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Member Spotlight: Laura Gramling

An Interview with Laura Gramling, President of EnSpark Consulting

Laura GramlingI met up with Laura as she was transitioning from the role of an internal consultant (IC) to external consultant (EC). After receiving her MSOD from American University (AU) in 2000, Laura worked 10 years as a generalist applying her OD knowledge in a variety of contract engagements. She has gained expert-level proficiency in conversation design, and is now volunteering her talents on many of OD Network’s projects.

Before launching EnSpark Consulting at the start of 2017, Laura spent six years as an internal consultant with Covision, a firm that specializes in dialogue processes that support large meetings. Here we reflect about some key moments that have influenced Laura’s personal self, which in turn defined her professional self and the fundamentals of EnSpark Consulting.

Getting my masters in OD from the AU program was a HUGE pivotal moment in my life. Besides delving into the theories and methodologies of what makes for improvements, shifts, changes and transformations in organizations for people, I experienced the shift, change and transformation for myself.

The AU program emphasized in its OD training about how one shows up as a person, as a consultant and as an advisor. In my late 20s, that just didn’t occur to me — to have the awareness to understand my impact on others. That was the beginning for me in exploring the ‘self,’ and the ‘use of self’ has served me well as a consultant.

Laura is exceptional in her listening skills and her willingness to put herself out there to cause a shift. She learned ‘use of self’ from Charlie and Edie Seashore, who have left us the important teachings of being able to sit with, and be with, all kinds of conversations. I am in awe of Laura’s awareness and absorbed by her connectedness between her personal and professional selves.

During my time in Washington D.C., I have had the privilege to work on many AmericaSpeaks’ 21st Century Town Hall meetings (a large civic engagement model) where I supported meetings in a number of capacities from serving as a table facilitator to recruiting facilitators to working on the theme team.

It was a profound experience for me. The ability to give voice to every person is truly a remarkable process, especially for many citizens who have never had a voice in community issues. The AmericaSpeaks’ model is transformational for the citizens who speak up, and for those working to support the voice of the citizenry.

Conversation for change is at the core of Laura’s being. Laura acknowledges the intentionality in her work with clients, particularly around maintaining the momentum for change. A driving force for Laura’s choice of an EC role is to be a part of whole system changes, where she can start the conversation, and stay with the conversation as it evolves into action. Furthermore, Laura can influence changes in other systems, allowing for a more fluid role.

The first and foremost concern for OD practitioners is ensuring, whatever the transformational changes desired, that the organizations can achieve them. It’s probably not a technical thing to implement, but working to understand the human side within the organization.

The bottom line here is that any change that we make or organizations make are through conversations. From day to day, we are either supporting our narratives, or we are rewriting our narratives. When you create new narratives, new actions and new results can emerge.

Laura embodies deep care in her work with clients. In our interview, she shared stories of her culture change work with an IT group where she is engaging not only to create the impetus for change, but also re-energizing the change itself through conversations, and designing the organizational activities that would create the pivots for change.

I am no longer a generalist. I am focused on leadership, culture change, and strategy. These are different conversations that lead to the same place, prompting the question: what are the shifts in the conversation that need to be made individually and collectively to create the change we want to see? What new mindsets or behaviors are needed? How can we reinforce and support these new actions?

I care deeply about whether or not the team can succeed. However, I realize that I am not the one doing the change. I am merely the one who is guiding and advising, and saying it’s possible. Being clear about my role is all important.

For Laura, ‘use of self’ is the context by which OD practitioners operate. It is a differentiator compared to other types of consulting work. Appropriately, Laura sparks change for others to embrace. We witness here how Laura started out with an inspiration, and her journey has helped her to discover where she can be effective and make the kind of impact she desires.

Thank you, Laura, for ensparking all of us!

To learn more about Laura, https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauragramling/

Interview conducted by Jean Hartmann

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