I Don’t Believe It … Part 5


Well, this one hurts a little:) … As someone who styles themselves as an external “wise guy” who can help facilitate change, part of me wants to shout “Except me!   Hire me!“.

However, a small amount of reflection tells me this myth is alive and well.  I have experienced first-hand the emotions and conflict around bringing in outside experts who turn out to have only a well-honed presentation style and sales pitch, but who ultimately do not help the organization change.   Well, they do influence change, but not for the better.

Actually, the best external consultants have one specific focus:  Making the team or organization healthy and effective enough to fire them.

When someone has invested significant effort to making themselves appear very necessary to an organization, changing that earlier perception is hard to do … unless the outside expert is very good at their work and really understands the role of the facilitator.

The best summation of the argument against this myth presented in the book is this statement:

“The best position to lead teams out of resistance is the position that has the authority to hold the team accountable and support the team in overcoming resistance.”

This deceptively straight-forward statement has several inferences which I firmly believe about leadership, teams, and change.



We can talk all day about leading from wherever you are in the organizational structure, but being in a position with authority facilitates doing so ~ if the person with the position uses it for positive growth.

One very damaging tacit assumption in this myth is that we cannot handle change ourselves, but must turn to some outside source, who will magically do what we poor mortals were unable to do.

An outside expert can offer tools and perspective.  They can skillfully lead groups to discover what they already know and help them make their goals become accomplishments.  They are contributors, but not necessarily leaders.


We are often good at stating what should happen and why, but we also sometimes forget to add what will happen as a result

Accountability is not established by statements like “Violations of this policy will result in significant disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”  That’s no accountability, that’s legalese in HR clothing.

Accountability is when both the negative and positive possible outcomes are clearly delineated, along with the full range of specific responses.

Of course, then you have to actually follow through by making what you say will happen … well, happen:)


As noted above, accountability includes not just clearly stating and enforcing standards and expectations, but also has to do with identifying what and who is working, reward that behavior, and nurture more of it.  

This implies an ongoing role for those who lead and manage in an organization to support and nurture the momentum of positive change.

After all, these are the people who have the institutional knowledge and engagement to be the change agents … they just need the right tools.

If I had unlimited space and you had unlimited attention, we could discuss the essential role of organizational culture in all this, but that’s a topic for another day.

Looking inside for strength and wisdom in the Heartland ….




Reut Schwartz-Hebron of the Key Change Institute discusses five myths in her recently published book  “The Art and Science of Changing People Who Don’t Want to Change”. 
This post is number 5 in a short series based on this great new resource for those of us who work with people and change.  Click on the titles to read:
Part 1 – Personalities are fixed
Part 2 – Belief that more information and better logic will change people
 Part 3 – For people to change, they first have to trust the change agent
Part 4 – It’s best to avoid resistance unless it’s actively blocking progress

I Don’t Believe It … Part 2


I am so down with this myth, after years of engaging in heaping massive amounts of content at people and existing in a state of constant frustration because they now know better, but do not do better.

One quick example:

Smoking cessation classes in the 1990’s.  Most of the participants were fully aware of the addictive nature of tobacco, the very real health risks of smoking,  the financial and social costs, and even knew that society was becoming increasingly unwilling to support this particular behavior.

Yet most of them continued to smoke and those who tried to stop experienced great difficulty doing so.

We know that proper nutrition, ample sleep, avoiding tobacco, moderate use of alcohol, and regular exercise are all essential for good health … so what are our most ignored health practices?:)

Reut talks about the differences between the Knowledge Based System (KBS) and the Experience Based System (EBS) in our brains – KBS stores knowledge and EBS stores experience of that knowledge.  The two are not the same.

“Only about 2-10% of people can, for reasons we don’t fully understand, apply needed adjustments in a lasting way as a result of new knowledge.”

Well, this is unsettling.  In other words, most of us do not use what we learn to behave differently.    Just knowing is not enough. Continue reading

I Don’t Believe It … Part 1

FIVE MYTHS about resistance to change … Only Five?

Well, Reut Schwartz-Hebron, the guiding light of the Key Change Institute only lists five myths in her recently published and awfully helpful book  “The Art and Science of Changing People Who Don’t Want to Change”. 

However, Reut has created a Very Good List of Five …

This week, I’ll be taking a look at each one.  I’ll blend Reut’s messages with some of my own thoughts and experiences.

Myth #One:  Personalities Are Fixed

Personality is often thought of as composed of “enduring” characteristics.  In other words, how those who know us longest describe us.   As the thinking goes, a sensitive child grows into a sensitive adult.

We are the way we are … like it or lump it:) 

We experience other’s personalities as fixed for several reasons:

1)       We’ve been taught that personality is established before we can speak and stays the same throughout our life.  As good students, we learned this lesson well, looked for evidence that reinforces it, and repeat it so often, that we think it’s true.

 Sometimes saying makes it so … or so we think.

 2)      We mistake resistance for inability to change.  When people do not want to change, they resist and will do so ferociously and sometimes without reason.  Even when the change is good in the long-term, they resist now.   Resistance can be a very strong attribute of a person’s work environment, especially when leaders and managers do not approach change from a thoughtful and proactive stance.

Resistance is a temporary condition, not a permanent attribute.

 3)      We give too much power to habit.  Habit can be strong, as we tend to reinforce what we already do or know neurologically.  We strengthen synaptic messages by repetition, so what is familiar grows stronger over time.  Think about how easily we do many of our daily tasks.  Now think about work tasks we have done repeatedly for years or decades.  Habit is strong.

We know what we have always done or thought.

 4)      We do not know about or appreciate the current concept of plasticity, which simply means the brain is capable of rewiring itself throughout life.  Plasticity is like other characteristics in that the more we use this ability, the easier this ability is to use. 

Reinforcement is the key – choose to reinforce new and different concepts and attitudes and extinguish old ones.

Reut’s solution for this myth:  Create new “Key Strategies” tailored to the changes that people need to make.

 More on how to identify and implement key strategies later, … but you  start with the belief that people’s personalities can and do change, at least enough to make organizational change possible.

 Another myth tomorrow.

Considering how I’ve changed and what still needs work in the Heartland ….


Why Leaders Won’t Lead – Dan Rockwell post

Solving 15 Reasons Leaders Won’t Lead.

Dan Rockwell provides thoughtful commentary in a straight-forward style about an important aspect of the leadership puzzle.

The reasons vary, but all are solid and experience-based.

Here’s one valuable little nugget to whet your appetite from this excellent post:

“Causes illuminate cures. Determine why your people aren’t performing and work toward enabling them.”

Good stuff from a master leadership developer.

Healing in the Heartland …


Don’t Fire ~ Fix!

“You can help catapult someone’s career instead of paralyze it. Helping them excel in a different environment if they don’t fit yours is a gift of a real leader.”

–Kelly Van Gogh

This quote made me think.

Just finished reading several articles by “famous” leadership and management folk, all of whom espoused the hard-core approach of “Cut the Weak Performers Out of the Herd”.

This approach is described in many ways, but always seems to boils down to these principles:


Only hire the absolute best person for the position.    Nothing wrong with this approach, except it does not reflect reality.

The best person doesn’t apply for your open position

Your open position is not the best job out there

You ain’t the best person to work for. Continue reading