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Learning Your 'Change Intelligence'

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Barbara Trautlein often cites a stat from research conducted by change management expert Rick Maurer: More than 70 percent of attempted organizational changes fail.

And while there are many tools available to manage change, Trautlein, a leadership development and change management expert, says she found a gap in terms of helping leaders understand how they best react to and lead change.

Trautlein not only established a business, Change Catalysts, surrounding this concept, but also wrote a book that centers on what she calls “change intelligence.” Trautlein discusses the concept and how leaders can diagnose and use their leadership styles to ensure that changes stick.

Can you explain the concept, and what the value is in understanding your style of change intelligence?

The basic definition is that it’s the awareness of one’s own change leadership style. The ability to adapt oneself to be more effective across people and situations. There’s two parts of this: Being aware of what your style is, where you come from, your strength and blindspots. The second step is to be able to adapt it. Once you understand your style, you recognize there are other possible styles out there. It gives you more options. If you have more tools at your disposal, you’ll be much more effective when dealing with the people you need to engage. The more options you have, the more power you have. I hear so often from the people I coach at all levels that they feel like they’re pushing the change. It’s very frustrating and draining. It feels like they’re doing something to people or in spite of them, instead of for them. Instead of doing something to other people, you’re looking at yourself and you’re recognizing that there are things you can do differently.

I came up with this concept to fill a gap in several ways. A lot of the focus is on change management and the targets of change, whereas this is focused on change leadership. There are a lot of tools and assessments to help them understand their resilience to change or their creativity style or manage the stress of change. I didn’t find in the marketplace a tool to help leaders understand their style of leading change and how they can become more effective at that.

What are the different styles of change intelligence leadership?

It’s a very basic model: hands, heart, head model. There are three basic ways that people lead change. Some people lead change from the heart. When these people lead change, they’re really focused on the people that are going through the change process. They’re really focused on the people, therefore they’re very communicative and collaborative, and they like to engage people and trust. However, each of the styles has a blind spot. So, if you’re high heart, sometimes you can hesitate to hold people accountable for meeting your expectations because you’re so concerned about the relationship or the feeling. So you can lose focus on the change goal and not enforce it with the sense of urgency required.

The next style is the head. They never lose focus on the goal, they love to look forward to that visionary future, they’re big picture, they love seeing the new trends and technology on the horizon. They’re very change friendly. Obviously that’s great, however, sometimes they can be so excited with their new vision that they don’t really get people on board. They move forward and no one else is with them. Other times, people are on board but they don’t know what to do because it’s so big picture or out there that they get inspired but they don’t know how to do it.

The third style is the hands. The hands love to focus on the doing it. They love to figure out the plan, the process, the road map. They’re very detail oriented, planful, efficient. Sometimes they get frustrated by the people, who are not following their order. Sometimes they can lose sight of the forest in the trees. They can be so focused on the details and the plan that they lose focus on the big picture.

Those are the three primary styles. You can put the three main styles together and if you picture a triangle, with each style in one corner, if you put them together, you can get seven styles. The neat thing is that if you look on the triangle, the style opposite of your own is your blind spot. It lets you know the way the different styles appreciate each other and the ways that they drive each other crazy. Just by recognizing and building the awareness of what your dominant style is, you also build awareness of what you should work on or develop. If you know what your blind spot is, you can either build some muscle in that area, could partner with other people, could put checklist and agendas in place.

Once you understand your style, how can you work on developing and strengthening that style?

A lot of the reasons that people who are in charge of leading change struggle is because they’re uncomfortable and they just don’t know what to do. It’s very frustrating. They get the need for the change, they want it, but the most common topic in change management literature is overcoming resistance to change. It’s all about how can we get others to change. That is extremely frustrating. They may be the ones spearheading it but sometimes it’s so daunting to change other people’s habits and perceptions.

That’s why, I’d say to look at the people they are leading. A lot of times people are fearing loss. They may fear they’re not going to be competent in the new way, it’s going to damage relationships, it’s going to make them uncomfortable in some way. You need an injection of heart. The leader needs to be available to ask questions, build relationships, demonstrate trust and unearth their concerns. If you’re observing your people and you’re hearing things like, “I don’t get it, why are we doing this?”, then it’s an indication that they don’t get the “why” and the “what” of the change.

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