What Everybody Ought to Know About Leading Change

May 22, 2021 2 min read
What Everybody Ought to Know About Leading Change

Organizational change is commonplace nowadays. But how do you tackle change? And how do you guarantee your efforts are successful?

Let me tell you… what you ought to know about leading change.

Leading Change a Step At a Time

Successful organizational change happens only when the following things fall into place. Of course, they won’t guarantee success, but without them failure is almost certain.

What those leading change need is:

  • commitment,
  • momentum or a sense of urgency,
  • stakeholder engagement,
  • open and honest dialogue,
  • a clear vision,
  • good and proper communication,
  • strong change leadership, and
  • a well executed plan.

So, how do you create the right environment for leading change?

Learn from John Kotter. That’s how. In his book Leading Change, John Kotter answers these questions: How do I deliver transformational change? Where do I start? Who should I involve? And, how do I see change through to the end?

It is an essential read for those leading change.

And, if you’re interested, we describe his 8-step model in detail in Successful Change Management—Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model.

The eight steps are:

  1. increase urgency,
  2. build the guiding team,
  3. get the right vision,
  4. communicate for buy-in,
  5. empower action,
  6. create short-term wins,
  7. don’t let up, and
  8. make it stick.

What impresses the most about Kotter’s 8-step change model is that it applies to every aspect of leading organizational change.

It can be used to influence buy-in at the beginning of a change project when you are seeking sponsorship or the support of senior executives. And it can be used to change the behaviour of those resisting change.

Let me illustrate….

Change 0, Innertia 1

Your organization wishes to improve customer service standards. It gathers information and statistics—satisfaction ratings, dropped call rates, average call duration, number of bounced calls and so on—and presents the results to a group of customer service agents.

Seeing the figures and hearing why they are problematic and need changing doesn’t work especially well. People have to think about the message and come to some understanding before deciding to change behaviour.

A possible outcome is they detach themselves from the problem and blame management. Or they refuse to accept the data because they “do a good job.” Some will say the change project “is a waste of time” or “why bother with this when there are so many other problems they need to sort out.”

Successful change is an unlikely outcome.

See, feel, change…

In contrast, filming interviews of real customers and presenting this to employees is much more powerful. A video grabs attention and evokes interest. People are likely to absorb what they see and hear and will learn the truth—from the customer—and ultimately feel differently.

Their emotional response will cause them to act. Successful change is more likely. In The Heart of Change, John Kotter and Dan Cohen say that successful change happens by making people feel differently.

This is what change leaders need to know: change is about people, and change is always a personal experience.

In fact, when people see the reasons for change, they act. This is called the “see-feel-change” dynamic. In the illustration, using video to create a visual impact was the way to elicit an emotional response. However, there are many other ways to bring about a positive emotional reaction.


How do you lead successful change? You are welcome to tell us in the comments.

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