When Change is Out of Your Control: What You Can Do

Have you ever experienced the shocking blow of an unforeseen major change in your organization? Three of my clients in the middle-management ranks of their companies are currently facing changes that were sudden, unexpected, and from their perspectives, out of their control:

  • An IT organization notified of the decision to outsource several major functions
  • A manufacturing division suffering the disappointment of a canceled major expansion
  • An insurance firm undergoing reorganization that will entail relocating a significant number of personnel to a different region of the U.S.

What can a leader to when change is “forced” upon his or her team? One of my favorite models to use in situations like these is called the “Spheres of Influence” from leadership guru Stephen Covey:

The Spheres of Influence is a powerful coaching tool for ourselves as leaders as well as a potent exercise for our teams during times of unwanted and involuntary change.

To use the tool, ask yourself and/or your team:

What can we control?  Regardless of your industry, your title or your specific circumstances, the answer to this is consistent. Typically, the answer is only ourselves – our individual behaviors and attitudes.  However, this is not nothing.  As the saying goes, “your attitude determines your altitude.”  Moreover, in times of change, leaders “walking the talk” speaks volumes, and role models for others.

What can we influence?  Although we cannot control the behaviors and attitudes of others, we can influence them.  In my 25+ years of coaching leaders at all levels, there has never been an instance where I did not observe that an individual’s circle of influence was greater than they initially perceived.  That’s the essence of Change Intelligence:  cultivating awareness of our own behaviors so we can more effectively adapt to influence others.  Often, an even small shift in our mindset or our approach will enable us to have a far greater impact than we had achieved in the past.  For example, by sharing neuroscience research that shows that giving people some sense of “certainty” during a change process – such as by informing people of a date by which a significant announcement will be made, even if the details are unknown – an IT Project Manager was able to convince her Director and peers to begin the communication process much earlier than they had planned.  A month after the announcement the director told the PM that the senior team was pleased with the decision to increase the communication cadence, since they perceived the tactic led to significantly less disruption than with previous reorganizations, giving people the degree of comfort they needed to continue focusing on day-to-day priorities even in the midst of significant uncertainty about their long-term roles.

What can’t we influence at this time?  Of course, this is often the easiest question to answer.  We may not be able to control the final decision to outsource, not expand, or downsize.  However, by answering these three questions – and then by reversing the order, and challenging yourself and your team to consider whether all the factors that seem “out of our control at this time” actually are, unseen possibilities often appear.  For example, the IT PM in the example above wasn’t able to control the ultimate direction of the senior team, but she was able to control – or significantly impact – the process by which the change was rolled-out in the organization.

Although the strategies I’ve shared thus far are very helpful in times of involuntary change, they are all reactive moves.  What can we as leaders do to proactively prepare ourselves and our teams to cope with the inevitable changes sure to come, since we know organizational change around the world is exponentially increasing in pace, scope, and complexity?  

Here are some practices to put in place today to set yourself up to take control of your future tomorrow:

At the individual level:  Build trusting relationships with your staff, peers, and managers.  Make it easy for others to be comfortable approaching you about issues and concerns.  Take the pulse of how people are “feeling” in addition to what they are “thinking,” and use your own and others’ emotions as data.  Mutually supportive connections will greatly increase your span of influence – relationships facilitate results. Also, when you build trust and connection during the “easy times,” the trust will be in place when the “change hits the fan.”

At the team level:  Institute regular process checks on your team. Make room for “time-outs” in your meeting agendas to solicit input into what people see as challenges, and opportunities, impacting the group – and importantly, what they see looming on the horizon.  Schedule informal walk-arounds where you ask team members questions such as, “How do you think we’re doing?  What could we be doing better?”

At the organizational level:  Create multiple methods to both effectively communicate information from the top-down, but also to elicit feedback from the bottom up.  So often, executive communication regarding major changes is transmitted ineffectively, causing confusion and even fear.  How can communications be tailored to specific audiences in ways that not only help them understand they “why and what,” but also the “how and when” and a positive part they can play, enabling some sense of personal control, or at least influence.  The higher you go in an organization, the more difficult it is to get timely and accurate feedback about what is happening on the front lines and through the ranks.  One of the most important – and most difficult – roles of middle- and front-line managers is to demonstrate leadership courage by giving feedback to those above them in the hierarchy about how changes are being perceived and the impact they are having – including at times that the “emperor has no clothes” and that the senior team may need to change how it is operating (walking the talk, providing resources, removing barriers, etc.) to enable the change to take root.  Is there a courageous conversation you can facilitate right now? One that would have a positive impact for you and your team today? One that would enhance the possibility of effective upward influence for the future? I invite you to take 5 minutes today to identify 1-2 actions that will bring the greatest impact to you as a leader, to your team and for your organization and then schedule time to execute. Once you do, send me a reply to let me know how it went.

Is Organizational ADHD Derailing Your Change Project?

whos_got_cq

Sound familiar?

  • “Here we go again – another program of the year!”
  • “Another reorg – who’s my boss today?  And I’m expected to pick up the slack – again?!”
  • “Our company slogan should be, ‘All swirl – no strategy’!”

As an “organizational doctor,” when I hear clients vent such frustrations, I know they are symptoms of a deeper disease. My diagnosis? Organizational ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  Just like people can struggle with the symptoms of ADHD, so too can organizations struggle to stay focused in the face of conflicting priorities and constant redirection. As a change leader, how do you know your organization is suffering from ADHD, and what can you do about it?  Let’s break it down.

The “Attention Deficit” Change Challenge

When it comes to focus, what is grabbing the attention of your employees and team members – not to mention your own?

Here are some sobering statistics:

  • People see more than 34 billion bits of information per day.
  • 91% of workers in the U.S. report they discard work information without fully reading it.
  • Interruptions caused by  information overload are estimated to cost U.S. companies $650 billion a year.

Your inbox is a perfect example of all the subjects vying for your attention.  In addition to this email from me today, how many others have you received?  How many are in your inbox unread?  How many have you deleted without even opening?  Voicemails received but unanswered?  Checked your social media or snail mail today?

Information overload (or info-toxicity as it’s also called) reduces our ability to make effective decisions – and even to genuinely understand the data we are receiving.  Any surprise your change-related communications are not cutting through the deluge?

And what about the “deficit” in “attention deficit”?  Lack, loss, something missing, something wrong.  When overwhelmed, stressed and confused, we can fall prey to the “threat-rigidity effect”:  We feel threatened and devolve into rigid behavior patterns.  Less oxygen gets to our brains, so we revert to well-learned routines – flight, fight, or freeze.  Creativity, positivity, and energy evaporate.

When embattled we can start seeing everything as a problem to be fixed.  The incessant spotlight on “solving problems” – dealing with what’s wrong – keeps us rooted in the past and perceiving only the negative aspects of the current reality.

What can a change leader do?

It’s been said that “leadership is the art of focusing attention,” so let’s start there:

Are you role modeling focusing attention on the right things?  On the important few versus the trivial many?  Are you protecting your people from distractions?

Are you culpable in polluting your workplace with info-toxicity?  When you need to deliver messages, how can you be even briefer and more relevant to your audience – create a killer story-that-sticks?  Go beyond information to insight?

Do you communicate the connection between what may seem like “new” or disparate activities to the overall vision, mission, and values – so people appreciate the purpose behind priorities?  Showing people the “why” in addition to the “what” and “how”?

How are you clarifying the line-of-sight between people’s day-to-day tasks and impact on consequential goals?  So often what unblocks old routines is not top-down information-sharing but rather bottom-up behavior change – not pithy slogans, but the powerful pull of seeing with your own eyes glimpses of the transformation enacted real-time by soldiers in the trenches together.

Are you balancing a concentration on “fixing what’s wrong” with “finding what’s right”?  Do you “share the dream” and work with your team to design a new, motivating future state?  Do you foster an environment of complaining about the past or present state, instead of demonstrating commitment to charting inspiring new directions?   

The “Hyperactivity Disorder” Change Challenge

To keep up with the unrelenting pace of change, it can seem like we all need to be in constant manic motion.  We can feel like we take-on lots of activities, but have little tangible impact.  Even within a change project, it’s so easy for team members to become overwhelmed by the amount of detail, number of deliverables, and scope of work.  Urgent crises derail important tasks.  At the end of the day we ask, “what did we accomplish?”

We know now that multitasking reduces effectiveness, yet here are more sad stats:

  • People are interrupted and move from project to project every 11 minutes.
  • It takes 25 minutes to return to the original project and get back “in the groove.”
  • People are as likely to self-interrupt as to be interrupted by someone else!

“Busy-ness” is loosely related to the attention deficit challenge, but manifests differently.  Hyperactivity disorder gives the appearance that everyone is “working hard” and that your team is making progress.  In fact, you could be just treading water, or even worse moving quickly in the opposite direction of where you want to go.  

Moreover, what’s on the other side of manic motion is often disengaged depression.  Just as individuals can suffer from bipolar disorder, so can people in organizations swing from relentless frenzy to resigned apathy when it all gets to be too much, when they don’t see their efforts resulting in positive forward movement, and when they can’t perceive the correlation between their contributions and outcomes.

Yet, behind every complaint is a request.  Those infuriating eye-rolls from your people at the announcement of a “new program!” is often the result of severe change fatigue.  What seems like complacency or even indifference can be a survival instinct for having tried way too hard for way too long and being way too disappointed in seeing no sustained results and receiving no sincere recognition.

What can you as a change leader do?

As yourself again – what am I role modeling?

Break out of hyperactivity through inter-activity.  Stop rushing and start relating.  Partner with your team to consciously assess whether activities are supportive of goals and prioritize accordingly.  Develop the discipline to laser focus.  Banish the irrelevant to make space for the significant.    

Work together to create meaningful metrics targeting relevant results.  Switch attention from checking boxes on a project plan to managing performance outcomes that matter.

Demonstrate as clearly as possible what specific behaviors will lead to valued outcomes.  Show how right actions lead to right results.   

Recognize, reward, and celebrate key milestones – when small steps have led to real results.

Develop the discipline to just say no.  As a wise woman once said, “‘no’ is a complete sentence.  You are in control of your own behavior, not a puppet.  Set boundaries.  Train people how to treat you.  As you build muscle in this area, you will give others confidence to do so as well.

Balance activity and interactivity with inner-activity – knowing that this is vastly different than “in-activity”.  Are you balancing doing and being?  Leaders who are more reflective are more effective.  The essence of continuous improvement is continual learning, which mandates time for contemplation.

Am I powering down to power up?  Just like your computer, your brain and body need to “shut down” every so often to reboot and refresh.  Get the gunk out.  Take care of yourself, and make time for family and friends.

Organizational ADHD and the Change Intelligent Leader

Change intelligent leaders know the antidote to Organizational ADHD is THEIR ability to develop and deploy their own CQ.  Providing purpose unleashes passion.  Focusing attention facilitates forward momentum.  Lasering in on mission-critical activities keeps people on the path.  That’s heart, head, and hands in action – leading in a way that people get it, want it, and are able to do it – working together toward the goal of successful and sustainable transformation.  

 

“Painful” Change Can Be a Springboard for Professional Development – But Only If You Are Open To It

Here’s an old story to contemplate:

A boy from a wealthy family receives a pony for his birthday.  The townspeople say, “what a lucky boy.”  The Buddhist monk says, “we’ll see.”

The boy suffers a crippling injury while riding the horse.  The townspeople say, “what an unlucky boy.”  The Buddhist monk says, “we’ll see.”

An invading army attacks the town and conscripts all the men and boys to fight with them, but the boy is not chosen because of his handicap.  The townspeople say, “what a lucky boy.”

You get the message.

As tortured Hamlet observed, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  At times, each of us can feel like we’re in a hellacious situation, trapped, confused, scared, frustrated, and these reactions can be particularly acute in times of change.  Yet, at the same time, most of us can relate to how we have grown exponentially during our most challenging times.  We find hidden capacity within ourselves, untapped reserves of strength.  New, amazing people come into our lives.  New doors open that we would have passed by otherwise.  Whether it’s at home or at work, change can be a springboard for professional development.   

That’s why I encourage you to, every so often, take some time to reflect on the power that change has in your life. Need some help getting started? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What changes have I been through that seemed negative at first, but turned out much better than I expected?  Situations when were my fears not realized, but instead I emerged stronger and better than before?
  • What changes am I facing now that are causing me stress?  Even if the change itself is out of my control, what are three specific actions I can take to help me and my team cope with it more proactively, to take charge of what we can, to influence the direction or outcome?
  • How can I use the possibility presented by current change challenges to emerge as an even more impactful leader?  How can I use my skills at connection and communication to coach people to see unrecognized opportunities?  To perceive change as an opportunity versus a threat?  To share stories about taking response-ability to respond with resilience and agility?

As Price Pritchett affirms, “change always comes bearing gifts.”  Sometimes those gifts are buried deep or concealed in dark corners.  But always, every time, those gifts are there for us to find, and treasure, and share.

North Carolina, Ready to Learn Your CQ Style?

horseworkshop

Will you be in or near Charlotte, NC on Tuesday, October 7th? I am excited to be partnering with the Synergistic Coach, Gerri Steadman when she hosts her “Learning Through Horses” workshop.

Though the workshop itself is private, there will be a free reception that is open to the public from 5:30-7:30pm. At the reception, I will be talking about the Change Intelligence System as well as sharing an exercise that will show you how to find your personal Change Quotient style.

Afterwards, there will be a Q&A session as well as a complimentary meet and greet and light refreshments. Don’t forget to bring your copy of Change Intelligence to have it signed! RSVP your intention: http://ht.ly/S04yY

To find out about the workshop please visit the Synergistic Coach website here.

The CQ System Goes French

We were recently informed that the CQ system made an appearance in one of the main economic newspapers in France. Yves Cavarec, the author of the article, wrote an analysis of the failed June merging of two French rugby clubs. Without knowing details of the case, but using the CQ system, he determined that the merge was based on a high-Head approach. He also determined that the change leader ignored both the Heart and the Hands.

The feedback from the article was very good. In addition to being talked about on all the popular social media networks, Yves Cavarec also recieved an email from the mayor of the city. Having been involved on the merge project, the mayor agreed with Yves Cavarec’s analysis and congratulated him on the article.

If you are fluent in French you can read details about the failed merging here. In addiiton you can also read the analysis that Yves Cavarec wrote here.

Top 10 Reasons to Get CQ Certified

Ever since the opportunity was launched, I’ve received questions about the relevance and benefits of Change Intelligence/CQ Certification, for leaders themselves and also for their teams and organizations. The blog post below lists 10 reasons why you should in fact get CQ certified. These reasons are based on actual results and perspectives from previous CQ Certification Graduates who have completed the program – and illustrate several specific ways the program can grow your influence and impact.

And – let’s call this the “Top 11th Reason!” – you can receive ACMP and HRCI credits for your participation in the CQ Certification Program! (You may be able to obtain credits for other credentials as well – such as PMs, etc.)

Why should you get CQ Certified? Here are the top 10 reasons, and ways CQ can help you get real results for the clients, team, and organizations you serve – in the words of CQ Certification Graduates:

  1. “The Change Intelligence model is simple yet powerful. The change leaders I work with get Head, Heart, and Hands right away, and can put their insights immediately into practice.” – Change Management Consultant
  2. “I use the CQ Assessment to launch my new project teams. It’s a great way for people to get to know each other and their strengths, as well as potential blind spots.” – Project Manager
  3. “CQ training modules fit nicely into the Executive Education and MBA courses I teach. Change leadership has been a real gap in our program, and CQ fills a unique niche.” – University Instructor
  4. “Since becoming CQ Certified, I’ve landed two new clients that I would not have otherwise. CQ Certification provides me a distinctive credential that gets noticed and makes a difference in the marketplace.” – Leadership Development Consultant and Coach
  5. “Obtaining and sustaining sponsorship for change initiatives is a critical success factor in any project, and often a challenge. The CQ Assessment and tools help me coach executives and business leaders about their pivotal roles and get them back on track in the face of competing priorities.” – Program Manager
  6. “In healthcare we are constantly bombarded with change. Change Intelligence gives us a common language to talk about change up, down, and across our system. We’ve used it to integrate new community hospitals and physician practices.”           – Human Resources Director
  7. “For the executives I coach, leading change is a key success factor for their demanding jobs. The CQ Assessment laser-focuses on leading change, and is an excellent complement to other leadership assessments.” – Executive Coach
  8. “One of the first ways I used the CQ system was to turn-around a struggling project team. We were frustrated that we were not getting traction with the business, end user engagement was low, and there was friction on the team. The CQ process helped us diagnose the root cause of our challenges, enabled our team members to give and receive feedback to each other much less defensively, and helped us chart a more successful path forward.” – IT Project Manager
  9. “I received a ton more value from CQ Certification than I expected, way beyond the information available in the book alone. The CQ Toolkit gave me turnkey tools I immediately put into practice, from training agendas to PowerPoint decks to coaching action plans.” – Organizational Development Professional
  10. “CQ Certification really empowered me to use the CQ Assessment within my clients. Not only can I now purchase the assessment at half-price, but I can interpret the results with much more skill and savvy for the leaders I coach and teams I build.”      – Change Management Consultant and Coach

Sign up for the Change Intelligence (CQ) Virtual Certification Workshop starting October 9, 2015 here. The workshop is a 6-week course designed to help you take your ability to lead change to a whole new level.

 


If you have questions about how CQ Certification can accelerate your impact as a leader or if you are wondering whether the timing is right to pursue certification, please feel free to contact me directly by email at btrautlein@changecatalysts.com or phone at 847.571.4387.

 

Reactions to Change

When people encounter any kind of change, they typically progress through a series of phases. There are several frameworks that help clarify human reaction to change, but the one I use in this post—and in chapter 15 of Change Intelligence—is adapted to CQ and based on the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who studied human reactions to death and dying. She discovered that not everyone, but many people, progressed through a similar set of thoughts, perceptions, and experiences. This model can be applied to understanding the human reaction to change, since most people initially perceive change as a threat, a danger—something to be feared.

Coping with change is a process that moves people from a focus on the past to a focus on the future, and from a focus on what’s happening in their external environment to a focus on what’s happening inside themselves. When they first learn of an impending change, particularly a significant one, many people go into denial. Next comes resistance, or at least what looks and feels like resistance to change leaders. If the resistance is effectively managed, people move to the exploration stage, testing the new direction. Finally, commitment occurs.

Understanding these reactions to change can help you predict them and can help you deploy effective approaches to addressing them. Doing so is fundamental to your ability to lead through any major change project.

The Denial Phase
Denial is a normal psychological defense mechanism. And when it comes to organizational change, it’s an understandable reaction, given the “program of the year” phenomenon and the discomfort that accompanies any major alteration in our work lives. Denial is a coping skill that enables us to protect ourselves. It helps us navigate all the new information we’re constantly bombarded with in modern life.

As a leader, how do you know when your people are in the denial stage? You’ll know when they say things like, “It’s no big deal” or, “It won’t affect us” or, “We’ll outlive this new manager and the changes he’s trying to make, just like the last guy corporate tried to shove down our throats.” People may avoid you, the change leader, just as they may avoid any exposure to the change process. Some go into withdrawal, seeming to hide out. Others may appear numb, confused, or off balance.

The Resistance Phase
In physics, resistance is defined as “a force that tends to oppose or retard motion.” During the resistance stage, it can appear that people are actively working in opposition to the change. However, in biology, resistance is defined as “the capacity of an organism to protect itself from harm.” One of the core themes of the CQ System is that what often seems to be resistance in others is really a symptom of us as change leaders not giving people what they need to “get” it, “want” it, or “do” it.

As a leader, how do you know when your people are in the Resistance stage? Resistance can take many forms, but it usually doesn’t require a doctorate in psychology to pick up on even subtle forms of opposition to the change. In the Resistance stage, participation is the most variable. Some become angry, and conflicts may abound. Others withdraw and seem helpless. People may grieve for what they fear will be lost—whether it’s security, status, skills, or social relationships. Some may become passive-aggressive, seeming to comply but then quietly resisting. Others may engage in overt sabotage.

The Exploration Phase
After the pain of the Resistance stage, the Exploration stage can feel like a welcome relief. Finally, people transition from working against the change to moving toward it. You hear people say things like, “Let’s try it!” Some cautiously stick their big toe in the water, while others jump right into the deep end.

Regardless of their pace of exploration, people finally seem to understand the change and display a more positive attitude toward it. Acceptance increases. Instead of feeling controlled, people experience a sense of autonomy. They begin to experiment with the change, look for creative alternatives, and unleash fresh energy.

Yet, unleashing energy can lead to challenging dynamics in the Exploration stage. People are still testing—they are still novices with respect to the new way of doing things. That can result in a period of chaos and confusion. People craft an abundance of ideas, but the very abundance can overwhelm them.

The Commitment Phase
The Commitment phase is the Holy Grail of any change initiative. Now people are “on board” and have “bought in,” and groups are “aligned” and “integrated.” People support the change through their words and their actions. Behaviors are in sync with long-range change goals, and short-term objectives that aren’t consistent with change are subordinated. Management actively invests resources to sustain the change. Cooperation and teamwork abound. People say, “We did it!” and experience the satisfaction that comes with accomplishing a challenging goal.

However, the change leader’s role isn’t over. In the Commitment phase, change leaders can deploy a variety of tactics to sustain the change and keep people moving forward.

Teams and organizations, like individuals, also go through similar stages. Collections of people often pass through the denial, resistance, exploration, and commitment phases in sync. As change leaders, it’s essential that we diagnose and deal with these dynamics at the team and organizational level as well.

And, particularly during significant changes, or when multiple changes are occurring at once, progress through the phases may not be linear. Instead, people may move from denial, to resistance, and then back to denial because they just can’t believe that yet another change is happening. They might say, “See! They switched gears again. Nothing will really change. It’s business as usual.”

It’s frighteningly easy for people to revert to the denial phase, or to stay stuck in resistance, and that’s one reason why it’s so critical for change leaders to be armed with a knowledge of CQ and all the supplementary models and methods covered in the last two chapters of Change Intelligence.

Different change leader styles (blends of Heart, Head, and Hands) display different strengths as support people through each phase of change reactions. They also have different blind spots, and would do well to deploy different tools to help them more effectively lead their people at each step in the journey.

The more tools in your toolkit, the better equipped you are to give people what they need and to help everyone—including yourself—get where they want to go.

 

Deploying the Right Change Management Tools

Is there a difference between change leadership and change management? My answer is a resounding “Yes!” Change intelligence (CQ) is about diagnosing and developing your capacity to lead change—in other words, it’s about change leadership. Change management, on the other hand, is a set of techniques that you, the change leader, can apply to a change process. As change leaders, we pick and choose the change management approaches and techniques to bring to bear on a change situation. CQ will help you as a change leader identify which change management tools you tend to gravitate toward based on your style—and which you may tend to overuse or, conversely, overlook.

The change management tools you select should be based on not only your personal leadership style but also the phase of the “change lifecycle” your team is in. From the early 1900s when Kurt Lewin introduced his unfreezing-moving-refreezing description of the change process, many models have been offered to help us understand this change lifecycle. Most are variations on a similar theme. First you plan, then you do, then you sustain. Then, you start planning the next change. This list offers the major activities that occur at each stage in the change lifecycle.

Plan

• Create vision

• Determine readiness

• Craft plan

 

Do

• Communicate

• Train

• Modify processes

Sustain

• Adapt systems

• Ensure integration

• Examine lessons learned

Change leaders have a variety of tools at their disposal, any of which they can bring to bear during the stages of the change lifecycle. If you stay mindful of the combination of your change leader style and the dynamics of the various stages, you’ll be able to select the tools to help you meet critical change challenges, especially those you may be apt to overlook, downplay, or avoid. For a full list of the best tools to the various types of change leaders can use in the different phases of the change lifecycle, check out chapter 14 of Change Intelligence.

Applying CQ: Organizations

Both individuals and teams have a change style and level of change intelligence (CQ), and the same is true of every organization. Some companies thrive on change, responding deftly to new economies, technologies, and customer expectations, while others are slow to adapt, and still others fail to change effectively and thus die.

Unfortunately, most companies fall into the latter two categories. Why do most organizations fail to achieve their lofty transformational goals? Often, it’s because one or more of these is the case:

  • Change is not championed by leaders high enough in the organization.
  • The new change is led just the same way the last change was (which probably failed or was less than stellar).
  • There is no consistent approach to change. At best, there are pockets of “strategic planning” or “change management” methodologies sprinkled throughout the organization—perhaps a project management methodology used in IT, or a change management model touted by human resources—but they are not endorsed or deployed company-wide.
  • Leaders are not trained in change leadership. At best, they may have attended a class in change management, but they have had no opportunity to understand or develop their competency as change leaders. When change happens, they’re under fire and have no time for reflection or coaching.
  • Leaders lack awareness about what encourages people to embrace change, making it almost impossible to adapt to the needs of various audiences, lessening the probability that those stakeholders will get in action consistent with the change.
  • Resistance is ignored or perceived as a force to be overcome. The focus is on doing something to the resisters, not with or for them, even when they can potentially provide valuable perspectives. Resistance continues, expands, and ultimately derails the change process.

Sound familiar? When you look at the last change project you were involved in, can you see one or more of these dynamics at work? In isolation or in combination, they are the death knell for over 70 percent of major change initiatives. When these projects fail, the investment is wasted, employee cynicism grows, and loyalty and trust are eroded.

Just as for individuals and teams, an organization’s CQ can grow over time. Individuals can become more powerful change leaders through diagnosing and developing their own CQ, and teams can become more impactful in leading a change initiative through a CQ-based team-building experience. In the same way, the more CQ is infused into an organization—layered up, down, and across it—the more positive, predictable, and pervasive the company’s results will be.

CQ at the organizational level isn’t an add-on program, another task to complete, or another box to check. Rather, it is a model and mindset that empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to fundamentally alter the way they lead any kind of change initiative. When deployed effectively, the CQ approach becomes “how we do change in this organization,” not just an appendage that’s sometimes used and sometimes isn’t. Companies that use the CQ System in this way find that it becomes a common language and a compass that points the way toward promising new outcomes.

Once members of an organization understand that they need to inspire the Heart, engage the Head, and help the Hands in each and every change initiative, they can employ a variety of other tools to heighten their change intelligence. Are executives committed to sponsoring the change? Perhaps a Leadership Alignment tool can help (to inspire the Heart). Are managers aware of the change and informed sufficiently so they can cascade the message to the troops? Perhaps they can utilize communication-planning methodologies (to engage the Head). Are frontline employees trained to use the new technology? Supervisors can deploy a learning plan (to help the Hands). In this way, CQ enables appropriate integration of methodologies from a variety of disciplines, spanning from change management to project planning and beyond.

Without an understanding of CQ, these types of tools are often deployed slavishly, to every project, whether they are needed or not. Or they are not used at all or not at the right time or in the right ways. Knowledge of CQ alerts leaders to when and how these supplemental approaches may make a positive difference. Furthermore, once a common toolkit of methodologies is installed across the system, everyone—from executives to the front line—will be singing off the same sheet of music, so to speak. No longer will helpful tools be used haphazardly; instead, everyone will be working in clearly understood and consistent ways to make the change come to life.

To paraphrase a TV commercial, CQ doesn’t do change, it helps you do change better. The CQ System helps leaders integrate additional tools at the right time in the right way to ensure that everyone is on the same productive path toward real organizational change.

To put the CQ System to work in your company and enhance its ability to lead change, you need to:

  • Start at the top.
  • Develop change leaders at all levels. Provide formal training as well as manager and peer coaching.
  • Cascade down and move across the organization. Plant many seeds.
  • Utilize the CQ methods and tools to develop a consistent language and approach to change.
  • Integrate other change methodologies to develop a system-wide change toolkit.
  • Avoid labeling initiatives as “programs.” Change is constant and ubiquitous. Treat change like a way of life, which it is.
  • Practice courageous conversations. As Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson remind us in their book The One Minute Manager, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” Get feedback and feedforward (ala Marshall Goldsmith), from above and below.

If you regularly revisit these strategies and apply them in your organization, you’ll soon begin to see the benefits of the CQ System across the company: change happens with less resistance and strife, becomes part of the organization’s essence (rather than evaporating after a short period of time and leaving you short on results), and leads to positive outcomes at every level.

Applying CQ in Teams

A fundamental part of understanding CQ is understanding which type of change leader you are—a Coach, a Visionary, an Executer, a Champion, a Driver, a Facilitator, or an Adapter, each of which indicates a different mix of leading with Head, Heart, or Hands. When they learn about these types, most of my clients ask me the same question, and it’s a good one: “What blend of change leader styles is best to have on a team? Is there an ideal team profile?”

In the short term, a particular team profile may be most appropriate to address a specific need. A Driver team (strong on Head and Hands) would be invaluable for a high- intensity, make-it-or-break-it turnaround. A Champion team (favoring Head and Heart capabilities) would be particularly adept at rallying an organization around a radically new vision. A Facilitator team (skilled at Heart and Hands) would be of great assistance in implementing a complex new technology on the front lines.

Just as there is no ideal individual profile, there is ultimately no ideal team profile. Success lies in how aware the team is of its CQ blend and what it does to leverage it. Just as the best change leaders are enlightened by knowledge of their style, their strengths, and their blind spots, so it is for the ideal team.

My longest-standing co-facilitator and I are the opposite styles. I’m a Champion, and he’s an Executer. When we first met, it was like we were speaking two different languages, and I couldn’t get where he was coming from half the time. However, we both trusted and respected each other. As we learned each other’s styles, we began to value and appreciate what each other brought to the table.

Over the years, the two of us have led many change projects together. Invariably, he owns the project plan—and mercifully so! His spreadsheets boast multiple worksheets, many tabs, and an abundance of color. Every i dotted and t crossed. I, on the other hand, tend to take the lead with facilitating project meetings. That said, his more detail-oriented and unemotional style can play better with technically oriented types. We are each a good balance to the other. Clients get the benefit of both our styles, our different perspectives and provocative viewpoints, and our complementary skill sets.

It’s not necessarily that Champions and Executers are natural-born partners; the benefit comes from my co-facilitator and I exploring our own brand of change intelligence and using our awareness of each other’s predispositions and working styles to collaborate effectively.

One caveat as you apply CQ to your team: Be sure that you don’t dump all responsibility on certain individuals because the work seems suited to their CQ style. Don’t assume that just because you’re the Visionary, you’ll always own the strategy. Don’t assume that because you’re the Coach, all the people dynamics fall on your plate. Don’t dump all the minutiae of project planning on the Executer or have the Champion make all the executive presentations. Don’t expect the Facilitator to run every team meeting or the Driver to kick butt and take names when things go awry. That’s stereotyping. We each have a profile, but “profiling” is forbidden!

Teams charged with leading change together can reap great benefits from exploring their collective change intelligence. Here are some questions to spark dialogue and new working agreements for future success.

  1. What is our team’s value to the organization, particularly with respect to leading change?
  2. Is our team operating as effectively as it could be?
  3. If not, why not? Can a deficit of CQ explain any of these reasons?
  4. How can we apply our knowledge of CQ to improve our team’s effectiveness?
  5. How are we leading change effectively? What are the positive things happening in our current change project?
  6. How can the CQ System help us understand the ways we aren’t leading change effectively? What are the negative aspects of our current change project?
  7. Is there a previous change project we can learn from—one we can dissect and interpret in light of what we now know about CQ? Can we create agreements among the team based on these insights and then carry them forth into the future?
  8. What is our team’s overall change leader style? Given that, at what aspects of leading change do we predict our team will excel? What are our team’s strengths?
  9. What aspect of CQ (Heart, Head, or Hands) is our team lowest in? Which team member (or members) provides a complementary perspective that can help the team overcome its blind spots? What contributions can specific team members make to increase the effectiveness and positive impact of the team’s actions?
  10. Taken together, what are action steps for us to build our CQ as a team to lead powerful, positive change?

By the end of this discussion, the team will have reached a consensus on how to improve relationships and roles within the team and will have made new agreements on how best to enhance processes and results.

Periodically, bring the team back together to review its progress, make any necessary course corrections, and celebrate its successes!