Tag Archive: Change Leadership

The “H” in cHange

Remember that the letter “H” in “change”  refers to “Human emotions,” which play a key role in the process and understanding these natural responses will help you to successfully lead a transition from the AS IS to the TO BE. While we often talk of data in decision making, we can’t escape the role of emotions in the zigzag to our goals and how people naturally respond to contradictions.

Anger and Denial

Anger feeds on criticism, confusion, frustration, false assumptions. Your employees may be angry because they believe that the change implies that they have not performed well. They may be confused about the reasons for the change, they may be frustrated by the frequency of organizational change, or they may be operating from a different set of assumptions about the change required.

Denial is the refusal to acknowledge the existence or severity of unpleasant external realities. Denial is our way of indirectly dealing or coping with anxiety, explaining problems away or blaming others for our problems. Denial leads us to ignore or refuse to believe unpleasant realities.

“When I first joined Shell Oil, I was the training manager at a refinery in Delaware. This refinery was bought and sold several times before Shell bought it. A unionized facility, operators never worried about their jobs and simply said, “No matter. We’re safe. The others come and go but we’re still here.” It was a refinery that did not make money. One inevitable day, the Manufacturing VP came into town and held a Town Hall meeting. “You People are walking slower than the clock is ticking,” she said. The mind bubble in my head instantly said, “Warning words — ‘You People.’ Shell is going to sell this refinery. I better find a new job, and fast.” Leave I did, to a new Shell training role in Houston. I was in Houston meeting the colleague I was replacing when I got the call. “Mike is here announcing that the refinery has been sold.” I was the only one of the entire group of “you people” who was already out in a new role at the time of the sale. No one else heard the meaning behind “You people are walking slower than the clock is ticking.” (Post Script — the new owners sold the refinery about a year later and the company they sold it to closed it down and sold off the scrap and the land.)”

My Challenge To You!

Make some notes to yourself. What is the perceived crisis your business is responding to? What human emotions have your seen at play? How have these emotions impacted their work? Private lives (if you know)?  How have you reacted emotionally?  How are your emotions influencing your work? Private life?

 The “C” of “Change”

Perceived Crisis and Need for Change

Remember that the letter “C” in “change” stands for “Crisis” — change occurs when organizations, like people, are in Crisis. The change journey is the organization’s and individual’s response to an outside or internal force making change both important and urgent.

Organizational change is usually top down, not bottom up. “They” have decided to redo the “way things are done.”  The organization perceives a crisis and must adjust to reality. 

All organizations travel this change path when implementing a change: anger and denial, confusion and transformation. It is not the path of least resistance. It’s not a modern highway. The terrain is more like the pre-industrial age roads— deep grooves cut into the ground where the carts before you travelled. Nevertheless, it still functions as a highway and you will have many choices to make – choices in direction, timing, and speed. Don’t be fooled, choosing not to choose is still a choice. You will have many crossroads and sharp curves. The journey is not linear. It is a journey of successive approximation, iteration and revision. You can go straight to your destination, or deliberately take a longer route. You may think you know where you are headed, but take a wrong turn. In the end you might make it to your destination in spite of the unexpected, but the back and forth, the zigzag of decision making is a normal process. As unsettling as it is, the zigzag process slowly takes on a truer direction over time. Eventually colleagues within the organization reach the tipping point or a paradigm shift — a major change in thinking. This change in the way things are done eventually embeds itself and becomes… the new way things are done.

Underlying the entire process are human emotions and differing personalities. Why? Organizations are, after all, a collection of individuals who have come together at least for a paycheck and at best because of a shared vision. These individuals all together make up the “personality” of the company.

DON’T FALL OFF THIS CLIFF! You may, as a leader, zigzag in your head from time to time and maybe in private conversations with the Leadership Team, but you should never zigzag with your direct reports. The people reading those reports are looking to you for direction. You are their leader! You have to be clear in your own head where you are going, why you are going there, how you will get there and when you will arrive.

Degrees of Change

At one end of the motivation to change spectrum you have been told to “Go and do it!” reorganizing, ‘squeezing waste out of the system,’ ‘making the hard decisions,’ — all the code words for getting rid of people. Sure, your organization’s vision statement says, “We care about our people!” but as a business you have to compete, cut costs… and people cost money. The bottom line and standard operating procedure in the U. S. today is “do more with less.” And for the average person that means there is a lack of balance between work and life.

At the other end of the change spectrum, you have been assigned a project that retains the workforce, but requires employees to work in new ways. For example, colleagues may have to use new forms, or a new online system.

As I have done in the past, you may be working on an SAP implementation (Good luck!), moving a call center to Manila, cajoling operators to use new procedures at a plant,  transforming HR from a transactional group into a business partner, or shifting from face-to-face training to online learning. People are at the heart of each major shift in thinking and doing. If your folks are with you, you will succeed. If you have them against you, your success will be less than award winning. 

What are the six Key Points of change?

Change occurs when organizations, like people, are in crisis. Royal Dutch Shell would not have laid off over 5,000 employees in 2010 if it did not perceive a crisis. If the widget isn’t broken, we generally don’t go and fix it.

Human emotions play a key role in the process of change and understanding these natural responses will help you to successfully lead a transition from the AS IS to the TO BE.

Analysis of the impact of the change being implemented is critically important to success. Analysis allows you, as the change leader or change agent, to customize your message to each group in your organization. In the process, you build both the business case for change as well as the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?)

No one can follow the road map of change without a bit of fear. Fear of the unknown makes us comfortable with broken widgets. We see the explosion as a ‘vertical uplift’ and the dead dog on the road as one less rooster killer (if you live in rural Teas Hill Country). We had our bird in the hand and we were happy. We don’t know what the future will bring, but we know we have a paycheck now.

Goals need to be established, published and measured. Movement on the timetable — targets met or unmet — needs to be published. As the Six Sigma saying goes, “What gets measured, gets done.” 

Every organization follows the same path of change to create the roadmap of anger and denial, confusion and transformation. Why? Because every organization is made up of people and this is the process people go through. The company emulates what the employees feel.

Recently I have taken to watching TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) video files on my iPad while working out. CNN and Fox just keep repeating same news and I don’t want down time as I continue to study and learn.

TED offers a range of topics and here is what I found when I “wikied” TED:  “TED is a global set of conferences curated by a private non-profit, the Sapling Foundation.” As the preacher says, now underline that word curated! (I go to one of those mega, non-denominational churches with video, rock, handouts and teaching machine preachers!)

The consultant, in a traditional sense, has been considered a subject matter expert or SME. However, the power of social media has added an extension to this dimension. The consultant is a trusted advisor, not only for what he or she knows, but also because of who he or she knows. And “the who” has been redefined on a global and virtual scale.

Given the size of the information body available, today’s consultant must play the role of curator, maintaining and refreshing clients with the latest information, and the latest is a fast and short as a tweet, or the emergence of the newest aggregator. 

Trusted Advisor

Trust is built in business as it is in marriage- one step at a time, delivering when promised on time and in full, and honoring commitments 110% of the time.  Marriage can break apart because trust is destroyed over time or because of one single incident. And the consultant who breaks trust will go clientless for very long periods of time as word spreads.  In government what we called the “corridor reputation” is real in government, business and family. In 2011 it is viral—rapidly developing information universally available, faster than we can comprehend, and permanent as a digital footprint on the moon.

The Curator

We trust TED and the Sapling Foundation, to bring us the best minds and most challenging thoughts, delivered in novel ways. For those of us who look at TED Talks as a way to expand our horizons, we simply rely on the fact that the Foundation is playing the role of a curator- expert in knowledge, constantly refreshing and updating, inquisitive and fair, ethical and honest, ready to put on display the best there is in the flash of a tweet.  We trust our spouses to be curators- bringing the best there is to offer into our homes, creating a relationship that lasts in mutual respect.

So how am I attempting to be a curator? What am I doing to meet the challenges of 2011? To be honest, what I have always done got off the bench.

 “If you don’t get off the bench, you can’t play in the game.” (And this preacher, from a different church, was one of the best curators and teachers I have witnessed!)

The game for me has deeply involved emerging technologies and the new media to curate, skilling myself up in formal training and degrees (the SME in me!) and in practical applications to the world of learning.

  • Take a TED talk, use RealPlayer to download and edit it down and create engaging materials around it or just putting it up in a blog.

 Here is what Turkish novelist Elif Safak has to say on getting off  the bench, and connecting to others-

Elif Shafak The Politics of Fiction

  • Use aggregator tools to locate all the references to a specific topic, leadership, for example, and run them in real time on a Ning site as follow up to a session (or as the pre-read).  Check out the Quest for Authentic Leadership, under development, of course!

And kudos to Eric from the Darwin Awareness Engine for assisting   me in use of the beta version. (I learned of it in a MOOC  webinar.)  “Darwin Awareness Engine™ helps users track Web and Enterprise 2.0 events, uncover emerging trends and gain faster  understanding of complex issues over time.  Addresses the core  problem of information overload”

 Netvibes is also a great aggregator tool- I personally create a “dashboard” as follow up to client meetings so that they can track emerging news on their topics of interest.

  •  Read Mashable each day, twice a day, locate a new tool and contact the company, get a return call and begin using a beta version.


  •  Face the challenge of a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) and figure out how to identify the type of people you want to know out of the 1000s online and network like mad via tweets, blogs and conference calls. (24 of us are taking the MOOC form the University of Manitoba for credit as we gain certification in  Emerging Technologies and all the others are there for fun!)


  • And be ready to improvise. Recently a potential client let me know that blogs are blocked by a firewall- but my video email isn’t. There in is the solution- video email follow up with attachments, or just being a flash drive to the workshop with everything neatly set up!  (iWowWe is a great video email tool, and only $10/month.)

 In the end, a workshop conducted by an outside consultant is not a check the box exercise. For ideas take, for the tools to be used, there has to be internal follow up with participants taking responsibility for their own learning- and holding themselves accountable to grow, and develop. As a curator, the consultant can point folks in the right direction, but folks have to get off the bench to make it happen!



Check out Skip’s super short introduction below! 

What is resistance really about? How to flip it to our favor?

How to define resistance?

It is critical to define what is meant by the term resistance, and it is not as simple as it initially sounds! True, “organizational change can generate skepticism and resistance in employees, making it sometimes difficult or impossible to implement organizational improvements” (Folger & Skarlicki 1999)

 Power holders and leaders can be expected to resist changes that decrease their ability to maintain a power structure or secure rewards for their work groups.

 Front line employees can be expected to respond negatively to changes that affect the availability of  rewards or the ability to obtain these rewards.

All may resist the notion of re-learning current processes or expected attitudes.

All of the above explain why change does not happen because email went out saying so.  As my great HR Mentor David R. Williams often said to me as he advised me on my career path,  “The King spoke and it was so” only worked in the Old Testament!

If we, as leaders, don’t understand the parameters of change, we can’t create and lead the proper interventions.

Here are some classic definitions, but definitions, while hinting at the truth, that I think fail to capture the full range of impacts leaders have to take into account:

  •  “Any conduct that serves to maintain the status quo in the face of pressure to alter the status quo.” (Goldberg, 1999)
  •  ”Employee behavior that seeks to challenge, disrupt, or invert prevailing assumptions, discourses, and power relations” (Folger & Skarlicki 1999)
  •  “Behavior which is intended to protect an individual from the effects of real or imagined change” (Alvin Zander 1950)

 My definition of resistance (stolen from the pros!) and based on my experience

To me, resistance to change is focused around three independent, but interacting, sides of human nature: cognitive, emotions and behaviors.  Let’s explore for a moment. 


Negative thoughts or beliefs around change exist.  But what is often labeled as resistance is often only reluctance. There is a huge difference between reluctance and resistance!  Both can result in inaction and/or denial- “They say it will change, but I know it won’t.”  I was once conducting a change intervention in a major manufacturing site in LA as it was shutting down as a result of the recession when I met a shift worker who had not yet told his spouse that he would be out of work in a few weeks.  Denial of change is a natural reaction.

 Cognitively we may simply be unready to change.  Hence, many change programs raise awareness via change readiness assessments (and there is at least one Change Readiness app out now for iPhones and iPads).

 Cognitively we will not want to see our status, pay, or comfort reduced.  This is natural to our species.


Frustration and anxiety led to resistance, be it in a business process change or an emotional life changing event.  Just not knowing the consequences of the change can lead to stress, and in extreme, but not uncommon events, to clinical depression.


The cognitive and emotional sides of us drive our behavior, from reluctance to aggression- busting into a bosses office to defend ourselves and then storming out, an event my buddy just told me about.  Putting it off. Procrastinating.  We have all done it!

Poor behaviors are symptoms of resistance, not the underlying causes.  Faced with negative behaviors, leaders must sit back and reflect- What are the under lying causes?  And if we had addressed these underlying cause, we would minimize negative behaviors!

A Key Life Learning- Change is not a set process of sequential steps, be it in our personal life or in the life of an organization. The process is universal, but there are many zig zags along the way.  I consider the change map a road map with many secondary roads and we have choices which way we will travel and we have choices of what warning signs we will select to notice and act on, or ignore.  

 So what are six primary reasons for resistance to emerge?

Put a mental checkmark if you have experienced or know colleagues, friends or spouses  who have experienced these reasons!

You and organizations (orgs are not boxes, they are people!)  will resist if…

  1. The nature of the change is not made clear to the people who are  going to be influenced by the change.
  2. The change is open to a wide variety of interpretations.
  3. Those influenced feel strong forces deterring them from changing. 
  4. The people influenced by the change have pressure put on them to make it instead of having a say in the nature or the direction of the change. 
  5. The change is made on personal grounds. 
  6. The change ignores the already established institutions in the group.

 How can we, as leaders, turn resistance around into a positive force?

 1. Set yourself up for success! Conduct a stakeholder analysis with the change tools available.

 2.  Determine what makes folks tick and where they stand on the change curve. How and who can influence them?  And how committed are the influencers? Are they willing to nod in agreement or are they willing to actively promote the change. There is a huge difference in change commitment.

 3.  Reduce the risk in the first place by inviting stakeholders in a problem analysis and brainstorming of multiple solutions. Humans naturally like choice. Remember that in the brainstorming process all ideas are put on the table first before you go back and discuss! Don’t kill the process before it has had a chance to build trust in the organization.

4.  Walk yourself through the six reasons noted above and give yourself honest answers.  Then ask a colleague to do the same.  Compare and contrast your lists. I guarantee you that you will have different insights. The power of leading change is in your network and  connections and how you communicate and share as colleagues and friends.

 5. Reflect and then discuss with you your own trusted advisors the cognitive, emotional, and behaviors factors. Consider questions like

  • Is this resistance or reluctance?  Where is your evidence?  What data are you looking at?  (Remember- data eventually drives actions and you may be all looking at different data. Kudos to the key work of Peter Senge and his Ladder of Inference.
  •  How is status, pay, or comfort reduced?
  •  Why is there frustration and anxiety?
  •  What are the symptoms and what are the underlying causes?

 6. Create a formal communication plan and hold yourself and others accountable to implement it on time and in full (OTIF).  Capture key elements- who does what by when and how and where.  The message has to be repeated in a standard way over various communication mediums. Remember- this is a learning activity at heart and we all have our individual learning style preferences.  

7. Coach 1:1 your direct report. Remember, coaching is not telling or suggesting what someone should do. (That is bossing or consulting, depending on your point of view!)  CA well trained coach leads others to see for themselves what makes them tick.  

 My challenge to you!

  •  Identify a change you envision about to happen. (Alternatively, consider a change you or your organization has been tough and apply these questions as an After Action Review.)
  •  Walk yourself through the five steps suggested above.
  •  Reflect.
  •  Share your thoughts with a colleague.
  •  Where are you aligned? Misaligned? Why? What data are you both looking at?
  •  What is your Action Plan? Who will do what by when?
  •  How will you hold yourself accountable to deliver the result?
  •  What help or support do you need on your change journey?  How can you secure the help you need to set yourself and your organization up for success?
  •  Write about it below.  Share your thoughts about your change journey.

 And have fun while you take up my challenge!

Double click on the image to enlarge. Note that further narrative explanation is in the visual and that it can be read when enlarged.

Exciting information I want to share from my classmates in the University of Manitoba’s course, Introduction to Emerging Technologies  An innovative and exciting development to share!

The output of the colors of the PLE Prism how the “what’s” develop over time.  Key to growth is discovering what you don’t know. I selected the word discover with care. You change when you realize, not when others realize, your own gaps, shortcomings. How do you discover?   By engaging with information you have picked up face to face or virtually. And how can you “engage” with information?  By challenging your own assumptions and mental models.  Challenging your current thinking is not an easy task, but one which I have fond most beneficial in my own learning journey. This path and model are deeply influenced by my own formal education, all the graduate degrees and certifications achieved (or is a better word “gathered”) thus far in my own career.  Secondly, they are deeply influenced by  my 10 years with Shell Oil Company working on global change, communication and learning/training programs.  Thirdly, the process model also grows out of my own constant networking and engagement with my spouse Yaprak who showed me Google Docs, for example,  the 20 and 30 somethings willing to share iPhone aps at a dinner party,  the 20 somethings at Macaroni Grill who are always anxious and ready to tell me their stories when I drop by.  For me, at least, opportunities to discover are all around. I have just have to continuing to learn where and how to look where I have not ventured before.

These blogs have laid out my own Personal Learning Environment. More is to come! And that will be for a later blog!

So what do you think?  How is this model different from your own PLE? How is it the same? What are the weaknesses in my model? Strengths?  Let me hear from you- the good, the bad and the ugly!  How can a PLE add value to your learning journey?

 The Wordle image of this blog is below. Double click to enlarge.

To learn more about this free visual tool, go to http://www.wordle.net/


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