Emotionally compelling change

Jonathan Mills
2 min readMay 26, 2024

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“Successful change initiatives deal with the emotional reality of a group”

Great leaders are sensitive to the emotions that facilitate change, and they find ways to enhance those feelings. They deal with emotions that undermine change, some of which are panic, exhaustion, frustration, pessimism, cynicism, insecurity, anger, and anxiety. They attempt to facilitate emotions which accelerate new thinking and doing, like trust, optimism, urgency, passion, excitement, faith, hope, and enthusiasm. Maybe they identify a challenge that stands in the way of successful change or produce a possible solution to a problem. They then show this to employees in ways that are as concrete as possible — by means of a something that the employee can see, hear, or touch. This means a demonstration with safety equipment rather than a report on safety equipment. This means frying the eggs and letting them taste them rather than giving them a lecture on eggs. Great leaders make their points in ways that are as emotionally engaging and compelling as possible. They supply valid ideas that go deeper than the conscious and analytical part of our brains — ideas with emotional impact. The feelings change behaviour, and with this change, employees are able deal with large-scale change despite huge challenges.

John P Kotter (The Heart of Change), in his final chapter “We See, We Feel, We Change”, insightfully notes: “Turbulence will never cease. The best evidence says that winning organisations will continue to deal with this fact by adapting and transforming appropriately. The single biggest challenge in the process is changing people’s behaviour. The key to this behavioural shift, so clear in successful transformations, is less about analysis and thinking and more about seeing and feeling.” As Albert Schweitzer once said: “Example is not the main thing influencing others. It is the only thing.”

Whilst it is true that clear thinking and figuring out the right strategy are key factors for large-scale change efforts to be effective, it is also true that people are sensitive to the emotions that undermine change, and they find ways to reduce those feelings. People are also sensitive to the emotions that facilitate change, and they find ways to enhance those feelings. For an organisation to leap forward, leaders need to find vehicles to communicate pictures of a new reality that are as emotionally engaging and compelling as possible.

Originally published at https://www.stretchforgrowth.com on May 26, 2024.

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Jonathan Mills

Jonathan has spent over 30 years focusing his efforts on developing people throughout the world. He believes that people have the most impact when stretched.