This is the chapter on “change” in the soon to be released book:
Extreme Excellence published by Insight Publishing

In the face of possible death from a medical condition, people seldom change their lives to a healthier lifestyle. Why? Alan Deutschman explains that people facing life or death decisions involving drastic life-style changes face tremendous odds for failure; 9 out of 10 return to their old destructive behavior within two years. Heart attack, stroke, and cancer victims face shortened life spans unless they change their lives; most vow to change but only a small few succeed; how come? Change has two parts, one hard the other soft; change seldom fails because of the “hard” facts but the “soft” ones - the people. Seldom considered are human emotions accompanying the change process.

Thys Stassen with ChangeWright Consulting thinks that the common reasons people resist change is “inadequate sponsorship, unrealistic expectations, problems with trainings, and poor adoption of change”. Henry David Thoreau said “Things do not change; we change.” Norman Peale added, “Change your thoughts and you change your world”. These leaders’ statements are all true but do not address the core underlying all change; an often overlooked and unaccounted element of change is human emotions. People’s emotions cause resistance to change and become the very large monster under the bed. The strange part of this equation is that security only exists in the willingness and ability to change; until the emotions are laid to rest, resistance is king!

Hendrie Weisinger, Ph.D. stated in his book Emotional Intelligence at Work that .“… emotional intelligence is the intelligent use of emotions: you intentionally make your emotions work for you by using them to help guide your behavior and think in ways that enhance your results.” If the emotional side is not recognized and successfully dealt with, the change process often hits a wall of resistance. Glen Bucholtz, the General Manager of Shell Chemicals in Geismar, Louisianan said, “In my years of industrial experience, I have observed that we tend to hire people on their technical skills and lose them because of their social or interpersonal skills!"
“If we don’t change the direction soon, we’ll end up where we are heading.” Unknown

Mr. Bob Pries a senior manager in Procter & Gamble s corporate human resources department has a series of premises regarding how to make change successful. Here is the first one.

Premise # 1 - Change is messy

Change is the breaking of the egg for breakfast; the egg will never be the same. The cooking process transforms the egg and upon eating, the body changes the egg into fuel. The shattering of the shell begins this chain reaction; eggs breaking are always messy and so is the change process. According to Bob Pries, leaders need to be “both flexible and firm.” Planning for the unplanned events is a key component of change management. During the evacuation of the British and French forces from the beaches of Dunkirk during WWII, Churchill sent everything that could float to rescue the surrounded troops but was wise enough to provide wide latitude for on-site options to his orders given to the rescue vessels.

I was hired to help effect a plant-wide corporate culture change for Valero Energy’s plant in Krotz Springs, Louisiana. I told the plant manager, Ralph Youngblood, that in performing this function, I was going to be the needle and he the doctor. Together we were going puncture this infected boil; we would get puss all over the place but this wound would be healed. This proved to be an accurate description of what happened. In the middle of the “puss-stage”, a very large operator looked down and said, “We have a new nickname for you.” When I questioned what was the latest of a series of names inflicted on me, some of which were humorous and some unrepeatable, he simply said “Troublemaker!” I knew then I was on the right track; change is messy.

Premise # 2 - Change in the absence of context is chaos.

In the absence of context, it will be rumors that fill the void. Some of the questions arising from the change process requiring answers: what is the reason for the change, what meaning does this change have, where we are going, and most of all what is in it for me? These are key questions that need to be embraced by anyone experience change. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankel, a Nazi concentration camp survivor, developed a theory that human beings can suffer any loss, make any change, and endure any hardship if the meaning is known; “… hopelessness of our struggle did not detract from its dignity and meaning … we would … suffer proudly-not miserably-knowing how to die”. A leader must be able to know the meaning, the context of the change and articulate to those who have yet to embrace the change. Not doing so is what Bob Pries calls a “failure of leadership”.

John Kotter has hit on a crucial insight. "Behavior change happens mostly by speaking to people's feelings … this is true even in organizations that are very focused on analysis and quantitative measurement, even to people who think of themselves intelligent in an MBA sense. In highly successful change efforts, people find ways to help others see the problems or solutions in ways that influence emotions, not just thought."

Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute, realizes the importance of the emotional component that coexists with the data driving the change. "Providing health information is important but not always sufficient," he says. "We also need to bring in the psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions that are so often ignored." Ornish thinks the reason lifestyle changes have such a dismal record, is that motivation by fear is not enough to sustain the change. He thinks death is too frightening to think about and our brains are capable of tricking us into denial unless we solve the emotional component.

Most alcoholics do not quit drinking out of fear of imprisonment, death, or significant loss; their denial system is ingrained protecting their addiction. A 12-Step Program addresses people’s feelings by providing them the opportunity to express themselves in the company of an accepting atmosphere. In this environment, people can begin experience their emotions and to think differently; here the reduction of denial and the beginning of recovery begins. In the 12-Steps, they discover coping skills that work better than drinking; when that occurs the “need” for drinking is extinguished.

"Telling people who are lonely and depressed that they're going to live longer if they quit smoking or change their diet and lifestyle is not that motivating," Ornish says. "Who wants to live longer when you're in chronic emotional pain?" Who wants to give up alcohol, a cherished habit unless there is something much better to take it’s place?

Ornish reframes the issue from “fear of dying” to "joy of living"! AA echoes this reframing by changing thoughts from “restless irritable and disconnected” to “happy, joyous, and free.” When the emotions are experienced, these attitudinal shifts puts a context into the chaos of change; Ornish says, “Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear."

Premise # 3 - There is no such thing as too much communication.

Alan Deutschman said, ”CEOs are supposedly the prime change agents for their companies, but they're often as resistant to change as anyone -- and as prone to backsliding.” George Lakoff echoes Deutschman, “Concepts are not things that can be changed just by someone telling us a fact. We may be presented with facts, but for them to make sense, they have to fit what is already in the synapses of the brain.” Alanson Van Fleet, a human resource professional, thinks the leader’s message should, “challenge the status quo – must be perceived differently, not too complex, shortsighted, or out of reach.”

The petrochemical industry has a phenomenal safety record. Considering the amount of material and the nature of what is manufactured, “it’s not chocolate pudding” as one crusty safety engineer once told me; this industry has an exemplary record for safety, why? The emphasis put on safety is in direct proportion to the results; it works because safety is an everyday discussion and the employees have a high degree of awareness; the result speaks for itself. Lee Trusty, the Site Leader at Dow Chemical’s Plaquemine, Louisiana plant went to all areas of his plant with this one question, “Cite examples of where you have cost Dow money being safe?” From that question, he wanted them to know that safety is more important that profits. What a message! Is Dow safe, very; is Dow profitable, very.

Bob Pries thinks that especially in the change process “…when many people may be in the denial phase, it is imperative that the leader communicate as often as possible …” The message needs to be consistent in providing the context so necessary for success.

Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, studies what is most effective for leaders, "When one is addressing a diverse or heterogeneous audience," he says, "the story must be simple, easy to identify with, emotionally resonant, and evocative of positive experiences." Incorporate different communication methods with diverse groups, each getting the core message, but tailor-made for the various audiences. This coupled with the advice from Pries, “a message heard several times a day for 8 days is virtually memorized”.

Premise # 4 - Nothing substitutes for face-to-face dialogue.

(Note: In Bob Pries original premises on change there were 10 and this one was emphasized twice, representing the value Pries placed on this important concept.)

Scientists calculated that 93% of communication is nonverbal. With face-to-face communication, the reading of facial expressions, body language, voice inflections, tone, and eye monitoring is able to take place.

An associate, John Reed, and I had a disagreement and began a series of emails debating this issue. Since John and I often perform some of the same communication skills training, I was surprised when we engaged in the exact behavior we warn our clients not to do, expressing emotions via email. When this finally dawned on us, we swapped this electronic exchange with face-to-face dialogue over coffee, resolution soon followed.

The University of Phoenix trains their faculty to teach online computer courses by requiring the teacher to experience training sessions similar to what the students’ experience. Having had that experience, I know online training was not my medium of expression and now limit my teaching to on-ground classes; I need face-to-face dialogue.

If a leader needs to communicate change, especially concerning a new and difficult challenge, this communication needs to be as direct to them as possible. A leader’s physical presence denotes the importance of the message. Bob Pries says that, “the rate of change is directly proportional to the rate of change information passed” and “there no substitutes for face-to-face dialogue”.

Sometimes the ideal face-to-face communication cannot be achieved. In the darkest days of WWII, Winston Churchill would visit bombed out parts of London and through news reels the people of England witnessed Churchill surveying the damage with a look of concern and determination. He continued this image in radio broadcasting to what was left of the free world. During these fireside chats, Churchill was eloquent as he provided an honest assessment of the situation and provided an inspirational attitude that kept the fragile British morale from succumbing to despair.

Winston Churchill did not send emails to the nation (Al Gore had not yet invented the internet) nor did he put his speech in the newspaper; he addressed the nation in person over the radio. No matter how large the organization, in order for the message to increase effectiveness, face-to-face communication is necessary for success. Bob Pries advocates that any form of communication that is not face-to-face “…makes the leader removed from the organization and inaccessible, and communication is one way in most cases.”

Another method of non-direct face-to-face communication was required in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Procter & Gamble wanted to convey a certain message to their employees at their New Orleans Folgers Coffee plant. The hurricane created considerable damage shutting down production and because of this damage, Folgers’ market share dropped from 42% to almost half overnight; everyone felt the pressure to get the plant back into production. Compounding that, almost 70% of these workers lost most of their worldly processions from the Katrina’s floodwaters and their families had suddenly evacuated to different locations. Overnight Folgers had a traumatized workforce, without the succor of their families, and now were attempting to rebuild a heavily damaged plant. They were facing the uncertainty of rebuilding their homes or moving to higher ground with a housing market suddenly turned upside down; clearly this was a workforce facing change.

The message P&G wanted to convey was one of calm and hope, one that showed that the company cared and believed in the future. They wanted to decrease the traumatic effect experienced by this workforce by providing the opportunity for open and safe dialogue. In the First World War, Post Traumatic Stress was called “Shell shocked” and many P&G employees had the 1000 yard stare and other signs of this disorder. P&G conveyed this message of concern and assisted in the treatment of PTSD by hiring mental health counselors especially trained in Critical Incident Stress Debriefing techniques.

I was fortunate to be selected for this project and spent many days walking the plant talking to every employee. Sometimes we discussed the latest woes of the New Orleans Saints, but most conversations concerned what they were experiencing and feeling. One method I used to generate discussions was to ask the employee to point out their house on an area map showing the extent and depth of the floodwaters. This exercise engaged them in talking out their trauma and the frustration that was in danger of consuming them. They enthusiastically pointed out the locations of their homes. They elaborated by showing where their relatives lived, the high school best friend’s house, and where they launched their fishing boat.

One employee said I could not understand his loss unless I could see his house in Chalmette, located in St. Bernard Parish. I immediately secured permission from the plant manager and he and I crossed the bridge to the “Parish” as the locals fondly called this area, entering into a world of destruction I could only imagine. Within three hours of returning, everyone in the plant knew of this trip and many people now wanted to talk to me since now “I knew”; which represents to them a deeper level of understanding. This was the same message Winston Churchill conveyed when walking the bombed out streets of London.

P&G’s hiring of these EAP counselors was a masterful stroke not readily adopted by other companies involved in this same crisis. Being sensitive to the emotions of their employees, Folgers’ employees heard the message of concern and desire to assist them to live through this great trauma.
Premise # 5 - You are the message.

“For every change initiative, there is a “golden thread”, woven together of logic and ownership.” Ivan Overton, MD said. “Ownership must flow unbroken from the most senior source down through the organizational structure,” Bob Pries says; and when he does not see this golden thread connecting the employees with the message; Pries accurately labels this “a failure of leadership.”

My mother repeated slogans during my formative years, many of which served me well. One of “Jean’s Commandments” was “Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty”. Nothing connects employees to management as a leader who occasionally “gets her hands dirty” especially when the project calls for extreme effort. In 50 AD, during the Gaul campaign, Julius Caesar marched his troops over the mountains to attack the enemy’s rear. This mountain pass was extremely difficult maneuver but he took his turn shoveling show to clear the path for the troops; this leadership caused his troops to respect him.

James Firestone, president of Xerox North America said, "People need a sense of confidence that the processes will be aligned internally." Without this alignment, the change rapidly turns into chaos.

A leader who believes in the change behaves differently from manager’s who do not; employees assess the sincerity of their communication. In the chaos of change, a leader’s words have to connect with their body language, tone, voice inflections, and behavior all of which must convey the same message. As Bob Pries elaborates, “Successful leaders know this and are very deliberate about what message they want to send and consider that in every action they take”.

Doctor Ivan Overton sees several potential areas for failure if this alignment is not established and maintained. A leader needs to seek many opportunities for interaction and not rely on one-way communication. The leader who thinks that once said, the communication is complete, is dangerous! Overton says the communication needs to be said many times and in many ways; mass communication channels should not be relied upon as the exclusive medium. He thinks employees “…expect to hear about change from their leaders, and do not generally place much stock in messages that come from other sources.” Leaders who does not convey this important messages commits the cardinal sin creating a “failure of leadership.”

Premise # 6 - Do not expect of others that which you do not expect of yourself.

On the morning of May 6th, 1864, during the Battle of the Wilderness, Robert E. Lee faced a hopeless situation; the enemy suddenly attacked with overwhelming numbers. In desperation, General Lee rode to the head of his troops preparing to lead them in a charge. To a man, they all shouted “Lee to the rear! … Lee to the rear!”; he was willing to lead the charge but so beloved by his men and deemed so valuable to the Rebel cause, these solders would not allow their general to expose himself to deadly Yankee fire, so inspired by this act of Lee’s, they successfully took the objective. Lee would have led that charge and his men knew it! By his willingness to lead that charge, he communicated the importance of this battle and his men responded accordingly. Pries believes an organization acts exactly like the leader because this person is the employees’ model of success.

A leader that tries to change an organization without changing themselves first usually fails. When senior manager makes the decision to enter a business-coaching contract with my company, they develop a list of business-coaching candidates. However, rarely is the top person’s name included. Is it a “failure of leaderships” that the top executive’s name not on the list?

The trademarked motto of the Earle Company is “My Life Will Change … When I Change!”™ That sentence represents half of the battle of life; those who adopt this simple reality usually achieve success in their significant relationships. At work, having that motto employees are of more value than someone who waits for others to change. The manager, who wants the team to change and does not participate, has missed an important opportunity to demonstrate the value of personal change and is asking others to do something they have not been willing to do themselves.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

Premise # 7 - Lead the change.

Doctor Overton thinks that leaders often make a fatal assumption when assuming they intuitively know what is needed to support the initiative. What they truly need to know is that “much of the success of the change initiative is dependent on them as leaders”. Overton contends the result will be ineffectual unless they understand the leadership role required of them. They need a game plan that includes timeline and detailed approach for success.

Some parts of the change process cannot be delegated, Pries thinks that having someone other than the leader is inefficient and many times does not work, “If not careful, the leader can become “ … a barrier rather than the leader.” If the team works in a vacuum without leadership input, the result may be out of compliance with the original objectives and develop the wrong answers; “Leadership cannot delegate the change.” Van Fleet’s echoed opinion the “change belongs to the leader.”.

Premise # 8 - A simple model

Bob Pries thinks that when human behavior is routine, it becomes known, predictable, and thought “safe”. It may be uncomfortable, painful, or even dangerous but because the limits of the pain or danger are known, these limits provide an element of comfort. This is why people stay in abusive relationships or in dead end jobs; they know the extent of the abuse or drudgery. To think of moving away from what is known requires a new definition of themselves that is different; this is what triggers fear. I have often asked people in dire circumstances that if they could, would they trade their problems for mine. The vast majority decline this exchange. Known routine feels safe, people are more likely to accept their fate; once out of the familiar area, resistance intensifies.

Change requires something to be different; unknown, and when perceived not “safe”, resistance happens. It is the fear that keeps people from change and creates resistance monsters lurking under the bed. When unknown, people tend to resist what scares them. It is this fear coupled with imagination that produces dust bunnies and monsters, a reality that must be dealt with; this is where leadership begins.

“The good news is that it doesn’t cost much money to change your thinking. In fact, it can be done for free.” Robert Kiyosaki

Premise # 9 - If it looks screwy, it probably is.

Have you ever have a wonderful idea? You are excited about telling someone but when you do, you realize how stupid your idea actually is? That has happened to everyone, and it is not that we have stupid ideas, but that inside our heads our brains do not have a frame of reference. By expressing the thought aloud, creates the reference so necessary for brilliance. Bob Pries says it more eloquently, “The train of thought takes us to a place without a touchstone or perspective that calibrates our thinking externally.”

This is why having a trusted advisor from outside the organization who understands business but has no vested ties with the company is preferable as a sounding board. This is helpful for awareness, providing a reference standard by which all ideas ultimately have to be judged.

Change is hard! Change is difficult! By having these premises as a template provides an excellent theory upon which a leader can base the change process. What often is the difference between a successful change and one doomed to the pile of also-rans is the soft side of change, human emotions. Until the leader tames the monsters under the bed, resistance wins - change does not happen!

Author's Bio: 

David W. Earle has twenty-five years of executive management experience in the construction field. He now earns his living as a Business Coach, working with organizations and individuals to improve human relationship skills, communication abilities, and leadership principals. As a Business Coach, he assists clients in making the changes they want to make in their businesses and in their personal lives.

David received his graduate degree in counseling from Texas A&M. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private family practice. He is on the faculty of the University of Phoenix, teaching graduate courses in Conflict Management Systems and undergraduate courses on communications, employee motivation, diversity, sociology, and workplace substance abuse.

David has been on the panel as a mediator and/or arbitrator for various organizations such as U.S. Federal Court-Middle District, Louisiana Rehabilitation Service, Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC), National Association of
Security Dealers (NASD), Natural Futures Association (NFA),
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Louisiana Supreme Court.

David studies leadership and philosophy; tennis is his sport. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, Penny, and their dog, Fletcher.