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In This Issue
Helping Others Say a Hearty "Yes"
The Skills Required of a Change Leader
In Your Shoes

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Spring 2011

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Kate Nelson and Stacy Aaron

We are reminded again and again that each change is personal and unique. Each change presents new challenges and requires unique solutions. Even seasoned change professionals constantly tweak their tools and approaches (see In Your Shoes). Each change implies - "will you come along on this journey?" And we have to choose our answer -a hearty yes, a no, or just a maybe (see Helping Others Say a Hearty Yes).  Read the articles and Q&A below to learn how others experience and drive change.  We learn each time we personally transition or help others transition. 


Enjoy the newsletter and, as always, let us know what you think! E-mail Feedback.
All the best,
Kate and Stacy


Helping Others Say a Hearty "Yes" 
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Gina Giannitelli

Joseph Campbell, best known for his work in comparative mythology, is quoted as having said "the big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure." Although this quote wasn't made in the context of organizational change, I have been thinking about the applicability to change management. The best change leaders do just that, they help organizations and the people within them say a hearty yes to the adventures ahead.


Although saying yes and opening up to adventure sounds great, it isn't the first instinct for most of us. Most of us instead instinctually have questions... we want to know more about how we will be impacted. We say "maybe," "let me think about it", or "this isn't what I would have chosen." Just take a moment to think about how this dynamic may play out over and over again in your own life in small ways. We know that people tend to try to re-establish a sense of control, and most of us probably have ample personal examples of that to draw on. Now from those simple examples, think about how it feels to hesitate, and how it feels to say yes. Questioning can feel like a like a lot of intellectual work, and saying yes can feel like an emotional release and even bring cautious exuberance.


Good change leaders understand the natural hesitancy to say a hearty yes. Having questions, gathering information when applied productively can lead to good things for individuals and organizations. In fact the ability to address the logical reasons for change, to outline the business case, is critical for any effective change leader. This is the price of admission. And this task alone, the intellectual challenge of winning over the minds, can be a challenge.


The best change leaders however recognize that there is another significant piece of work to be done, to win over the hearts. This is the emotional work of letting go and opening up to new ways for now. Great change leaders move people not only through compelling arguments, but through paradigm shifts. In my observation, what moves people from "no" to "hearty yes" is less often an intellectual argument, and more often a feeling. The moment when individuals shift from a position of hesitancy to a space of possibility is often more about inspiration, vision, and trust. An intellectual argument might get you to the place of a reluctant yes. But great change leaders take organizations to the space of a hearty yes... to the space of possibility, creativity, collaboration, flow.


To speak to the hearts of employees often takes a great deal of courage. It means acknowledging the very human side of business, which is often devalued. It means talking about things that are sometimes uncomfortable. It means addressing fears and telling the truth. It means reducing the uncertainty when you can, and acknowledging the unknown when it exists.


As I reflect on some of the best change leaders I have worked with, the ones that inspire a hearty yes, I realize that they are also great story tellers. This is something I imagine Joseph Campbell could appreciate. They make the complex simple and they use metaphor or analogy to create an "ah ha" moment that allows people to embrace possibility. The research of Dr. Robert Leahy, Director of the American Institute of Cognitive Therapy, shows when people are anxious they often fill in the unknown with a negative outcome. The best change leaders offer a story that fills in that uncertainty with possibility, and calls the individual forward.


This story telling might be as simple as saying "but what if..." in a focused one-on-one conversation. Or it may be painting a radical picture of the future for a crowd. It may be like suggesting you can't see a masterpiece through a pin hole. Whatever the method, great change leaders help individuals feel moved to step into the journey. That although there is an uncertain outcome, there is great possibility particularly if we choose to say a hearty yes to our adventure.

The Skills Required of a Change Leader

I was just assigned to lead a project at work.  I know I have a lot to learn.  As I get started, what would you say is the most important part of having a successful change?

Studies have consistently confirmed that the greatest contributor to successful organizational change is leadership. In repeated studies of hundreds of companies and their change efforts, "Strong Executive Sponsorship" was cited three times more frequently than any other contributing factor to successful change. Good luck on your project!


Why does leadership have such a huge impact on whether a change succeeds or fails?

Because people support what they think their leaders support. If they don't think their leaders are really going to make a change happen, they figure they shouldn't waste too much time or effort thinking about it. They figure they have an "out" to just ignore. If they duck down in their cube long enough, all of this change stuff will blow over.


How do people really know what a leader supports?

Most leaders are pretty good at telling their people that the next big thing or change is going to be great for the organization and the people. But people develop their perceptions about what leaders support not only through leaders' words. Leadership action is even more important. Acting in ways that are consistent with words is the magic combination that moves people to act in new ways that leaders define. For example, is the leader providing resources (people, money, etc) for the project? Is the leader visibly active in removing barriers to success? Is the leader thanking those that contribute? Is the leader aligning other leaders in support?

In Your Shoes 



Carolyn Calkins

Productivity Management Project Manager

Kao Brands Company 

Have you approached projects differently
after the certification? If so, how?

The certification was a great opportunity to add to our change management toolset here at Kao Brands.  It solidified the work we had been doing in a newly established change management organization, and enabled us to gain additional tangible tools for managing change.  For me personally, the classes taken while progressing towards certification were a chance to dialogue with other professionals about their change management experiences, focusing on realistically what worked and what did not work driving change in their organizations.  The discourse, along with the tools shared, allowed me to modify my approach to change in many of my active projects.  I have especially enjoyed the return of enhancing the planning side of change management, utilizing the concepts found in sponsorship alignment and change readiness audits in a new way to set projects up for success before diving into project execution.


What advice do you have for others trying to drive change?

Two things come immediately to mind when asked about driving change.  Having been involved in many systems implementations, the first is the reminder, that successful change must consider not only the application or technical change, but also the related change to process.  Buy-in happens when stakeholders not only understand individual task instruction but their role in the overall big picture, and the flow of the process.  Time spent on process is never wasted; it is where efficiency, cost savings, and the sustainability of a change lie.


On another note, when thinking about communications in regards to change, never underestimate the power of "water cooler conversation".  The ability of the project's change management team to tap into this very real and very powerful voice is critical.  This pertains to not only the communications flowing out from the team, but in also in the capturing of feedback flowing back.  Relationship building and the time it takes to not only have mass communication but to reach out on a more personal level, is often underestimated but invaluable in project success.


What one thing has helped you the most in driving change in your organization?

Staying with the theme above, I would say that the successful engagement of change agents has been our best weapon in driving change within the organization.  We try to engage key business users within each division touched by the change to expand the reach of the change management team.  Choosing and utilizing the right change agents presents many advantages.  Business change agents enable a better understanding of the drivers and resistors of change which may be different department to department, and they allow communications to stakeholders to come from "one of their own".  Further, these change agents become the expanded eyes and ears of the change management team providing excellent feedback to what stakeholders are really saying on a first-hand and timely basis so modifications to communications or training can be made!