Stories & practices that empower real change

John Kotter & Nancy Dearman: Why change starts with ALL of us

John Kotter & Nancy Dearman - GlobalLeadership.TV
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John Kotter & Nancy Dearman, change experts & Kotter International co-founders, have spent decades studying the processes of change and leadership in companies, organizations and societies. A professor at Harvard Business School and author of numerous best-selling leadership books, Kotter’s 8 Step process of change describes the both emotional and intellectual factors that impact organizational change. Here, with GlobalLeadership.TV founder Walter Link Kotter & Dearman discuss the traits of successful leadership and how to create lasting change.

Kotter Chap Thum 42Walter Link:

Many people like change. The idea of change has become very popular. But it is of course others that have to change – society has to change, it’s always out there. But how about the people themselves? And what do you do to support them to not only recognize that they need to change but also support them in the process of change?

Many people like change, but it is of course others that have to change –  it’s always out ‘there.’ But how about the people themselves?

Nancy Dearman:

We certainly start the whole idea with individual change and point out to people, with various exercises that are relatively simple but effective about personal change. And we can move from personal change when people are thinking about, yes, that’s the way I approach personal change. Or that’s the way I think about it or, yes, that’s where I tend to get blocked. And then bring organizational change into it. It helps unblock people from the natural barriers of change.

And one of the things we’ve found is that when we have enough people urgent about an opportunity and enough people understanding that they have a role, an opportunity to play a role in that, that the momentum for change becomes irresistible. Will there always be some group that doesn’t want to or that will try to pull back? Yes. But if it’s a small enough group they won’t have an effect. It’s the momentum that will carry the change forward. And that momentum that you need enough people saying, yes, that’s an opportunity, I want to help take advantage of it.

When we have enough people urgent about an opportunity and enough people understanding that they have a role in that, the momentum for change becomes irresistible.

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John Kotter:

We do talk up front about complacency. I mean complacency is everywhere. And the ultimate complacency is not that people say that there aren’t problems, but they say the problems are over there. And the guys over there are saying the problems are over here. And so everybody’s basically saying, I don’t need to change, these guys do. And if everybody’s thinking that way you end up with complacent groups, complacent organizations. And nothing changes. And just making that observation, which everybody can relate to pretty quickly, is useful. Again, if it’s done not in an accusing way but in a way that is – it’s kind of funny if you think about it.

But the more you get caught up in, emotionally, in some broader view that, darn it, there is a bigger opportunity out there for me personally, for the organization that we’re not taking advantage of it. But life is short, why not? Life is short, why not? They will start propelling themselves to trying some new things. Not just expecting somebody else to change for them. And then getting the organization through that to become more and more people to do the same. Which isn’t to some degree habit because of the culture of the organization that’s pushing against you, personal habits that are pushing against you, I mean there are a number of things that we could list that hold people in place is huge. And if you just stare at that list and think of, well, it’s inevitable. A, it’s depressing and, B, you don’t try. But one thing you can do is show counterexamples. You tell them stories.

Nancy Dearman:

Better yet, show them stories. That’s why the filming I think is so important and John has found some films that have a lot of impact in that regard.

Concrete is better than abstract. People have known that forever but they don’t do enough of it – they are trained just the opposite.

John Kotter:

Telling the story actually has some impact. Showing is better than telling – I guess people have known that forever. But we don’t do enough of it. And concrete is better than abstract. People have probably known that forever too but they don’t do enough of it. They are trained just the opposite. We have trained generations of managers now to deal at very abstract levels, to deal with just one side of the brain, to deal with these interminable 100-slide PowerPoint presentations. In a sense what we’re doing, we’re going to untrain that – to some degree that’s what we have to do. We have to untrain them first and help them to see the better way.

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If you look back in history and come up with names and expose people to those and ask them, were these good leaders or bad leaders? Did they provide any leadership? The goods all have some things in common. And that’s what we’ve learned about over the years and that’s what we try to figure out how to help more people become like them. But one of the things – the people that we at least today look back and say, they were a good leader, is indeed the general direction that they mobilize people in is a direction that ultimately helps the broader community. That does create the wealth. The products and services that people need, the jobs that make life during the day meaningful. To keep the planet from exploding or whatever. And that everybody in the other camp is very clear too.

Bad leaders tend to work on negative emotions more than positive emotions, they often mobilize people by demonizing others, demonizing the opposition and working off of fear and anxiety and anger.

The bad leaders help mobilize people who ultimately kind of go off a cliff. They tend to work on negative emotions more than positive emotions, they often mobilize people by demonizing others, demonizing the opposition and working off of fear and anxiety and anger. And they don’t think in broad terms. They think in narrow terms, often ultimately in terms of their own power. Well, that is not only what we don’t want, that’s not what we’re going to – we’re going to work very hard at making sure that when we try to help more people to provide more leadership it doesn’t even go remotely in that direction. So there is a value stance on this. There’s no question about that.

Watch the full video ‘The Heart of Change’ HERE.

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