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A Story about Change Leadership

There’s a lot that can be written about leading change and aspects such as change resistance.  It’s a major part of my professional practice and I’ll be writing more pieces on leading change in the coming weeks.

To start though, I want to share this story with you. I hope it makes you think about what is possible when you want to create change.

Our youngest son has hemiplegia and there’s clearly an emotional connection for me with the amazing work being done by @Hemihelp and the inventive rehabilitation approaches brought by Breath Magic.

Right now though, I want to distil some key messages coming across in the video that I believe relate very strongly to change leadership.

1. Show What Could Be

Much of creating change is about allowing ourselves to imagine a different future. Often what holds us back though are the old stories that we tell ourselves, that limit our assumptions of what could be.

Right at the start of the video, young Tristan illustrates this perfectly saying… “They always say like why do you have a broken hand. They always say that… I don’t have a broken hand do I. It’s just the hemiplegia isn’t it“.

What a great way to start a story about actually changing & developing the abilities of children with hemiplegia.  Any previous view of what isn’t possible (we’re broken) is parked if not dispelled (that’s just the hemiplegia) allowing those with doubts to see beyond to what could be.

Successful change leaders share a vision of the future that frees the assumptions of others to also see what could be.

2. Invest in Developing What You Need

The kids learn how to perform magic using both hands. That is their end goal. The change being brought about is to learn magic tricks, to use both hands and then to perform. Their investment in learning & development is 60 hours over 10 days.

Can you name a change programme that invested or asked for such focus on developing ability & readiness? The context is possibly quite different, but often the investment in the development of people in change programmes is rushed and focussed towards process rather than skills.

More than that, what I find fascinating and compelling in the video is how the kids are asked to use both hands for all tasks whilst on the programme. Not just for magic tricks. The modelling of new behaviours and attitudes needs to happen beyond the classroom or the “away day”.

Many of the successful change programmes I’ve been involved in showed similar traits. We lived and breathed the change, repetitively even, whilst we transitioned. It took constant effort.

Successful change leaders invest in the meaningful development of others to help them start to live the change as soon as possible.

3. Use Smart Experts Smartly

The video shows how a range of experts were brought in to support the programme and also to learn about how they can best help improve the skills of the kids. Their focus was not just about delivering a standard framework of training. The experts wanted to find out what would work for that particular group or with individuals.

Too many times I’ve seen organisations approach change with a “sheep dip” approach using consultants.  Everyone is expected to respond in the same way and behave as the paper plan says they will…

In my experience, the only times I’ve seen consultants work well with change programmes is where they took time to understand the needs of the majority so they could create smart approaches. Such consultants take time to learn both about you & from you. They draw on a broad range of knowledge, research & diagnostics to help find solutions that suits your organisation. They’ll help you demonstrate the real change you’ve created.

Successful change leaders bring in experts who will learn about your organisation and work smartly to create change, rather than pursue out of the box “sheep-dip” approaches.

4. Support Wellbeing

The change the kids are bringing about is more complex than just learning skills or find ways to improve the ability of their affected limbs. Their emotional wellbeing & confidence is important especially as they have to learn how to perform their magic.

During times of change, organisations have tended not to pay attention to the emotional or for that matter the mental wellbeing of staff. Yet, often the change being brought about has the potential to impact both. More than that perhaps, the emotional & mental wellbeing of staff will directly impact the success of the change.

Put simply, when we are uncertain of our abilities or the changing environment, more often than not it creates stress and impacts our wellbeing. Successful change relies on the successful mitigation of these factors. A key message coming across from the video and also true of change in organisations is the value of practice and meaningful support.

Successful change leaders support the wellbeing of their staff during change as they practice and build their confidence.

5. Show off your magic!

The whole story in the video is magical and culminates in the successful performance of magic by the kids. So for me the magic is both the journey as well as the performance. The celebration of each is really important in recognising what has been achieved and also helping others see what is possible.

Change isn’t an illusion but there are times when you need to sense a bit of magic. The magic won’t come from the change leaders as such – they’ve just set the stage for the magic to happen. The magic comes from the performance of the organisation and there’s huge value in celebrating and showing off the magic you’ve created.

Successful change leaders create the space for magic to happen and then shine a light on it – that’s their measure of success.

So there you have 5 key aspects of Change Leadership that I think this powerful little video shows beautifully :

  1. Show what could be
  2. Invest in developing what you need
  3. Use smart experts smartly
  4. Support wellbeing
  5. Show off your magic!

What else would you add? What more did you get from the video?


6 thoughts on “A Story about Change Leadership

  1. Beautiful. Well said.


    Posted by broc.edwards | April 16, 2013, 12:40 PM
  2. I’m so very grateful that you shared this David. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the kids stories and the work being done by people from all sorts of disciplines to work with them to learn, grow and develop. I particularly like the symbiotic blend of physical, mental and technological techniques applied in this way.
    I also agree with the parallels you draw with change management methodology. For me, the most significant messages are those around living the change alongside those you are helping transform. It’s not a simple linear box-ticking exercise but a holistic approach that needs continuous thought and application. Quite simply, a brilliant, well-composed, thoughtful and thought-provoking piece of writing – deserving of as wide an audience as possible.


    Posted by simonheath1 | April 16, 2013, 12:54 PM


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