3 Steps for Overcoming Change

70% of all change initiatives changing, why is this and what can we as leaders do about it?

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

change resistanceIn business, as leaders and managers, one of the hardest things is to engage others in achieving the business’ goals.

One of the hardest things for leaders and managers to is engage people to willingly work to achieve the business’ goals.

Succeeding in doing this makes all the difference. For the employee, it’s the difference between being micromanaged and being self-motivated. For the organization it’s the difference between passive resistance and energized alignment. And for you, the leader, it’s the difference between frustrating exhaustion and inspired collaboration.

The job of a leader or manager is simple: to influence people. And there’s one defining idea we have in our heads that makes that job harder – we believe that people resist change.

So we do all sorts of things to counter that resistance. We try to motivate or coerce people to change.

But instead of breaking through resistance, we create it. People resist being controlled. And so 70% of all corporate change efforts fail.

Here’s what’s interesting: people freely choose to make major life changes every day. We move, get married, start families, face challenges, learn new technologies, change jobs, and develop new skills. Not all of these changes are smooth. But most of the time we seek those changes ourselves and make them successfully.

So why are people willing to change in one situation and resistant to it in another?

Because people don’t resist change, they resist being changed.

In their personal lives people usually make their own choices. But in organizations they feel coerced. And so they use the only power they have to regain control: resistance.

So how do we avoid or overcome the problem of resistance? The answer is simple – give them control. Let them make decisions. If you offer them two choices and they pick a third you have the opportunity to cede control to them as long as their choice achieves the outcome acceptable to you. Then they own their decision and are happy with it because they made it themselves.

The key is to make it real or you will lose credibility. You have to actually give them some control, while keeping some for yourself, because as a manager, you’re always accountable for the outcome.

So here are the three steps:

  1. Define the outcome you want.
  2. Suggest a path to achieve it.
  3. Allow people to reject your path as long as they choose an alternate route to the same outcome.

By ceding some control, and allowing people to make their own choices, they are motivated and take ownership for achieving the outcomes.  This enables them to actively embrace the change, creating an aligned future for both themselves and business.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Managing the VUCA World – Part 1

When dealing with increased VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity – what can leaders do? and how can they manage this on an on-going basis?  Read on…


Businesses are under increasing stress as markets are increasingly volatile, clients are more demanding, talent is scarcer and change occurs in faster and shorter cycles.  To survive and thrive business leaders have to make faster decisions, on less information, and which have greater risk.  This has led to a change in how leaders need to think, decide and execute.

As business leaders what can we do to address this in a sustainable and effective way?

A good model, that addresses the four areas of concern that business leaders need to deal with, is by using VUCA.  This consists of:VUCA Elements

1. Volatility – the rate, amount, and magnitude of change

Drastic, rapid shifts can bring about instability for organizations and leaders, but even the minor or innocuous shifts that occur daily, such as new and “immediate” priorities that disrupt plans, or the increasing need to “multi-task,” are changes that increase volatility.

 2. Uncertainty – the amount of unpredictability inherent in issues and events

Leaders can’t predict because they lack clarity about the challenges and their current and future outcomes. Uncertainty can result in an over-reliance on past experiences and yesterday’s solutions or to analysis paralysis as we sift through more and more data.

 3. Complexity – the amount of dependency and interac­tive effect of multiple factors and drivers

Complex interactivity requires leaders to think in more creative, innovative and non-linear way; to be able to deal with shades of gray (as opposed to black and white) solutions.

4. Ambiguity – the degree to which information, situa­tions, and events can be interpreted in multiple ways

Ambiguity increases doubt, slows decision-making, and results in missed opportunities (and threats). It re­quires that leaders think through and diagnose things from multiple perspectives.

 The Challenge for Leaders

For leaders, the challenge is not just a leadership challenge (what good leadership looks like), but it is a development challenge (the process of how to grow “bigger” minds) to deal with the world of VUCA.  Leaders, too often, have become experts on the “what” of leadership, but novices in the “how” of their own development.

So What Can We Do?

  1. Change the Leadership Mindset – we must help ourselves, and our tactical leaders from being easily get trapped by their predictive mindset when they encounter a VUCA situation by providing a robust sounding board, challenging their assumptions and beliefs, and helping them develop new perspectives, options, and ideas.
  2. Change the Leadership Approach – many leadership issues are not problems to be solved but rather dilemmas that must be continuously managed.  Helping leaders to understand this, and to manage the issues and create opportunities from this is key.
  3. VUCA is a neutral force in the world – leaders often look at Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity as a negative force that they need to react to.  Rather, as leaders, we need to see the potential and to transform it proactively and find the opportunity within.
  4. Leaders Don’t Execute, leaders execute – Leaders too often get involved in driving the efforts themselves, leaders need to help them think more strategically and to unlock the potential of their people. By developing and supporting leaders (i.e. mid- or lower-management at lower levels we can execute at the right level, with the right people with the right skills.

So what are you going to do to address VUCA in your business or organization?

Visit the second part of this article, How to Manage Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – Part 2, to discover the 4 ways for how leaders can deal with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

What You Need to Do If You Want to Change

Change starts with ourselves, but why is it so hard to do?

To change ourselves we need to change our behaviour. This is difficult to do and even harder to sustain. In fact it can be one of the hardest things that we do.

If you think I’m exaggerating this then answer these three questions for yourself:

  • What do you want to change in your life? – This might be something minor or major, just think of something that is important to you right now.
  • How long has this been going on?– How many weeks months or years have you been telling yourself some variation on the phrase, “this is the day I make the change!”
  • How is it working out? – Can you point to a specific moment or a specific time when you decided to change something in your life, you acted on it, and it worked out to your satisfaction?

I suspect, like many people, you have something you want to change that has been going on for a long time, and for which you have not yet taken any action or achieved the change to your satisfaction. There are three reasons why this is:

  • We can’t admit that we need to change – we are not aware of the need, or we are aware of the need but we have rationalized to ourselves why we do not need to change.
  • We do not appreciate inertia’s power over us – inertia is often the reason why we don’t begin the process of change. Given the choice we prefer to do nothing rather than take a sustained course of action. As such, it is hard to stop doing something that takes us out of our existing comfort zone, in order to start something difficult which will only benefit us in the longer term.
  • We don’t know how to execute a change – we need to understand the difference between motivation and understanding and ability. For example, we may be motivated to lose weight but we lack the nutritional understanding and cooking ability to design and stick with an effective diet. Alternatively, we may have the understanding and the ability but lack the motivation

Ask yourself these three questions:

  • Do I really want to change?
  • What am I prepared to stop in order that I can start something?
  • Do I have the necessary motivation, understanding and ability to successfully make the change in my behaviour?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, then consider why this is the case and look at what you need to do to bring around an answer of “yes”. You can’t change yourself unless you want to; you know what you need to stop doing and what you need to start doing; and that you have the necessary motivation, understanding and ability.

If you were to ask these questions of your team, then what would they answer? Understanding this will help you understand where you may encounter resistance to change, why, and what to do about.  Try it and see what insights you uncover.

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Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.