it took off. Unexpectedly, I got laid off. It was actually perfect timing because it gave me the chance to completely focus on starting my business. Up until into this point my career had primarily been in the nonprofit sector. Now I had the opportunity to switch gears by developing a career in the business sector. Starting and running a business for the first time was a lot like being in a boot camp-style MBA program. I had to quickly figure out how to incorporate a business, write a business plan, develop revenue projections, and do business development.

I was very fortunate in getting started on my new career path. Because I had been meeting people and building relationships all along, within a couple of weeks I found my first client. Once you get your first consulting engagement and do a good job, it leads to more work. You start with the circle of people you know and you just keep building out from there. Six years later, I still have my business.

There’s no “i” in Team

Tell me a bit about your work at Shifting Patterns Consulting and how it’s uniquely helping make a positive impact?  

My work at Shifting Patterns is ultimately about facilitating social change. I work closely with changemaker leaders to support them in developing the skills needed to build effective teams within their own organization and across organizations.  

For me, it’s about helping to transform teams for greater social impact. Team building is really the focus of my work. The reason that’s so important to me is that everyone understands the value of money, but not as many people understand that it’s ultimately the quality of our relationships that drives impact.  

People are at the heart of results. If you’re willing to invest in their professional development as well as in their ability to work well together, you’re much more likely to achieve your goals.

What makes my consulting practice unique is not necessarily who I work with; it’s my approach to working with changemaker leaders. A lot of consultants use ‘a pair of hands model’ – they often get hired to do what their clients don’t want to do or don’t have capacity to do. This typically involves analyzing the problem and recommending solutions that the client is left to carry out on their own. Instead, I work with the team to help them figure out what is getting in the way of better performance. I work with them to come up with their own solutions to challenges, like not having a shared purpose, undefined roles and responsibilities, or lack of accountability. I support the team in implementing those solutions and sustaining improved performance over time. I’ve found that helping changemakers understand and solve their own problems is much more effective and sustainable over the longer-term than fixing their problems for them or telling them what to do.

What are examples of consulting engagements that have fired you up?

What really excites and drives me is figuring out how to facilitate larger scale change. Although I sometimes work with individual organizations, I most enjoy working with networks, associations and alliances. Working with a group of organizations that have a shared purpose generates efficiencies of scale and provides an opportunity for greater impact where benefits can be spread across the network instead of just being limited to a particular organization.

I previously consulted with Ashoka Changemakers, which is activating a global network of people to build a world where everyone is a changemaker, to help design and facilitate a strategic planning and team building retreat for their global Network Activation Team. A team approach was modeled from the beginning in which staff contributed to the design of the agenda. This set the stage for an effective meeting in which the agenda was based on a shared understanding of the issues that the team wanted to address, which in this case were setting strategic goals, improving work processes, and getting to know each other better. The retreat also provided an opportunity for staff to strengthen their leadership skills in which they took the lead on coming with ideas for improving team performance. By the end of this two-day retreat staff came away with a purpose statement and action plan to guide their work, greater clarity about each other’s roles and responsibilities, and processes for improving team meetings.

In addition to working with established teams, I’ve also supported the formation of new initiatives that brings people with a shared purpose together. The DC Civic Innovation Council (DC CIC) consists of leaders from across Washington, DC who are collectively creating a supportive environment for civic innovators and their bold ideas for making the city a better place to live for all residents. What makes DC CIC exciting is that it is attempting to unify a city that has been historically divided by facilitating access to intellectual, social, and financial capital. At the beginning of this year I co-facilitated a kick-off meeting with DC CIC’s Co-Founders for a newly formed Steering Committee that is tasked with establishing the Council. A key outcome of this meeting was an agreement to a multi-pronged process that involves determining what the Council is and how it will function, implementing pilot projects to address immediate needs in the city as well as test promising civic innovation models, and mobilizing resources to develop and sustain the Council.

Team building needs to be something you pay attention to all the time, so you have to find ways to integrate it into the day-to-day work.  It can’t just be an off-site retreat and then everything goes back to the way it was. You have to find ways to keep the relationships alive.

What are examples of best practices?

One example is making time for people to get to know each other. It’s helpful to have a mix of structured and unstructured activities, like taking a few minutes before a meeting begins to ask how everyone is doing or organizing social activities. By getting to know each other trust can be established, which makes it easier to work together.

Another good practice is making sure that all team members have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and that everyone understands what each other is doing. There are a variety of ways to do this from regularly communicating what each other is doing to preparing job descriptions. Teams tend to function better when there is an alignment between the skills people enjoy using, their expertise, and the work that needs to get done.

When you meet it’s important to not only talk about the work that needs to get done, but also HOW it will get done. Often when teams meet time is spent discussing the actual work, like specific tasks and deadlines. However, it’s just as important to discuss how these tasks will be accomplished, like how often team members will communicate, how decisions will be made, and how problems will be solved.

Just like technology our relationships also require regular maintenance so that they continue to function properly. If you take the time to maintain them, they’re less likely to break down. A challenge we often have working in teams is becoming so focused on our day-to-day tasks and deadlines that we can end up taking relationships with our colleagues for granted. When we don’t pay attention to the quality of our relationships and don’t address smaller issues early on, they can snowball into bigger problems that can cause relationships to break down and teamwork to come to a halt. Even though it takes time to build and maintain relationships, we can end up spending more time and other resources addressing problems that become so big that they can’t be ignored. Teamwork isn’t just about creating a pleasant work environment, it has a direct impact on productivity, resource mobilization, and social impact.

Consulting Done Differently

What are the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome thus far?

One of the first ones was making the transition from being an employee of an organization to being self-employed.  It was a big transition to learn how to work for myself. I had to learn how to run a business, shift my perspective of consulting from being an extra pair of hands to a capacity builder, and find opportunities to apply my team building and organization development skills. It also took some time to adjust to working in a business environment having spent my career in the nonprofit sector. Overall it was a great experience and I learned a lot, but it was definitely a steep learning curve, especially in the beginning.

It was also tough going from having a steady salary to having to support myself. When you own a business, you always have to be thinking about what’s next, especially with the contract structure of consulting. You always have to think about how the income you earn will be replaced.

There is also the challenge of running a business on my own. What people may not realize is that when you own a business you have two jobs. One is the work you do for your clients and the other is running a business, which includes things like marketing, bookkeeping, and communications. It can be tricky to manage both jobs and make time for myself. I’ve learned from past experiences where I worked too much. Now make I make time for myself everyday, whether it it’s exercising or going out with my friends. Having a support network that includes my friends and family is also important.

I’ve also experienced the challenge of learning how to build a consulting practice while staying true to my values. My business helps nonprofits and businesses with a social mission build high-performing teams that are capable of bring about larger-scale positive change. While I find that these organizations could benefit from working with a team building consultant, they are not well resourced. It hasn’t been easy to figure out how to adequately support myself and do the work that I love to do.

How have you managed that?

I’ve had to rely on my fundraising skills, which are in high demand, to supplement my income. I also share with current and potential clients a critical insight I’ve gained from my fundraising experience, which is that money doesn’t automatically lead to impact. What really matters is how you make the best use of these funds. Although I no longer offer fundraising in my consulting practice, I’ve used an organization development approach to strengthen nonprofits’ fundraising capacity.

Another approach is not having a standard consulting rate. Instead, I use value-based fees. I work with the client to agree upon the benchmarks that I will help them reach and include them in my contract. I prefer this approach because it works better for everyone. Clients aren’t really paying for my time; they are paying for the results I help them get. It also benefits me because my primary focus is on delivering high-quality services instead of tracking how many hours it takes to get my work done.

What advice do you have for people that want to change the world or pursue their passion?

It really comes down to passion, persistence, and patience. Passion is the intersection of what you enjoy doing, what you’re good at, and what the world needs. Passion is important, especially if your goal is to change the world. Passion is what can help you get through the tough times. When I’ve run into really tough moments, what has kept me going is checking in with myself. I draw strength from knowing that I’m on the right career path because I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Having passion isn’t enough. We also need to be persistent. This is about having the tenacity and grit to work in a tough environment. Change, whether it involves our own or a society’s behaviors, isn’t easy. Persistence involves linking our goals to the courage and commitment to see them through.     

Having patience is just as important as passion and persistence. Patience can be understanding that now may not be the right time to work with a particular client or on a specific project. Patience is important for working with people who are struggling with a change initiative. I also need to be patient with myself. I’m so focused on jumping over the hurdles that are in front of me that I forget to recognize what I’ve accomplished. Patience is not one of my best strengths, so I need to keep working at it.

Lastly, there’s the idea of work-life balance. Reading The Three Marriages by David Whyte transformed my thinking about what work-life balance really means and why it’s so difficult to achieve. Whyte’s point is that that balance doesn’t work. When we try to achieve balance, we end up sacrificing one thing to get more of the other. Instead, Whyte recommends leading a life of integration. This is about bringing our full selves to our three marriages — ourselves, the people we live with, and our work. Instead of feeling like we have to be different people in each marriage, which can be exhausting, we can bring these marriages into greater harmony with each other by being our full selves in all of them. So, who the person we are at home is the same person we are at work and the person that we aspire to be.

Have you achieved integration?

No, I’m still working on it. I think that integration is a journey. It’s not about reaching the destination, but over time getting better at living a life of harmony.