Perception is Everything …

I am struck this morning by messages about perceptions and scale.

Our perceptions drive our actions . . . so how we perceive things matters to us every day.

Our sense of scale affects our perceptions.

So if both perceptions and scale are important, how can we develop a feel for each?

Among the game app trivia and ongoing updates on Facebook, two good friends shared this a link to a scale, which I have titled:

Curious about what a YOCTOMETER is?  Click on the name and settle back for a quick lesson in scale.  Go in and go out on the sliding scale. … I guarantee you’ll have a new appreciation for things both large and small. Continue reading

Effective Change Myths In Review …

Myths are powerful, but false beliefs.

Last week was all about myths … not winged lions, women with snankes for hair, Santa Claus, or half-wild ape men somewhere out in the woods, but myths that we too often continue to entertainment about how people behave and how they change.

Myths arise from a lack of knowledge, attempts to explain something with really understanding it, and out-dated beliefs about how we are.

Know the myths and replace them with Here’s a quick review with what we now know to be true about how our brains work during the process of change.  Click on the titles of each myth to read my original posts if you missed any of this first time around.

Myth 1 – Personalities are fixed

PERSONALITY:  Personality can and does change as we grow and learn.  

Myth 2 – Belief that more information and better logic will change people

INFORMATION:  Knowing is not the same as learning and learning is not all you need to change.

Myth 3 – For people to change, they first have to trust the change agent

TRUST:  Act first and trust will follow, IF we act effectively.

Myth 4 – It’s best to avoid resistance unless it’s actively blocking progress

RESISTANCE:  Resistance can be changed through learning how to work more effectively.

Myth 5 – You can hire an outside  expert to be the change agent

LEADERSHIP:  You are the best change agent for your organization, given the right knowledge and attitude.

For more on how to effectively help people change, read : “The Art and Science of Changing People Who Don’t Want to Change” by Reut Schwartz-Hebron of the Key Change Institute.

IMAGE:  The Fall of Icarus, 17th century, Musée Antoine Vivenel

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 3

MYTH #3:  For People To Change, They First Need to Trust the Change Agent

Well, this one is interesting …

How often have we heard that trust is at the very core of business relationships, social relationships, and a good marriage?  If your experience is anything like mine has been, the answer is “A whole lot”.

“Trust will come if the right strategies are put in place and if the experience of getting people to acquire those strategies justifies trust”

An interesting corollary to this is the idea that we do not have to first win the hearts and minds of people to have change, we just have to get them to change.  In other words

“You can achieve desired outcomes without initial trust, even if you force change.”

Of course, the word “initial” is very key here.  People can be made to do things because you have authority to make them do those things, you can either reward or punish them in the process, and because they may not feel like they have any choice in the matter.

You have to establish trust ~ the variable here is when trust-building occurs.

As people build skills, they become more confident.  They trust themselves to handle the dynamics of change.  

See, it’s not about trusting YOU,

it’s about trusting THEMSELVES:)

Deciding who and how I trust 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 3 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 and Part 2.

Oh, Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble …

… but it may be a real good idea for you as a leader.

Recent research provides support for an idea many of us cherish:  Humble leaders are often more effective.

Uriah Heep, the fictional character shown above, was an early model of the vain and very unhumble worker.   Untrusting and untrustworthy, he felt that he was better than his co-workers and his boss.

I was very well-liked by most of the people who suffered … I mean, worked under my supervision while I was a fledging leader.  The fact that I was personally popular did not help me to become a more effective leader, other than buying me some time to learn about humility and the other aspects of servant leadership.  If I had been unpopular, I would not have been tolerated for long enough to learn much of anything.

Much current research indicates that humility is an essential characteristic for successful leadership.

Jim Collins talks about this in “Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve.”

Gywn Teatro touches on a similar theme in A Case for Being A Nice Boss“.


Forget the Jack Welch and Albert J. “Chainsaw Al” Dunlop leadership models based on a disregard for employees as people and an over-stressing of bottom line measurements, along with a strong tendency to attribute all success to their own actions.

This research indicates that you can be nice, self-effacing, and yet still get the job done.

Villarica’s article provides a brief overview of research done through the University of Buffalo‘s school of management that indicates three main behaviors for humble leaders:

1)  Lead by example 

2)  Admit and learn from their mistakes

3)  Recognize follower’s strengths

All three require a sense of self which transcends ego and power.  

The humble leader knows that the success of the team, the group, and the organization depend on the work of all.  The realistic leader understands that the leaders’s contribution may be the least valuable of all in attaining the goal, at least in many ways.

Being effective, on the other hand, is essential.  You can even trade off being well-liked for being more effective.  Too often, the most effective leadership behavior will not be the most liked behavior.

Here’s what some of the leading world religions have to say about being humble: 

To know when one does not know is best. To think one knows when one does not know is a dire disease.     From TaoismTao Te Ching 71

Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves.   From Christianity  Philippians 2.3

 Be of an exceedingly humble spirit, for the end of man is the worm.   From Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 4.4

Be humble, be harmless, Have no pretension, Be upright, forbearing; Serve your teacher in true obedience, Keeping the mind and body in cleanness, Tranquil, steadfast, master of ego, Standing apart from the things of the senses, Free from self; Aware of the weakness in mortal nature.  From Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 13.7-8

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  From Christianity  Matthew 5.5 Harithah ibn Wahb al-Khuza`i tells how he heard the Prophet say, “Have I not taught you how the inhabitants of Paradise will be all the humble and the weak, whose oaths God will accept when they swear to be faithful? Have I not taught you how the inhabitants of hell will be all the cruel beings, strong of body and arrogant?”   From Islam. Hadith of Bukhari

If you are lucky enough to combine a true sense of humility, being well-liked, and are a highly effective leader, congratulations are in order, because that’s about as good as it gets.

The Takeaway:  Being better liked is NOT a valuable indicator for a leader.    Being respected because you are respectful of your followers is invaluable.

Trying real hard not to keep humming that country song in the Heartland ….