Updated: Jul 30, 2021
[Guest Author: Stephanie de Goeijen]
As part of Nancy’s newly formed Fellowship of the Game, I was keen to find out a bit more about the work Happy Game Changers does. What is it really like to be part of a Happy Game Changers session?
This interview came about when Nancy said, ‘Why don’t you go talk to Nancy?’. She passed along the contact details of the ‘other Nancy’, as she put it: Nancy Kabalt, partner of Windkracht 5 and a consultant working to enable and speed up the energy transition.
Turns out, game-changer Nancy Beers and energy-changer Nancy Kabalt have a lot in common, not least their good humour and passion for their chosen field.
They have also worked together before, on Windkracht 5’s Breakfast Booster session in March of this year, tackling the endlessly complicated energy transition together with author Sanne de Boer in an online seminar that was abuzz with energy and knowledge.
Not only were there tough questions asked about whether to turn off the faucet on natural gas and what kind of leadership is needed to make the energy transition happen, but all 440 participants suddenly found themselves in a virtual Zoom rollercoaster courtesy of Nancy Beers. Turns out, as Nancy Kabalt explains in the interview, they actually liked it!
Let’s start at the beginning! How did you and Nancy meet and how did she come to host the March Breakfast Booster session?
Nancy was in a female leadership program with Carla Clarissa. I completed the same program a few years ago, and I was there to support the women graduating. Nancy was the last to tell her development story. She was a real personality. She was totally herself and had so much power, so much authenticity. But also, she was vulnerable, a real person with all of her own insecurities. Her speech stood out to me because she was so authentic.
After the event, I followed her online. She facilitated a LinkedIn community to help others create their own LinkedIn profile. She did that with a lot of fun energy. I don’t really like LinkedIn, but she helped me to see the opportunities. She changed my game basically.
My company [Windkracht 5] wanted to organize some seminars and I thought, I have to call her! We are consultants in the energy transition. It’s obviously a very serious topic, but there is the possibility of making it fun as well.
That is why I asked Nancy: I wanted her to bring both the real content – the professionality that you need - but also the twist. Not everything is deadly serious. You need to have the twist to make an actual change.
You saw the rollercoaster on the video. I’ve been in six or seven meetings after that where people started the meeting on their screen with their hands up. 'Here we go!!!' [Laughs]
So even if the participants didn’t understand the content of the Breakfast Booster or only understood a little bit, they did get the energy and the fun and it surprised them. They remembered the story and went on to tell their friends what they had experienced. It stuck.
Nancy has the power to do that. She brings both of those things: not just the fun, but also the professionality.
Could you say a little bit more about what your company does? The reason I ask is that there is a comment on Linkedin from one of the participants who said, ‘The topic is often so serious and political but it was nice to see it in another jacket’. Are you able to describe what you do with Windkracht 5 and explain how it is helped by what Nancy does?
We are consultants and interim directors in the energy business.
Energy companies, e-mobility companies, companies working with heat, gas, nuclear energy - they all struggle with a similar question: ‘How do I reach my sustainability goal?’.
Everybody that works here at Windkracht 5 has at least 15 years' experience in the energy business. Combined, we’ve got over 200-300 years of experience so there really is a lot of content and knowledge to help others reach their goals.
But our underlying question is: how do we get that content and knowledge across? How do you help companies make the change? How do you make the change with the people that work there instead of simply taking a company over? At Windkracht 5 we’re really working at creating a philosophy about how to make the change and how to embrace sustainable development goals.
We have found one thing to be very important when transferring knowledge and working to implement change. We call it rebelliousness. Yes, it’s important to focus on the content and the knowledge, and the seriousness of the program and the transition you have to make. But, if you use a bit of rebelliousness in how you make the change and how you involve people then the transition actually becomes a lot more fun. More important, it’s not such a struggle.
A lot of people ask me, how do you cope with resistance? The whole mindset encapsulated in that question is: ‘Everyone is going to hate this [transition]’. So the question is: how do you make it fun? That’s the difficult part. How can you let people really experience transition and then grab it, understand it?
What happened in the Breakfast Booster in March was exactly that: content created by a very smart professional, Sanne de Boer. She wrote a book about energy transition: it’s very clear and she’s very clear. Nancy adds this professional broadcasting part and the fun part. Which made this Breakfast Booster an exact fit for our company DNA. It’s a different transition path.
It’s interesting you use the word resistance. One of the things that Nancy does in her facilitating and gamification is dealing with resistance you might find in a group: if you say to a group out of the blue, ‘hey, jump up and down in front of your cameras in your own home’, they may not do it. But that is a strength of Nancy’s - she sort of leads them into it, knowing that the resistance is going to be there.
In the Breakfast Booster, if she had said right at the beginning, ‘Okay, pretend you’re in a rollercoaster’, everyone would have thought, ‘No way, what is this?’
With a big topic like energy transition I assume there’s a lot of resistance there as well. I imagine saying to a company ‘This is what you have to do right away and you have no choice’ is maybe not the best way to go about changing entrenched ideas.
Exactly. The thing with resistance and change is: when you experience it and when you’ve been through it you may not know exactly what happened but you came out different.
Fundamentally, I think Nancy has the same struggle I do: how do you explain what you do? When you say what you do is just fun they think it’s not serious; when you say it’s serious and you talk about all the changes required you only talk about how to manage resistance.
You don’t manage resistance; you try to dissolve it in a fun way. We’re very serious about fun.
That’s a typical Nancy thing: serious play. Play is serious. What I’m starting to appreciate on a professional level is bringing in those elements of play for really really serious purposes. It’s a great combination!
So you and Nancy have another session planned in June, will it be similar in terms of the set-up?
We learned lessons from the previous session, so we’ll include those.
For the next session, we have invited Wiebren Jansen who is an expert on diversity and inclusion from the University of Utrecht. We want to talk about inclusion, looking at how important inclusion and diversity is when you want to achieve transition.
He has passed along some very interesting insights already. I thought I knew a lot about the subject already, and I was fully convinced, for example, that diversity in companies leads to better decision making. He said: ‘No it doesn’t’. There goes my theory!
As he explains it, it’s not just inviting diverse people to the table, it’s inviting them to dance. The statement is about inclusion, not just diversity. It’s not about inviting one black person or one woman and expecting them to act like you - which is usually white male – but including them in the conversation. In the next Breakfast Booster, we will be relating this idea to the energy transition.
The C-word (Covid) is a reality in how we operate our business and communicate with people these days. Do you see any added benefits to using a facilitator or someone like Nancy for these kinds of sessions? Is there any extra connection that is being made by Happy Game Changers and Nancy within the digital realm?
I don’t know anything about Zoom, except that I can click on a link and be in a meeting. [Laughs] That is a completely different thing from hosting a seminar online. Nancy brings that professionality and experience needed to host a seminar.
We found a studio so we had no network problems, good sound, and everything in place. Nancy also did the pre-campaigning on social media, thought about how to get people to the seminar, what they do in the seminar and what they do after. That process and design was Nancy’s.
So it becomes more than just the one-off session, it’s a whole process that happens before and after.
Yes! And it was the discussion with people, in the seminar and afterwards, that was most valuable. We were learning by doing, and Nancy was facilitating this learning and bringing in the knowledge that we don’t have at Windkracht 5.
Sounds like there will be some exciting new stuff coming up in the next session. Any parting thoughts?
Yes! It will be exciting to see what the rollercoaster of the next session will be.
Nancy’s work, which can be a difficult task, is combining fun and the value of the fun. That’s her challenge and ours too, and if we can get that across then it will open more and more opportunities for growth and transition.