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It’s not control, it’s leadership

Latest Brilliant HBR Blog

To Create Change, Leadership Is More Important Than Authority

“Control is an illusion and always has been an illusion.  It is a Hobbesian paradox that we cannot enforce change unless change has already occurred.  Higher status—or even a persuasive presentation full of facts—is of limited utility. The lunatics run the asylum, the best we can do as leaders is empower them to run it right.

And that’s why change always requires leadership rather than authority.  Respectable people always prefer incumbency to disruption.  Only misfits are threatened by the status quo.  So if you want to create real change, it is not power and influence that you need, but those who seek to overthrow them.”

Is Your Sponsor Engaged?

How do you know if your sponsor is really engaged?  I’m working on a major change project at a Fortune 500 company and though I love working with the sponsor, I’m not sure he’s really engaged.  He says the right things, shows up at the right meetings (most of the time), but the follow up just isn’t there.  It’s like his head is engaged, but his heart is not.  It made me go back to my checklist to reevaluate next steps.

Answer these questions for your change initiative:  My sponsor….

  1. Has a clear vision of the desired future
  2. Has access to funding/resources for the initiative
  3. Is willing to take a public role in support of the change initiative
  4. Is personally accountable for results of the initiative
  5. Feels dissatisfied with the current situation
  6. Is willing to pay a personal price to accomplish change in this area
  7. Uses data to track progress during implementation
  8. Is open and flexible regarding the path to the future state
  9. Will make the change initiative a high priority on his/her agenda
  10. Follows up on commitments

50 Psychology Classics

Sometimes we forget the basics in the field of psychology.  So I’ve overviewed the 50 classics – from William James in 1890 to Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. Take a tour through and see how many you remember from your intro to psych class and how many you can apply at work.

Difficulty or Opportunity?


Have been spending a lot of client time with folks focused on the difficulty side of an issue – why we can’t do it, how it’s never been done before, all the cons of the option.   In change management, it’s our job to look at the opportunity side of the house – what life might get better, how cool it is to try something, what we can learn from stepping out.






Books to Start the New Year

In truth, there is not one reality: there are millions of possibilities that could be constructed into a reality in every given second. It all depends on which information your brain chooses to process! So if your reality is a choice, the important next question is: have you chosen the one that will help you harness your multiple intelligences to their fullest potential and lead to greater success and growth?

Taken from: Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change
by Shawn Achor, Crown Business, 2013


The “10,000-hour rule”–that this level of practice holds the secret to great success in any field–has become sacrosanct gospel, echoed on websites and recited as litany in high-performance workshops. The problem: it’s only half true.

No less an expert than Anders Ericsson, the Florida State University psychologist whose research on expertise spawned the 10,000-hour rule of thumb, told me….”You have to tweak the system by pushing,” he adds, “allowing for more errors at first as you increase your limits.”

Taken from: Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman, Harper, 2013


But in the workplace, give and take becomes more complicated. Professionally, few of us act purely like givers and takers, adopting a third style instead. We become matchers, striving to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting. Matchers operate on the principle of fairness: when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. If you’re a matcher, you believe in tit for tat, and your relationships are governed by even exchanges of favors.

Taken from: Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant, Viking, 2013


You have begun the important process of clarifying and choosing the success values you want to embrace for the next stage of your life. It is your life story you are writing, after all. So you get to select the character traits and motivations for the person playing the central role.

Taken from: Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success by G. Richard Shell, Portfolio, 2013

A Problem Shared Is a Company Aligned

Charalambos Vlachoutsicos wrote a great article for HBR acknowledging that it’s very tough to get alignment in today’s complicated organization.  The basic premise is the same my grandmother used to say:  you can’t solve a problem until you name it.  Vlachoutsicos did a great job creating an open forum for his sales people to talk about the issues of a new candy line – and came up with creative suggestions about how to make changes.

The Power of Understanding People

Adding this to my Christmas WishList:

H2 Change Adversaries into Allies


These five rules will help guide all of your interactions with people, those on your side…or on the other side.

    1. Control your own emotions
    2. Understand the clash of belief systems
    3. Acknowledge their ego
    4. Set the proper frame
    5. Communicate with tact and empathy

H2 Tell Your Change Story

From The Change Book:

  1. Define the point of the story:  What do you want to prove?
  2. Identify the hero and what that person wants (the founders of our company, the big shot in operations, etc)
  3. Determine the conflict the hero must overcome to get what he wants (market downturn, new competitor, customers leave)
  4. Determine the decision the hero must make to change the status quo (diversify, reorganize, change strategy)
  5. Describe the result (increased ROI, selling up the value chain, etc) and how the story is resolved.
  6. Call to action – get others emotionally engaged and get them to act.

Storytelling for Change Management

Before you have that big conversation about your change, take a minute to think through these: