This article is based on episode #24 of A Bridge To Wholeness podcast. You can listen to the episode on iTunes, Stitcher, and on our website.

Jennifer Crisp: I am really excited to have a good friend on the interview today, and she’s also an amazing person. I am very excited to introduce Naomi J. Hardy. She’s a very talented person, so you’re going to get a lot out of this interview today, because the information that Naomi has to give us is just so paramount. And I don’t care whether you’re in business, or whether this is your personal life, I don’t care. Everybody should be tuning in and listening to this episode. So, welcome, Naomi.

Naomi J. Hardy: Hi. How are you today?

Jennifer Crisp: I am fine, I’m fine. I’m going to give a little short bio here of you, and I know it’s very short because your accolades are very long. But Naomi is the owner of a speaking and consulting business focusing on managing relationships during change, and the impact of healthy and unhealthy relationships for practitioners and professionals. Wow. Her talks and methodologies have helped individuals and corporations stay productive during change, and diminished disruptions in the workplace and home. She is founder of the ACTION model. Naomi is a national speaker and holds change management, career, life and relationship coaching certifications. And her methods have been acknowledged in several magazines, including the Harvard Business Review.

And I have to say, wow. You know, A Bridge To Wholeness focuses on health and wellness, and I can’t think of anything more important at this point in time than talking about managing relationships in a healthy manner, because we are in a very shifting time in our world and there’s so much going on. So, I’m just going to let you start, but I do want to start by asking, what does action mean?

Naomi J. Hardy: ACTION is the acronym that we have for just moving along. So, ACTION, it is a journey. Navigating through life as it is a roadmap, so to speak. So, I took ACTION and it’s what I use as part of my methodology. So, the first thing is acknowledging where you are in any given situation, and accepting it. Because before we can do anything about it, we have to acknowledge that it exists. And so many people go through life not tackling their real problems, simply because they won’t acknowledge it. So the power of acknowledging something and then accepting it, understanding that it’s not good enough, you’re going to move past it, but let’s at least acknowledge it and accept it first, so that we can understand what we’re talking.

Jennifer Crisp: So, let’s say you go into a place of business and they are undergoing change. Maybe one business has purchased another, or maybe businesses have merged, and we have different people coming in now to the same place. I see this in my husband’s world all the time, in the business world where they merge, and then they have to adjust, they have to shift everything. They have to shift the way they even language themselves. And I think it can be really overwhelming for people, and I think it can be intimidating at times, because everything they felt secure about is all of a sudden, it’s sort of up for grabs, or it’s just kind of hanging out there. So how do you approach that?

Naomi J. Hardy: The first thing I do is the A in action. It’s exactly the model I use. Acknowledge what’s going on, we’re going through change, and that means some of us are going to be here, and some of us are going to leave. That’s the bottom line.

But it’s what we do in the meantime, it’s how we prepare. It’s how we look at what’s next, it’s how we take advantage of opportunities that are there. I’ve been through it. I worked in an environment full of change for my last five years in corporate, was nothing but a changing environment. The company buyouts, the company roll ups, to merging nine company coaches into one coacher. All the different dynamics that went into that, but at every single junction, at every single assignment, the first thing we had to do was acknowledge. And sometimes, it’s acknowledging that we’re not going to be the same.

Jennifer Crisp: And I wonder how often this is really overlooked, because I know myself, when I worked in the hospital, we went through this a couple of times, just moving from paper documentation to computer documentation was enough of a change.

Naomi J. Hardy: Yes, that’s one of the biggest ones.

Jennifer Crisp: Exactly. And then we moved from a small community hospital to one being taken over by a very large system. And that was very, wow. It was overwhelming to say the least, and there was so much angst about it. Because people just don’t know.

Naomi J. Hardy: They didn’t know. And the not knowing brings the resistance. And that’s why we have to bring in awareness, so the way that I would come in, I would come in and maybe work with the executives and/or the HR department on communications. You can’t tell everything, but the problem is if you don’t tell something, then the employees make up their own stories.

And their stories become their realities. And those realities spread like wildfire.

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah, they do spread like wildfire. I have been subjected to that, where honestly you walk in the door one day, and then the next day it’s a totally different story. But it’s running around and everybody’s getting upset. And I think what I want to focus on too, as far as your health and your wellness goes too, Naomi, it’s the fact that yes, we have to acknowledge the change. And the acknowledgement itself can cause us stress. And that that’s actually okay.

Naomi J. Hardy: Yes. It’s actually okay, because when you don’t acknowledge it, the stress that you feel is twice as worse.

And what people don’t realize is acknowledging it through a process, this is all about process. Acknowledging it through a process and then accepting it, is what helps ease the stress. And some of the acceptance is looking at your other options. Because we become so focused in the change, we forget that there’s opportunity.

Jennifer Crisp: Wow. Oh my gosh. That should be a book, right there.

We focus so much on the change, that we forget that there’s actually an opportunity, and I think that says a lot. That says a lot. Because I think as humans, we don’t particularly care for change, do we?

Naomi J. Hardy: No.

Jennifer Crisp: Even if we’re not comfortable in the place we were, it’s still a level of comfort. Even if it’s not something that we care for. So when we change, it’s maybe not something we’re looking for and maybe that change is an opportunity, but it still makes us uncomfortable.

Naomi J. Hardy: Right. And the unknown, not knowing what’s normal. When I say the unknown, I mean not understanding what’s normal. It’s normal to feel anxiety. It’s normal to get down in a rut. It’s normal to have a drain of energy, but it’s what do you do about it. But if I don’t know that it’s normal, I get stuck in that place, and that’s part of the change management, helping you understand what’s normal. Because what happens with the change, why it affects the wellness, is that it not only permeates in the workplace, it permeates at home. So all of a sudden you’re a spouse and you’re going home, and you have all this anxiety, and you’re either trying to keep it from your spouse, or share it with your spouse.

Trying to keep it from your spouse, they tell you to hang it outside before you walk in the door, but how can you really hang outside the very thing that’s tearing at your heart every day? The very thing that may have a strong impact on your family life, and what your family can do and some of the plans that you’ve made, simply because you don’t know.

Jennifer Crisp: So, I really love the fact that you said that, because I think we often don’t acknowledge that when there is some type of change in a workplace, how that filters down right through the entire family. All the way down to the children, all the way down to the pets.

They pick up the energy, and I think that this is something that I’m hoping that people listening today really understand this, that this is what I consider to be, in the world of Whole Health Education, we talk about environment. What your environment is, and how your environment affects you, and that’s really what we’re focusing on today here with that type of change. But what is the next step after acknowledging and accepting? What happens then?

Naomi J. Hardy: So, after that is really having the courage. That’s what the C stands for, it’s having the courage. The courage to understand that there’s something better for you, to write down what your weak points are, what your strong points are, and look at the opportunities. The courage to be in a meeting and say, “Yes, I’ll do that.” The courage to listen to what’s going on and look for resume builders. When you’re going through change, like I say, you don’t know whether you’re going to be there, or whether you’re not. And resume builders work in your current job as well as in something for the future.

So for instance, that’s how I got into change management. I saw an opportunity, people were going crazy, people were going wild. I started reading up on some [inaudible]. I found that we were going to merge [inaudible], a meeting called mergers and acquisitions. I started reading up on change [inaudible] and have pity parties while we’re going through the [inaudible].

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah. And so, I think that that’s a really good thing, and I know that the places that I’ve worked in, in the past, they never did anything like this. They just never addressed it at all. You just dealt with it, and that was that, and if you didn’t like the change, there’s the front door.

Naomi J. Hardy: Exactly. And I think that was why the Harvard Business Review picked up, it was on change, managing change. I think that’s why they picked up my article, was because it was something that, “Wow, if we just institute, if companies would just institute this, they could see a difference.” Because the bottom line is you’re getting sold either because they want your employees, or they want to kill the competition. And if they want your employees, and they get ready to make the purchase, and all your employees have left because they’ve run scared, well, you just lost a sale.

And the competitors are there, and they’re listening and they’re waiting. As soon as they know your company is about to go through turmoil, they are ready for your best employees.

Jennifer Crisp: Wow. Boy, that is the truth. And what, yeah. That’s really, really interesting. So we have so far, to acknowledge, accept and then have the courage.

Naomi J. Hardy: Have the courage. And the courage is to take those steps. What are those next steps that I must take? Do I listen in on meetings? Do I read meeting notes? Do I follow the company? My team do something just as simple as following everything that came up with the company that was buying us, everything that came up with their name, we put a follow on it. And any time something, they were in the news, any time there was any press, we were right on top of it. We knew what we going on. That’s what I did with my HR team. And we stayed in the know, so that when we get a seat at the table, we knew what we were talking about. And that gave us the opportunity.

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah. And so you’re educating yourself too on what’s coming up. And again, then that relieves that fear of the unknown.

Naomi J. Hardy: And who the players are, and understanding the players, and understanding their track history. What have these companies done in the past? In my situation, what have these companies done in the past when they got hold of a company? Did they grow them? Did they sell them? Did they keep the employees? Did they let the employees go? So that we can better prepare our employees.

Jennifer Crisp: Okay. They should teach this in business school. Literally, take this in business school, because it’s going to happen.

Naomi J. Hardy: It happens, over and over, and over again.

Jennifer Crisp: It happens quite a bit. I mean, I know with my husband, he has, oh my gosh. He actually technically works in the same place, but I think he’s been through, I want to say, five or six changes over the years. And each one, it presents its own challenges.

Naomi J. Hardy: Yes.

Jennifer Crisp: So, yeah. Wow. Okay, so ACTION. What comes after that courage, the T?

Naomi J. Hardy: Okay. The T was taking the steps, what are the steps I need to take?

So actually take, the implementation. That’s the implementation. Actually taking the steps. Because you’ve had the courage to outline what it is that I need to do, now let’s actually take the steps. Plans are great. But the best laid plans are still on paper. So it’s actually taking those steps.

Jennifer Crisp: Okay. So, and do you think that sometimes that step, implementing that step means that you go somewhere else?

Naomi J. Hardy: Yes. Sometimes, it means that you do go somewhere else. Sometimes, it means that you learn a new skill. Sometimes, it means that you stay there and grab all that you can because you don’t know what the next phase is going to teach you. You don’t know what you’re learning that you can take somewhere else. Because when you go through change, you realize that change happens. So when I go onto the next environment and this happens, what did I learn from the last time to help me better adapt to the change, or even lead a group and adapt into the change? And that’s the I. And that’s being around people who inspire you. Who inspire you to either hang in there, to inspire you to understand your worth, to inspire you to learn new things. Like I said, I learned change management, and I was able to talk to the executives and say, “Look, we’ve got to talk to these people.” This is how it’s affected me. I learned change management to understand something as simple as a top employee being upset because his dog died and not being able to share it, because we’re going through change. I sent him home for a couple of days.

He came back. And he was that star employee again. Just simple dynamics. Having people on your side, having influencers that you can talk to. Having influencers that can say, “Okay, yes.” Be in that meeting, when they say they need someone to do A, and everybody’s looking at them like, “Why should I do that? You’re about to lay me off. I may not be here.” You do it, because even if they lay you off, that’s something you can put on your resume to take to the next job.

Jennifer Crisp: Wow, Naomi, this is not only important I think for corporate America and even smaller businesses purchasing other businesses, but honestly, I think this should be at the beginning of every school year. I mean, seriously when you think about it, when our children are moving from kindergarten to first grade, and then first grade to second grade, or from elementary school to middle school to high school, can you imagine what effect this could have just on preparing them? Because I mean, right now I have grandchildren and I know that they’ve gone from the preschool to the kindergarten, but when they went from kindergarten to first grade, the change was so dramatic for them.

Naomi J. Hardy: Dramatic, yes.

Jennifer Crisp: It took them months. It took them months to adjust. And I’m just thinking, this action would do well even in our school system.

Naomi J. Hardy: In the school system, at home relationships, getting over breakups, getting over divorce, getting over loss, the ACTION model works in all relationship situations, and that’s what I love about it. If transferred, it is about relationships. Because the O is the obstacles.

Jennifer Crisp: Oh, I was just going to ask you about the O, okay.

Naomi J. Hardy: The O is the obstacles, but you have these inspiring people, you have these people with you now. So, as you go through the obstacles, as you peel back the onion and really start to understand who you are, because you’re taking steps, you’ve got the courage, you’re taking steps, you’re not doing it alone. But you’re going to run into these obstacles. You’re not going to want to learn everything that they used to learn. You’re not going to want to hear the fussing that goes on. All these obstacles that keep you from moving to the next phase.

But having these people that you’ve accumulated in the network that inspire you to keep going is just amazing. And then once you overcome those obstacles, the person that you are, the things that you’ve accomplished, the things that you can write down and put in that resume, the things that you know to take to the next relationship, be it a personal relationship, is just amazing. So that’s the O.

Jennifer Crisp: Wow. This is phenomenal. I can’t say enough about this, and then finish up with the N.

Naomi J. Hardy: The N is after you’ve gone through all of this, understand that you are necessary.

Understand that you are so necessary. If to no one else, but to yourself. Get an understanding of who you are, of your possibilities, that they’re limitless. You are a necessary being that has been put here. And whether you go through change after change after change, you’re necessary. So many people lose themselves in change, so many people that I know in the workplace, they get laid off or they get fired and they just totally lose themselves. They think that they’re not anything, no, you are still necessary.

And we take a look at what necessary means. What does necessary mean to you? How are you necessary? And when you can state how you’re necessary, in this particular time and this particular time and phase of your life, you become unstoppable. And that’s for action.

Jennifer Crisp: So, this process, when you go in to a place to work with people, I would imagine this process is not just a one day event.

Naomi J. Hardy: No.

Jennifer Crisp: The process itself takes time.

Naomi J. Hardy: It takes time.

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah. And that’s something also that I think people never give enough time for. I know that sounds so crazy, but when we acknowledge that we are actually in the middle of change, sometimes we want to hurry through it. But that process itself has its own flow, I would imagine, and will only happen in its due time.

So that trying to push the changes, I would imagine if you see this in a workplace where they come in and they say, “Okay, well, we want you to do your stuff, Naomi. We’re in a merger. But you’ve got one week and everybody has to be peachy keen.” What are you going to say to that? Because that in itself, to me, is a resistance.

Naomi J. Hardy: I give them a breakdown of what can actually happen in one week. So if you want a week, these are the results that you will get, that I can guarantee you in a week. I can guarantee you that they will have an overview in a week. That’s what I can tell you. They can have an overview and possibly, an awareness. But the acceptance and the will to move forward, not in a week. But they will have an overview. Because you would not even be at the point yet where you’re aware enough to understand that speaking to the executives, that you’re in awareness to understand that you need to have regular communications meetings.

How long is it going to take you, and that’s what I would tell, how long is it going to take you as an executive to get your mind together, that your first step is to communicate? And what can you communicate? And are you comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.” Because that’s the best thing any executive can say when they don’t know, is, “I don’t know.”

Jennifer Crisp: Wow. This is so amazing. So when you do this, and Naomi’s all over the place. Well, I follow you on Facebook anyway, so she’s always giving a talk here and a talk there. You’re out there all over, and I would imagine that even when you’re having this conversation with an executive, in a way, it has to be a relief for them. Because they feel so responsible for what’s going on, and they themselves have to have some trepidation and feel intimidated just by the fact that they’re also going through it, so to have you come in and say, “Look, hey, it’s okay. This isn’t going to take a week,” and you yourself are in the middle of all of this. So you just being aware, sometimes takes a while to sink in, and if you’re willing to say, “I don’t know,” to me, as a leader, that would be an immense relief. I could go home and sleep that night.

Naomi J. Hardy: Yes. And that is the other part of it. So many times when I am dealing with the executive, they actually become a private client because again, they can release what’s really going on, and often times how it’s affecting them at home. Because a lot of times, the executives themselves are wondering what’s going to happen to them.

And so, the push for production, the push to keep it going, the push, that’s all they’re, the push, the push, the push. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s just that their directive is to push, push, push this through.

They carry the weight at home, and that’s how it affects their home lives. That’s why the executives come up with the high blood pressure, that’s why the executives come up with the health problems and the risk, because they’re carrying what they cannot release.

Jennifer Crisp: And I saw this so many times when I worked at the hospital, because I worked on a heart floor, and we would have people come in, and there were quite a few executives that would come in with chest pain. And you would say to them, “Well, are you under any stress?” And you know people always say no. They always say no.

Naomi J. Hardy: They say no. They say no.

Jennifer Crisp: It’s the first thing out of everybody’s mouth. “No, I’m not under any stress.” And then you start digging a little bit further, and they just lost their job, or the company closed, or they’re still looking for work, they haven’t worked in three months, or whatever it is. And then you’re looking at them and you’re going, “You’re not even acknowledging the fact that you have been in a place of change, and now here you are with chest pain and this is the physical manifestation now, of what is going on, because you haven’t had a chance to release it, so now, this is where you are.”

Naomi J. Hardy: Yes.

Jennifer Crisp: And sometimes, they wake up and sometimes, they don’t.

Naomi J. Hardy: And sometimes, they don’t.

Jennifer Crisp: They just continue on, but sometimes, they will realize, “Oh my gosh, this is what’s going on and I’m in here because of the stress level that I’m under,” and it is a wake up call. But not always. Not always.

Naomi J. Hardy: But those are the times that make it so worth it, for me. Because every company that I go into and speak doesn’t want to go through the entire process. They don’t. They get the awareness, they get it. They don’t want to go through the entire process because once again, it’s change.

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah. So, okay. So let’s talk about, you’ve got this ACTION model which is really, really amazing. But now, let’s talk about how you work with individuals. So let’s say you do a private coaching of someone who is going through some type of change in their life, and that can be any kind of change, Naomi, am I correct? We’re not just talking about work.

Naomi J. Hardy: Yes, that’s correct. Oh, no. A lot of times it’s change, because of they were with someone for a long time and they’re no longer with them. They haven’t been dating and they’re ready to start dating, but there’s all this anxiety. They’ve lost a loved one and they’ve been in depression so long and they’re just ready to get out of the depression. So, several things. They’re in a relationship where they argue all the time and they’re tired of arguing.

Jennifer Crisp: And so, when that happens, is it usually one person who’s coming to you? If you’re dealing with a couple, are you usually then doing couples work, or is it just a one on one with the person who’s requesting it?

Naomi J. Hardy: I do both. So, if it’s a couple, I tend to stray more towards committed relationships, because that’s where the commitment to the work normally lies. So committed relationships. So, a husband may come to me, a wife may come to me, and I’ll have a session with them. And I would say, eight out of ten times, if they’re in a committed relationship they’ll say, “Do you mind talking to my wife?” or “Do you mind talking to my husband?”

So, we’ll do that. And when I’m working with a couple, I work with the one spouse, I work with the other spouse, and then with them together.

Jennifer Crisp: And I would think that when they’re done with this ACTION model, not only have they been through the process, but now they have tools that they can utilize as they move forward in their relationship.

Naomi J. Hardy: That is the biggest feedback that I get, is, “Thank you for the tools.”

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah. This is what health and wellness is about, everybody. When you have the tools in your toolbox, and it’s your health and wellness toolbox. That’s what it is. And you can have all kinds of different things to help you through. We all have different tools for different things. And when you have that in your toolbox and you come to a place in your life where you are experiencing something that can be very life changing, you know, leaving a spouse, or a spouse dies, or we lose parents, we lose children. I mean, we move, we change jobs, whatever it is, if you have something like this, you’re going to be better off. You’re going to be better off because you know at least, “Hey, I’ve got this toolbox. Even if I can’t get through the toolbox myself, I know who to go to, to help me pull out the right things.”

Naomi J. Hardy: Case in point, one that I would like to share with you is a husband, and he was a new father, a fairly new father. And he didn’t know why all of a sudden they were having these problems. They were just having problems and it was just so much anxiety. Well, I spoke with him and I spoke with the wife, and the problem was the anxiety.

Jennifer Crisp: The problem itself was the anxiety?

Naomi J. Hardy: It was the anxiety. But listen to what happened. He would go to sleep worried about the daughter and the closeness of the child to the mom versus to him, and wake up with all this anxiety. So, the simple resolution, the simple thing in the toolbox was to get up and take a deep breath.

He would get up and just be ready, but he just had to get up and take a deep breath. It was like, “What did you do to my husband?” “I didn’t do anything, I just told him to take a deep breath.”

Jennifer Crisp: And that is very normal, that’s a normal thing for new parents.

Naomi J. Hardy: Yes. It was a simple resolution. And she would ask, “Did you take a deep breath today? Did you start off?” Just take a deep breath, and it just became their way of being able to defuse.

Jennifer Crisp: And it set up a communication, it gave them a little more.

Naomi J. Hardy: It did. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Jennifer Crisp: But maybe he forgot to take a breath that day.

Naomi J. Hardy: He forgot, exactly. She’d say, “Have you taken a breath?” And then they smile over it and they laugh, and I just love it. I just absolutely love it.

Jennifer Crisp: And you know what’s going to happen when that baby becomes a toddler? That kid’s going to look right up at daddy and say, “Daddy, did you take a breath today?”

Naomi J. Hardy: Right?

Jennifer Crisp: No, it’s true. Because you know, our children do what we teach them.

Naomi J. Hardy: What we do, yes.

Jennifer Crisp: … and they say what we say. So that’s probably going to be part of that child’s vocabulary. And that is so cool. Oh my gosh. Naomi, I’m going to have you back on another episode because we have so much more to discuss and I can’t believe it’s already been half an hour, a little over 30 minutes. And I have to let everybody know, when Naomi and I get on the phone together, one of us will have to just leave because we’re like, “Okay, we could just do this for hours and hours.”

But really, I love this model. I love what you do.

And of course, the N, for necessary. Because we all are necessary, and I really, really love this and I love what you do. And is there a way that we can get in touch with you, or is there something that you would like to offer our listeners?

Naomi J. Hardy: Yes. Anyone that wants to go through the ACTION overview can feel free to contact me. My email is naomijhardyspeaks@gmail.com. Feel free to connect with me with that email address, naomijhardyspeaks@gmail.com. You can just put, “I want the offer,” and we’ll get you scheduled, in the subject line. And we will get you scheduled for an ACTION session.

I’m on Facebook and LinkedIn. Naomi J. Hardy, Relationship Expert, and Naomi J. Hardy. So, feel free to follow me.

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah, please. If you have a chance to check her out, and I would definitely sign up for the ACTION assessment and debriefing session, because I think even if you think you don’t need it now, oh my gosh. Just the value of speaking with Naomi and the experience that you’ve had, and that you share. And you’re really good at what you do.

Naomi J. Hardy: Thank you.

To listen to this episode on the podcast, find us on iTunes or Stitcher. You can also listen to it on our website by clicking here.

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