Taking a Leadership Stand is Necessary for Organizational Transformation

When an organization is undergoing a transformational effort, employees’ commitment to their own transformation is crucial to success, starting with the executives. More good management will not inspire the changes that will be necessary. The changes in an organization’s transformational effort will include process changes, cultural changes, and personal changes in ways of working. The changes needed will move along at an accelerated rate if the executives of the organization are modelling their own commitment to creating and implementing a new way of being a leader of the business. This starts with the executives inventing and executing a new future state for themselves.

Taking a Stand

What we mean by taking a stand is a simple concept, but quite challenging to implement. When you think about it, there is one speech act that creates a possible new future―a declaration.

There are many historical examples that we all recognize as declarations that changed the course of human history:

  • “We hold these truths to be self-evident―that all men are created equal” – Declaration of Independence for the United States of America
  • “Put a man on the moon by the end of the decade” – President John F. Kennedy

When these declarations were made, the current reality of the times did not match what was being said. For example, all men were not created equal in the 18th century when this statement was made. One’s state in life depended on what family you were born into. In early 1961, the U.S. was losing the space race, with no prospects for making any step-changing advances. There are many examples of a leader making a bold declaration that inspired and motivated large numbers of people to take new actions to make this new future occur.

By making a declaration – that is, to speak into existence a possible new future – it’s the first step in creating a new reality that is a break from the current one. But making a declaration is not enough. Committing to that declaration is required. Committing oneself to making the new future occur will begin the generation of new actions that will usher the new future into reality.

So, our definition of “Taking a Stand” is: Making a Declaration, plus Committing to it

Here’s the good news – as human beings, we take stands a lot. When people examine their own lives, they can recall times when  significant changes in the direction of their lives were taken. Frequently, people remember these times as moments when they “decided” on something. Looking back, they can see that they actually envisioned a new and unpredictable future for themselves and started taking new actions to fulfill it. So, when we are working with individuals inside an organization on taking a stand for themselves as a leader, they are able to draw on their own experiences in life.

Taking a Leadership Stand

Creating and implementing a new way of being a leader is taking a leadership stand. The process of creating a leadership stand is shown in this simple graphic.



Imagine that the orange circle represents all of “who you are” currently as a leader. For the most part, executives have far more leadership traits that work well for them. In taking a stand, recognizing some of these traits can be really useful in distinguishing “ways of being” a leader.



Shaded in this illustration are “areas needing improvement”. These areas are usually well known by the executives because of various feedback mechanisms through their careers. Traditionally, people approach their leadership development by taking on these areas needing improvement and converting them to successful changes in their leadership. We have found, and there is a lot of research data showing, that “fixing” elements to improve are not the most successful ways to develop one’s leadership. Fixing something starts with a negative – that is, fixing implies changing something that is currently bad. Taking a leadership stand is not about fixing something, but rather creating and executing something.

The larger bubble in this illustration is a visual on a leadership stand. You will notice that taking a leadership stand is about expanding one’s leadership. There are some key variables to consider when creating this leadership stand.

  • Inspirational
  • Desired
  • The Wow factor
  • Would make a difference to you and to the organization
  • Actionable

Inventing and committing to a new way of being a leader must be inspirational to the person. Without this element, the new way of being a leader will be difficult to execute. The changes required will be hard to make because it becomes a “have to” rather than a “want to”.

The new way of being a leader must be desired by the leader. If the person doesn’t really care if the necessary changes are made, then the new actions and ways of thinking will be difficult to implement.

A leadership stand must be a game changer for the executive to be most effective. This wow factor needs to be a sufficient jolt out of the current box that they are in. The leadership stand needs to be big enough to generate the uncomfortable changes that are necessary.



Since the executives are committed to making a difference in their organizations, the leadership stand must be a significant change that will contribute to the organization as a whole.

Finally, the leadership stand must be actionable. Only describing this new state of being a leader will not give the leader the thoughts about how to make the changes desired in real time. I often ask the person I am working with to do a litmus test. “Imagine a meeting or a recent time when you were involved with a group of people. Notice how you are being and your actions in this situation. Now install in your head this leadership stand. What would you do differently, if anything?” This view allows us to observe significant changes or not. If not, we must keep working on the expression of the leadership stand so that the leader may make changes, moment by moment.

The arrows in this illustration show the new actions the leader can invent and take from the expression of their leadership stand. Declaring a new way of being and committing to it is how a leadership stand is generated. Considering new actions and behaviors is necessary to give the person the best chances of success in their leadership stand.

Ways to Get There

When in the process of creating a powerful leadership stand, there are several things to consider during the process.

  • Someone you are inspired by, that you admire, that you have thought about wanting to be that way as a leader

We all have people in our lives who were role models for us. These people were being certain ways that were inspiring and motivating to us. They may be teachers, coaches, managers, and/or executives that we found to be motivating to us. In fact, they often were instrumental in our advancing into new roles or opportunities.

  • You might have a burning desire to be this new way

Frequently, people we are working with have thought to themselves “I wish I could be that kind of a leader”. These areas that are desired are a good start in inventing a leadership stand that will be very effective for the individual and their organization.

  • Is there a recurring theme in feedback or annual reviews that occur

When there is a recurring theme, or an element in feedback that is mentioned, this can be a starting point to inventing a leadership stand. The outcome from this work will not be about fixing this element. Rather, it can illuminate a direction or approach to an effective leadership stand.

A Few Leadership Stand Examples

Here are a few examples that illustrate what an effective leadership stand could sound like.

  • An effective project manager promoted to a new strategic project whose project members were peers:
    • I am an inspired and inspiring leader

For this project leader, we didn’t want to change the many ways of being and behaviors that were highly successful as a project manager. However, something was clearly missing in the ways the project manager was executing this critical strategic project. After thinking it through together, we came to the realization that the project manager was only focusing on controlling the project. Since the team members were this manager’s peers, this command and control way of being was just not effective. Getting the manager’s attention on their team, in addition to the project management, helped them become a much more effective leader of the project.

  • A highly successful sales person was promoted to national sales executive:
    • I am a centered and thoughtful leader

Some of this leader’s strengths in sales were getting in the way of her being an effective national sales executive. The person’s sense of urgency, decisive and quick responses, and the take charge attitude necessary to be successful in sales were some of the strengths. However, when leading other sales managers, these were undesirable, causing some unwanted turnover and unsuccessful sales efforts. By committing to being centered and thoughtful, the leader was able to adopt new approaches to being a national sales leader. These new approaches were added to the strengths the leader already demonstrated.

  • A soft-spoken scientist in his first leadership role:
    • I am a bold leader, always making a difference

This manager was literally a rocket scientist. Their strengths included a ton of smarts and brilliant project management. But consistent feedback included “being too quiet and withdrawn”. This manager took this leadership stand of being bold, which gave him behaviors that created more expression and “out there” approaches to leading the team.

Execution and transformation require something “exceptional”. Simply being the same-old-same-old ways is unlikely going to be successful.


Any transformational change for an organization will be uncomfortable. Old ways of being and ways of working will be ineffective in realizing this transformational change. Execution and transformation projects move about as fast as the development of the executives who are accountable for them. Executives must step up as role models for all of their employees, showing that they are also committed to making changes in the ways of managing and leading the organization.

When executives take their own leadership stands, and demonstrate their stands in public ways, they will serve as sources of inspiration to others throughout the organization. This includes the opportunity for anyone in the organization to take their own leadership stands out of their commitment to advancing the transformation for the organization. It is essential that the senior executives are fostering this kind of mindset and behavior from everyone in the organization, and that examples of “being a leader” are recognized and appreciated.

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Building Trust In An Organization

Trust in any organization is a big deal. We have consulted companies around the world, and it is obvious that when trust is present in an organization, performance is far superior than if trust is missing. Trust is an expression of and evidence for a good organizational culture.

There are two key elements to work with when organizations want to elevate levels of trust:

  1. Behaviors and actions of people in the organization = are readily seen (like symptoms of a disease)
  2. The source of those behaviors and actions = are invisible to the organization and consist of deep-rooted mindsets about trust (like the causes of a disease)

Changing Trust in an Organization

In his article in Forbes, David Horsager wrote:

“Trust garners better output, morale, retention, innovation, loyalty, and revenue, while mistrust fosters skepticism, frustration, low productivity, lost sales, and turnover. Trust affects a leader’s impact and the company’s bottom line more than any other single thing.”

If trust is so foundational to the health of a culture, transforming an organization’s trust levels will have a significant impact on the culture. Professors John Kotter and James Heskett performed a Harvard Business School study documenting the significant impact of culture on performance over an 11-year period. The financial performance differences were “staggering”, to use one of Dr Kotter’s descriptions.

“For example, the companies with good cultures achieved 756% growth in net income during the same time period that companies with poor performing cultures saw just 1% net income growth.”

Recently, I heard of a large multinational company that is in the process of generating more trust in its people and operations. From looking at the potential returns, it is understandable why the executives want to improve trust levels in the organization. However, their approach is to drive a change in employee behaviors within the organization through a series of training programs and follow up modules. In our experience, this effort may have some positive outcomes – getting people to learn about trust and how they behave is certainly going to make some difference. However, this approach of focusing only on employee behaviors and actions is just “the tip of the iceberg,” Real transformation will only come when the source of the behaviors is discovered, thought through, and transformed. Once this occurs, people then create changes in behaviors and actions consistent with this new way of thinking about trust and the organization. Both are required for a successful transformation.

Getting to the Source of Trust Issues

A good question to ask yourself :

What might the mindset of an organization be if executives, managers and employees are not trusting each other?

From an organizational perspective, the mindset would come from some learned experiences from the past, generally among positions or groups. Examples of mindsets we have heard before:

  • “Sales doesn’t trust manufacturing”
  • “Marketing doesn’t trust sales operations”
  • “Finance doesn’t trust anyone”
  • “Management can’t be trusted”
  • “Unions can’t be trusted”

These mindsets are very generalized statements that likely began at some point a long time ago. Additionally, these mindsets have little to do with specific people in any of the functions. Clearly, if these are the prevalent mindsets within an organization, no amount of new behavior changes will make a significant difference. Focusing only on behavior changes will lead to checklist activities, no substantive change, and a high degree of cynicism.

Being Trusting and Trustworthy Requires a New Mindset

To be trusting and trustworthy starts with the senior executives of the organization. They must actively engage in understanding and transforming their own mindsets around trust among each other as well as their managers and employees. In transforming their mindsets, they must create new behaviors that they will apply consistently to demonstrate and model the new ways of being trusting and trustworthy with people in the organization.

These new behaviors and actions will start to manifest themselves in profound ways, such as:

  • As an executive, you can own what has happened in the past, and that it happened on your watch; that you recognize the negative impact you may have had on employees in the past, and that you are committed to changing the mindsets, the behaviors and the culture for the benefit of everyone in the company.
  • As an executive, you can acknowledge that trust has been an issue, that you are looking to improve trust, and that you recognize that you will need to change too. That you also need everyone in the company to embrace the change knowing that there may be times that it is not easy to do so, but you ask for their help and efforts.

These are two examples – the key is that whatever the message, executives are being trusting of them and trustworthy for them.

However, for trust to be the norm throughout the organization, relying only on the senior executives will not be enough. All leaders throughout the organization must be engaged in these new mindsets. This include the leaders of the business who have authority and titles, as well as the thought leaders, influencers, and people in the organization who are widely respected. These leaders must also be engaged in this new way of being trusting and trustworthy with new actions invented and taken.

A global manufacturing organization with whom we worked was committed to a transformational growth strategy. Part of the transformation had to start at the top of the organization. The leaders of the business had to transform their mindsets about the unions from “they can’t be trusted” to “they are our partners for growth”. The leaders could see where the old mindsets came from – painful events happened when the company was going through a major downsizing a decade before, resulting in broken trust between the executives and the unions. By recognizing this, they were able to authentically commit themselves to adopting and behaving consistent with the new mindset.

A great example of this new mindset’s behaviors in action was demonstrated by interactions with one of the former union presidents who was a “known troublemaker” in the company and was very vocal in his distrust of the leadership of the company.

Steeped in this new mindset, the president of the company met with this person along with other informal leaders and had several conversations with them to establish a new baseline of trust. The president’s behaviors demonstrated to these employees that he was committed to the transformation and growth strategy and was being humble and authentic in his new mindset and behaviors. It was only a matter of months and we began to see that the former troublemaker was becoming the biggest advocate of the transformational efforts and growth strategy. During a large town hall, he stood and shared his support in quite an emotional way, influencing many of those in the audience to begin to make changes in their own mindsets and behaviors around trust.

As more formal and informal leaders are transforming their mindsets to being trusting and trustworthy, getting employees engaged will be supported by the formal and informal leaders.


The need for any organization to have high levels of Trust as part of its organizational culture is fundamental and will make a significant difference to the performance and bottom line of the organization. In order to make a transformational and lasting impact on this kind of change, the two elements to consider:

  1. The behaviors and actions that we can see. That is, what the executives, managers and employees are doing and how they are behaving.
  2. The source of these behaviors and actions. That is, what are the mindsets and fundamental beliefs that are driving those behaviors and actions?

A change in behaviors is definitely an outcome that must be seen from any change initiative. However, focusing only on behaviors will likely result in an expensive, time consuming and marginally effective undertaking. Discovering the source of behaviors and actions can be incredibly hard to pin down. That is what we here at KingChapman have been doing with organizations globally for the past 30 years and is one of the great tools that we provide.

It is imperative, possible and doable, and well worth the effort, to transform the source of trust in an organization, creating new behaviors and actions to drive significant value.

Building trust is just one element of transformation, performance and growth. Growing a business is a daunting task for many, if not most, executives. While growth is considered fun, and what executives dream of being engaged in, achieving sustainable growth is another story.

Download our PDF: “Executive Challenges” and learn the Execution of Growth Strategies and Organizational Transformation.

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Anyone Can Be A Leader

By Larry G Hoelscher, Partner & Bob Chapman, PhD, Managing Partner of KingChapman

Leadership is the starting point for strategy, execution and transformation. Building a cadre or core of leaders is a critical success factor. Yet too often leadership is thought to be exercised only by executives and a few other chosen individuals. We say that is not only wrong, but it robs organizations of a most precious resource for executing strategic change and transformation. How then does this mistake keep occurring?

Where to Start?

The place to begin is by expanding one’s view of leadership beyond the narrow views that…

  • Leadership is the “private reserve” of executives and senior managers
  • Leadership is done by people in management and supervisory positions
  • Leadership and management are the same thing

As we have worked with clients around the world for decades, we continue to hear some if not all of these assertions. A most common expression is that leadership is performed by executives or “those people on top”. When employees are asked “What are the things these executives do that show leadership”, we most often here “I don’t know”. In most challenging settings the “I don’t know” is often followed by “not much given the shape we are in”.

It is very common to hear that “our leaders are our managers and supervisors”. Again, when employees are asked what this means, the most common answers have to do with management roles performed by this individual. This includes:

  • Forecasting
  • Planning
  • Organizing
  • Commanding
  • Coordinating
  • Controlling

Each of these are important functions of management, yet this is not leadership.

Leadership is Different from Management

We have written a number of blogs and articles on the differences between management and leadership. For the purposes of this article, we would like to paraphrase John Kotter from one of his videos “The Key Differences Between Leading and Managing”:

“Management is fundamentally a set of processes, most core of which are planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling, and problem solving. Leadership is a set of processes involving creating a vision of the future and strategies to get there, communicating out to people in a way that gets them to buy in to the vision and strategies, creating an environment that motivates those people, and inspiring the people to want to make the vision a reality.”

By distinguishing between Management and Leadership, it becomes clear that Management occurs as a result of the business structure, and the people in management roles are designated to manage a group of people, functions, etc. It also becomes clear that leadership is not the result of any structure or function, or even of the level someone happens to be in on the organization chart. Instead, leadership can be seen by the inspired actions of others, and with this concept in mind, anyone can be doing their jobs and having a positive and inspiring impact on others around them – that is, being leaders.

Accepting the fundamental differences between Management and Leadership, we are making the following assertions:

  • First – that anyone can be a leader
  • Second – if employees are being leaders, they have a greater sense of commitment to delivering the outcomes of the business, have greater effectiveness, have more ownership of why they are doing the things they are charged to do, and have a greater sense of their impact on others around them
  • Third – if employees are operating as leaders, they will perform in ways that create greater value to the organization

For executives of any organization to desire a fully engaged workforce, they must commit to doing the things necessary to generate this kind of inspired and generative group of employees. If the executives are creating this kind of environment, there are a few fundamental distinctions we have found that are necessary for employees to fully embrace the full power of “Anyone Can Be a Leader”.

How Can Anyone in an Organization Be a Leader?

There are fundamentally 3 steps in creating the kind of engagement demonstrated by a workforce of leaders:

1.  Commitment to Being a Leader

Commitment to being a leader comes in two parts:

  1. The executives of the organization commit themselves to creating this kind of environment
  2. Each employee commits themselves to think and behave as a leader in the business

2. Ownership / Accountability

3. Communication

Commitment to Being a Leader

The first step in getting everyone engaged as a leader is for the executive(s) to make a clear and public commitment to this concept. When people are empowered to demonstrate their leadership in the organization while doing their jobs, their engagement levels in executing the vision and strategies of the organization goes “sky high”. It is essential that the senior executives are fostering this kind of mindset and behavior from everyone in the organization, and that examples of “being a leader” are recognized and appreciated.

For everyone in the organization, their first step is similar – they must decide that they are going to be a leader in the organization. This decision is a personal choice, that once made, unleashes their creativity, spirit, energy – all the good stuff that are demonstrations of a highly engaged workforce.


Any leader in the business must be fully aware of the OUTCOMES for which they are accountable. With this awareness, committing themselves to deliver the outcomes in a way that is inspiring to others. Let’s look at some definitions:

  1. One with an interest in and often dominion over property
  2. One with the right to exclusive use, control, or possession of property

With this kind of ownership, leaders’ passion to deliver results is immediately apparent. One motto that we suggest the leaders plant in their heads: “Good excuses do not equal results!”. Leaders’ ownership and accountability for delivering the business results, and ownership and accountability of HOW they deliver results, are powerful indicators of being an inspiring leader.


For this concept of “anyone can be a leader” to work, an increase in communication by each leader is essential. A significant increase in:

  • Communication up (to supervisors, managers, execs),
  • Communication laterally (to peers and co-workers), and
  • Communication down (to others on teams, in the organization, suppliers, contractors, customers)

This heightened level of communication elevates each of the leaders to be aware of how they fit into the big picture, with a commitment to keep the other parts of the organization aware of their status, issues, breakdowns, etc – so that more leaders are involved to maximize success.

An interesting analogy on how this plays out can be found in any team sport. Let’s use American football:

Imagine a college football team, the offensive unit, and further that one of the offensive linemen sprains his ankle. Whose problem is that player’s sprained ankle?

Clearly, it is the player’s problem. After all, it is his ankle.

However, his sprained ankle is also the team’s problem. Because now, the team does not have one player at 100% capacity.

The main job of the injured player? Communicate their problem with the team, so that the team can figure out how to execute and work around the injured player. Or the communication could result in the player being replaced by another player. Etc.

The point – the offensive lineman is demonstrating his leadership by being accountable for the success of his position, and is communicating to the team so that future plays can be adjusted to take into account the injured player.

Anyone Can Be a Leader

“Anyone Can Be a Leader” is absolutely true! We see it all the time with our clients. The value created by people not in management positions is amazing. Some of the most powerful breakthroughs and growth stories occur because of leadership from nonmanagers. Further, committing to making anyone and everyone in the organization a leader is among the most powerful interventions to increase engagement than any we have seen. It is well worth the time and effort to foster this level of engagement!


If you want to learn more about what characteristics and roles leadership plays in the success of any organization, download our whitepaper: ‘Successful Strategic Execution Begins With Leaders’.

In it, you will learn:

  • The two hallmarks of an effective leader
  • The most crucial value for leaders to possess
  • The greatest contribution a leader provides
  • The most valuable ‘tool’ for a leader to wield

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Interdependence is Transformation in Action

This article is co-authored by Bob Chapman & Larry Hoelscher

Think back over the last month. How many times have you heard any of the following statements or something close to it?

  • “We operate in silos, and that is blocking us from getting the needed improvement!”
  • “We are continually waiting on them to deliver … there is nothing we can do.”
  • “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”
  • “I need the organization to work together better.”

Can you see a theme present in all these statements? Even though action could be taken to improve performance in the business, it is somehow blocked. Absent that blockage, those speaking or thinking these statements would initiate the appropriate action.

So what is stopping them? Usually, the blockage occurs because others need to agree on the actions needed and take them. There is dependence on others to take action, and for whatever reason the desired action is not occurring. The people and groups with whom the dependency exists are either unaware of the desired action or have thus far been unable or unwilling to act.

Most business people do not like being dependent on anyone or anything. We like to think we are ‘captains of our own ship’ and free to act. Although this is a nice fantasy, it is not reality for most of us, as we are dependent on others for virtually everything we do.  And, in most cases, others are dependent on us for virtually everything they do.  In implementing large scale, transformative changes recognizing this is essential. We are dependent on others – transformational performance requires unique skills in interdependence.


The Oxford English Dictionary defines interdependency as “the fact or condition of depending each upon the other; mutual dependence”. Depend is a verb which means “to rest entirely on for what is needed”.

So, interdependence can be thought of as mutual reliance between two or more groups. Of course, there are varying degrees of interdependence.

“It is worth noting that in an interdependent relationship, participants may be emotionally, economically, ecologically and/or morally reliant on and responsible to each other.

A key takeaway is that in a relationship with interdependence, both parties are reliant on and responsible to each other.  In achieving transformational actions, the quality of this relationship must be exceptional. It should reflect ‘Being Accountable For’, ‘Reliant On’, and ‘Responsible To’ each other!

Needless to say, that level of accountability and responsibility in interdependency is not to be taken for granted. Instead it is created and sustained with much hard work. This hard work comes from inquiry into crucial questions:

  • What are we (am I) accountable for?
    • What we are looking for here is the outcome that is to be produced, rather than the process or the set of actions agreed to. Often, there is a lack of clarity on the specific outcome that is expected, while there is high visibility on the action plan prescribed.
  • On whom are we (am I) reliant?
    • The transformation we are seeking in this question is FROM “I can’t do it until they …” which equals victim, TO “I am relying on them” which can equal partnership, collaboration, working together, assistance … alliance or partnership.
    • This transformation changes the nature of the interactions among the various people/teams/groups/functions, so that we observe people pulling together to deliver the desired outcome.
  • To whom are we (am I) responsible?
    • Insights gained from this inquiry include ownership of our impact on others in the total organization, and consequences of this impact.

You may be thinking, “that is all well and good, but it does not happen in a complex, tough business such as mine”. Let’s look at a case example:

Case Example of Commercial Aviation

Commercial Aviation as an excellent example of a very complex and fast-moving system, with significant interdependencies.  With the aligned commitment of complete safety with zero accidents by everyone involved in this system, Commercial Aviation is one of the safest modes of transportation worldwide.

For illustrative purposes, take any one of the 8 groups of players in commercial aviation shown in the diagram below, and ask:  Regarding safety:

  • For what is this group accountable?
  • On whom is this group reliant?
  • To whom is this group responsible?


To illustrate how these interdependencies work, let’s look from the perspective of one of the bubbles (Flight Crew), with a focus on one member of the Flight Crew – The Pilot:

  1. Regarding safety, what is any pilot accountable for?
    • The pilot is accountable for the safety of the passengers and crew onboard, as well as the safety of the aircraft.
    • In addition, the pilot is also accountable for the safety of the system as a whole, by observing, assessing and communicating any issues that could be a safety risk, even though that safety risk may not pose any immediate threat to his/her aircraft.
  2. Regarding safety, who is any pilot reliant on?
    • The pilot is reliant on:
      1. All other members of the flight crew, for their management of the passengers and the interior of the aircraft.
      2. The passengers, for following any instructions from the flight crew given for their safety.
      3. The ground crew, for external checks to the aircraft, proper loading and unloading of baggage and cargo, for safe arrival into the gate, for safe departure from the gate into the taxi flow, etc. Around the gate, the ground crew serves as the pilot’s eyes behind and around the aircraft.
      4. Air traffic control, for slotting them into a position with all other aircraft in the area, for safe flights, takeoffs, and landings.
      5. Other aircraft, for communicating issues such as bad weather, changes in altitudes, etc – especially during flight.
      6. Maintenance, for making certain that the aircraft is maintained properly for safe flights, and for evaluating and correcting any technical issues when both on the ground and in the air.
      7. The pilot is also reliant on all of the other groups shown in the picture.
  1. Regarding safety, to whom is the pilot responsible?
    • The pilot is responsible to:
      1. The passengers for a safe flight.
      2. Air traffic control, for following instructions (altitude, direction, landing, taxiing, etc)
      3. Ground crew, for following their instructions on baggage, cargo, refueling, inspections, etc.
      4. Other aircraft, for alerting them with issues such as flight changes, altitude changes, up to date information regarding weather, etc.
      5. Maintenance, for alerting them to issues experienced with any component of the aircraft.
      6. The pilot is also responsible to all of the other groups shown in the picture.

Obviously, this is a very simplistic view of a complex system, but it does show the importance of the people in the system working in interdependent ways.  That is, they are accountable for safety, using appropriately all information from those on whom they are reliant, and they must be responsible to others who are counting on information from them to fulfill their roles in the system.  If any one member of any of the groups does not behave in an interdependent way, then bad things can happen.  Imagine the chaos at the very least, and danger in very real terms, if one pilot does not follow the instructions of flight control.

We could review members in all the bubbles shown in the picture.  In fact, it could be an interesting exercise by putting yourself in the shoes of anyone in any of the bubbles, and asking yourself: For what am I accountable, on whom am I reliant, and to whom am I responsible?  It can shed light on areas that need improvement, and specific things that can be done that will make a difference.  This examination is particularly enlightening when the same three questions of interdependence about any team, function, or part of an organization are honestly and thoroughly understood.

Bottom Line

Exceptional results occur when those involved in the business intendency are being accountable for, reliant on, and responsible to each other!  Working Interdependently is a crucial aspect of delivering outstanding results in systems that are getting more and more complex.

What interdependent relationships are currently hampering the performance of your business? What is possible for improving those relationships? The proper leadership to foster interdependence is critical.


If you want to learn more about what characteristics and roles leadership plays in the success of any organization, download our whitepaper: ‘Successful Strategic Execution Begins With Leaders’.

In it, you will learn:

  • The two hallmarks of an effective leader
  • The most crucial value for leaders to possess
  • The greatest contribution a leader provides
  • The most valuable ‘tool’ for a leader to wield

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How the Tangram Became Our Metaphor for Transformation

We were blown away – so simple and yet so . . . perfect!

When we began working with Neos Marketing, we posed a simple request – is there a way to demonstrate “transformation”, either visually or physically? Neos took up the challenge. And the result was brilliant!

First – a brief definition for transformation (from Webster’s Dictionary):

transform, v.

Etymology: < Latin transformāre, < trans- prefix + formāre to form, < forma form. Compare French transformer (14th cent. in Godefroy Compl.), also Old French tresformer

1. a. trans. To change the form of; to change into another shape or form; to metamorphose.

b. transf. To change in character or condition; to alter in function or nature.

2. intr. To undergo a change of form or nature; to change.

1. The action of transforming or fact of being transformed.

– a. The action of changing in form, shape, or appearance; metamorphosis.

– b. A changed form; a person or thing transformed.

2. transf. A complete change in character, condition, etc.

So how we can show people a visual representation of that? By using a metaphor.

Metaphor for Transformation

When we speak about organizational transformation, which is the bread and butter of our practice, we are using the definition:

“To change in character or condition; to alter in function or nature.”

We have been fortunate as a firm to have worked with many organizations over the past thirty years with their transformational efforts. Any organization wanting to “transform” is really wanting to realize a complete change in their character, condition, etc.

A few examples, expressed in the client’s words:

  • “from a declining business in a declining market, to a growing business winning in the marketplace”
  • “from a product centric business, to a customer centric business”
  • “from a business struggling to survive, to a darling of Wall Street”

As you can see from these simple expressions, the organizations pursuing their transformation were not interested in incremental improvements, which definitely have their place in any successful business. The transformational aspect for these organizations represented significant changes, in order to deliver a step change in performance. These were big changes, and big deal changes. As KingChapman’s tag line suggests:

Big Growth Requires Big Change

Big Change Demands Big Leadership

So, our request to our partners at Neos Marketing was with this understanding of transformation in mind.

When Neos came up with the idea of tangrams, to be honest, I had to look the word up before I knew what they were talking about!

What is a Tangram?

The tangram is a dissection puzzle consisting of seven flat shapes, called tans, which are put together to form shapes. The objective of the puzzle is to form a specific shape (given only an outline or silhouette) using all seven pieces, which may not overlap. It is believed to have been invented in China and carried over to Europe by trading ships in the early 19th century. A Chinese psychologist has termed the tangram “the earliest psychological test in the world”, albeit one made for entertainment rather than for analysis.

This is an example:


Why were we so excited with this idea?

We at KingChapman believe in the people inside our client organizations, because we have seen for decades how much people can do if they are given the right mix of best practices and expertise that we bring to our clients. We have seen people achieve amazing results, make great changes in the approaches to their businesses, think about themselves and their companies in new and different ways – all in the pursuit of making the transformation happen in their organizations.

So just like the tangram can change into different shapes, so too can organizations make major changes happen that add material value to themselves, their owners, their employees, their communities and their customers.

Same components + different shape = a transformation

Part of our ‘secret sauce’ in working with organizations that are engaged in a transformational effort is making certain that leaders in the organization are also transforming in the process. As our tagline above says, ‘big change demands big leadership’ in any transformational effort.

How do the leaders change? They grow / expand / develop their leadership capabilities and competencies.

And why do they do this? Because this is what it takes for any organization to truly transform – everyone in the company must transform as well, starting with the leaders of the organization.

Our many thanks to the team at Neos Marketing. This tangram idea is a brilliant demonstration of what KingChapman is all about – transformation of organizations to drive big time gains in value.


Another way to drive transformation in organizations is through a ‘breakthrough project’.  To learn more about how to implement this in your organization, download our white paper, “7 Elements for Chartering a Breakthrough Project”.

In it you will learn:

  • what a ‘Breakthrough Project’ is and why it’s critical to organizational transformation
  • why creating a ‘charter’ is a critical step in the process
  • the critical roles that key people must play in the project to enhance success

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Five Secrets of Successful Post-Acquisition Integrations

Success in post-acquisition integration is essential to the success of any M&A. Even if the strategy behind the acquisition is brilliant, it must also have brilliant leadership in execution to achieve success. Based on our experience and research, we have identified five critical success factors for leaders in post-acquisition integration, in implementing organizational change and integrating new organizations.

These factors are:

  1. Communication, communication, communication
  2. Maintaining stabilities
  3. Integration of management processes and systems
  4. Organization design
  5. Winning hearts and minds


In post appraisals of acquisition integrations, the one item which stands out is communication. Employees say there was not enough communication, even when those leading the acquisition think “we over-communicated”. In planning an acquisition, it is important to remember that communication is a critical element. Too often communications are thought of after the fact, and become a “bolt on” to the overall integration planning. That is an often-fatal mistake. Communication provides stability, which is essential to people during change.

Communication is the primary tool of leaders. The leaders must see communications as coming first and be in the forefront, rather than an afterthought. Communications and those delivering the communicating must be authentic, committed, and passionate about success of the business. The employees must see high levels of congruence and consistency between their leader’s ways of being, communications and actions.

Maintaining Stabilities

An often-overlooked element in successful change is maintaining stabilities during the change. This is important for all individuals experiencing change. Those leading organizations during acquisitions can assist their people by talking about the importance of maintaining personal stabilities as well as reinforcing organizational commitments, policies, practices and values.

Acquisitions are stressful for all concerned. There is tremendous uncertainty for employees on both sides of the deal. Some people benefit from reinforcing of boundaries and controls during these times of change and uncertainty. Clarity of policies serves as a “safety rail” to people during change. As an example of why reinforcing policies is useful, I have seen that during this period of uncertainty sales people consider making “special deals” with customers as a means of gaining favor and possibly a new job. These “special deals” are usually discovered at some point, and create an awkward situation between the company and its customers.

Once the acquisition closes, it is important to rapidly clarify policies and processes for the new organization. An effective way to accomplish this is to have process simplification / work elimination sessions to streamline policies that work best for the new company. I have facilitated a number of there around the globe, and have found it to be excellent tool for bringing the two organizations together to focus on how they can “win together”. It also brings to the surface other integration issues which need to be dealt with. Following alignment on policies and processes, it is important to quickly get communication out to every employee. Clarity on policies and practices is important for maintaining stabilities.

Integration of Management Processes and Systems

Successfully integrating management processes and systems is both a people and technical issue. This is the area where post-acquisition integration projects “hit the rocks”. I am often surprised how invested people are in these processes and systems. So much so that any change occurs like a personal affront and attack. People often complain about these processes and systems, and then become upset by any attempt to change them. By its nature, an acquisition means that people in at least one of the companies will be upset by the changing of management processes and systems. It is often seen as the real communication about winners and losers, which of course is deadly in post-acquisition integrations.

As part of planning the integration process, it is useful to rapidly identify those processes which must be addressed. This includes identification of processes to be eliminated or retired, reports which will be retired, and meetings that will be eliminated. Streamlining processes from the perspective of the customer will improve the business and help manage issues with customers. As an example, if the two organizations have common customers, how will sales relations, pricing, inventory numbers and supply agreements be handled? This information allows the customers to experience the workability of the combined organizations, rather than waiting to see if it will actually work out.

Integrating management systems is often a huge challenge. There are two types of management systems to consider:

  • Policy based, e.g., benefits, compensation, etc.
  • Computer systems, e.g., As one company uses Oracle while the other SAP. There are often good business reasons for these differences. Planning the integration of computerized systems is crucial for success.

Organization design

Organizations have designs which determine how they function. Coming into an acquisition, the two organizations each had a unique organizational design. Hence the importance of examining the existing organizational designs in order to create new organizational alignment to be used going forward.

Organizational design is a concept that is undergoing considerable change. For many the term, organizational design was considered to be synonymous with structure. Managers often think the place to start thinking about organizational design is to identify the desired structure, with key positions. Organizational structure is important, yet is probably the last factor to consider rather than the first. Instead, we recommend using design thinking to assist in developing the new organizational design. Design thinking begins with an inquiry such as:

  • What are these organizations designed to accomplish today?
  • What changes can we already see occurring, e.g., customers’ preferences, competitors, digitation of the industries, market dynamics, etc.?
  • What organizational design will best serve us in the future?
  • How can we create this new design which best fits our needs?
  • What future and strategic intent shapes our thinking about this design?
  • Who should be involved in creating this design?

Winning Hearts & Minds

People engagement and mobilization ultimately requires winning the hearts and minds of all stakeholders. Absent that, meaningful change does not occur. Engagement seldom occurs until the person has handled their question of “what is the impact of this on me” and “what do I feel/think about these changes”. At the same time, having the opportunity to be involved and participate is an important opportunity for becoming engaged. Winning hearts and minds is a reflection of leadership, for both the full engagement of the mind and the full-on commitment of the heart can only be achieved by a leader who is fostering this kind of ownership and engagement in this major change effort.


Half of M&A transactions fail to create value. Ever wonder why? Download our whitepaper ‘The Conundrum of People in M&A’, and understand the critical elements that impact mergers and acquisitions success or failure.

In it, you will learn:

  • Eight common flaws in decision-making often made by executives in M&A transactions
  • Why the integration process is so critical
  • Tactics in organizing, planning, and communicating that lead to successful integrations

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Leadership Lessons Learned from Hurricane Harvey

“I am here to help you. What do you need?”, offered Becca.

True leadership is shown in the spontaneous actions of people to their circumstances. When people are inspired to make a difference, they become leaders and inspire others to take extraordinary actions. In this case, it was a generous woman reaching out to support families who could never repay the gifts that they were given. Further, the leaders in this case were inspirational and were never acknowledged for their contribution. Lastly, the evidence of inspired leadership was the amazing response of other people and organizations joining in to help. There were some important leadership lessons learned from the tragedy wrought by Hurrican Harvey.

This past Saturday evening, I had the chance to join some friends over dinner. All of the dinner guests were very fortunate in that none of us suffered any losses from Hurricane Harvey, which dumped up to 50” of rain on the Houston area in less than a week, producing unbelievable flooding all around our great city. But one person in our party – Becca – shared an amazing story about a neighborhood not far from her home that didn’t escape the flooding.

I want to repeat her story, because I found it so inspiring as I realized that her experience demonstrates the kind of true leadership that my partners and I are always attempting to foster with our clients.

Becca’s Story

A couple of days after Hurricane Harvey moved out of our area, Becca went to one of her favorite local restaurants and noticed that one of the waiters who had been around for 10 years was not in the building. She asked if he was ok, and learned that his neighborhood had experienced massive flooding. Since this neighborhood was not far away, she drove there and was shocked at what she witnessed. Homes had taken up to five feet of water, mud was everywhere including the streets and inside the homes, and homeowners were starting to empty their homes because everything inside had been ruined.

She found her “favorite waiter” at his home, with his wife and 2 little children, and Becca walked right up to him, looked him in the eye, and said, “I am here to help. What do you need?”

When she got his list, she went home and got on Facebook with one of her neighborhood friends and asked them to help. Later that day, she returned with other friends with 600 sandwiches for the families in the neighborhood, cases of bottled water, cleaning supplies, rakes, shovels, tools – basically everything on the list.

Becca and her team returned the next day…

And the next day…

And has been helping this neighborhood of people for over two weeks.

And her list of volunteers continues to grow, as do the supplies needed by these families to rebuild their lives.

I found her story incredibly moving, and inspiring. She looked at the people and their situation, and chose to be a leader by making a difference in the best way she could comprehend. What has been achieved as a result of her leadership has made a difference to that whole neighborhood, and far exceeded what a rational person would have predicted could have been accomplished.

Breakthrough Projects and Leadership

Last month, my partner Bob Chapman wrote an article, “Creating Organizational Transformation With Breakthrough Projects”.

In this article, he shared a number of predictable actions, based on our years of experience, that come from the teams that are leading breakthrough projects:

  • Delivering exceptional business results more quickly than expected
  • Developing transformation leaders in different levels of the business
  • Engaging employees in a way they have never been engaged before

This article was obviously written with a business in mind. Typically, an executive is looking to deliver some step-change in performance due to a variety of factors. We work with client companies to properly charter these breakthrough projects, and then work with both the Executive Sponsors of the projects as well as the Project Leaders and Project Teams, to create and execute breakthrough projects delivering unimaginable performance and results.

Ways Becca Personafied Transformational Leadership

What is it that is so inspiring about Becca and what she has been able to do? There are many comparisons between Becca and the transformational leaders that we are working to develop within all of our clients.

#1: Engagement

Becca saw a group of people who were in need of help. These people weren’t begging or crying about their fate – they were too busy getting themselves organized and cleaning up to prepare for rebuilding. She saw this group of people and asked what she could do. She then turned to people she knew and trusted and got them engaged to help her help them.

Getting people engaged is a key capability of a transformational leader. Notice that Becca could not coerce or force or command her friends to jump in with both feet. All she had was a request for help – and of course, knowing Becca, she brought her own personal brand of enthusiasm to the request. And her friends came out in full force, sharing with their own circles of friends to provide additional help and support.

This is what we have seen happen in breakthrough projects – people get engaged and start doing things that no one would have ever predicted.

#2: Creativity

After two days going to this neighborhood and working with the people there, she realized that everyone in the neighborhood needed to shower. She talked to one of her friends, asking how in the world could that be done? There was no electricity, no shower facilities (all homes had been flooded) – what to do. Her friend came up with an ingenious plan, and later that afternoon there was a home-made set of six semi-private showers. When they were installed and turned on, Becca said you could hear the whole neighborhood clap and cheer.

When breakthrough project teams get really engaged and act to deliver outcomes to which they are committed, they invariably face obstacles or roadblocks, i.e. special needs that they had not planned for. The way we coach the teams, and the way we help create the teams’ charters, helps facilitate the creativity that is often needed to be effective. We have seen time and again that when a breakthrough project team decides to get something done, their creativity to find a resolution is unstoppable. And often the resolutions they create become a transformational pillar in the construction of the whole breakthrough initiative.

For the breakthrough project leaders and teams, learning to tap into this creativity through commitment, dialogue, and engagement, becomes a way of working rather than a one off. This is one reason the work of breakthrough teams becomes a sustainable set of capabilities available to the organization for years more.

#3: Being a Leader vs Having the Title of a Leader

Becca clearly did not have a title “Neighborhood Leader”, or “Homeowners’ Association President”. She didn’t even live in the neighborhood! But she took a stand for those people – and she took a stand for herself – that she was going to make a difference. Her stand didn’t sound like “I am a leader” – she just BECAME the leader.

And in her leadership, she lost total control the first day. The engagement she got from people was so intense, that others came out of the woodwork with offers of all kinds of help, work, supplies, etc. She had to ask one volunteer to take the donated clothing somewhere other than the neighborhood, because at that time, there was nothing in the neighborhood that was dry and clean. She had no storage! So the volunteer found a local business that became the storage place for the clothes, and later, for much more in supplies.

Her leadership didn’t need control – she needed inspiration, engagement, creativity – and lots of people taking lots of action!

Breakthrough project leaders learn very similar lessons. The objective of the breakthrough project is to generate far more action and results than would be otherwise predictable. And like Becca, breakthrough project team leaders often find that the activity gets more robust and voluminous than what one person can control. This is a good sign because it means that the whole possibility of the project is becoming immersed within the organization. As the old saying goes, “Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan”. People love to play on a winning team, and just as Becca was leading a winning neighborhood effort, breakthrough project team leaders are being trained to lead winning projects.

Thank you, Becca. You are an inspirational leader!

This is a final note about something that I still cannot get over as it makes me even more inspired by Becca and what she has accomplished:

Becca was laid off from her job the week before Harvey.

So even though she was going through her own issues and challenges, she still stepped up and became a truly inspiring leader who has made, and is making, a profound difference to an entire neighborhood.

We have seen so often that people in organizations want to make a difference – they want to do something that matters. It is this spirit that we at KingChapman are in business to foster and bring out in all of our clients. We have seen people just like Becca take business initiatives on as leaders no matter where they happen to be in an organization, and with inspiration, commitment, and creativity fully engage themselves to deliver outcomes that are transformational.



If you want to learn more about what characteristics and roles leadership plays in the success of any organization, download our whitepaper: ‘Successful Strategic Execution Begins With Leaders’.

In it, you will learn:

  • The two hallmarks of an effective leader
  • The most crucial value for leaders to possess
  • The greatest contribution a leader provides
  • The most valuable ‘tool’ for a leader to wield

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‘The Jolt Factor’ Effect on Organizations in M&A Integrations

Having been a part of many integrations of mergers and acquisitions with different clients, we have observed numerous issues that predictably arise. These issues affect the integration project leaders, the integration teams and ultimately a broader group of employees. While there was great effort in the pursuit of an M&A deal, some of the effects of these efforts on everyone else in the organization often go unnoticed.

The Chase Begins

There are predictable dynamics that will happen as the “chase begins”. As an example, rarely do the M&A integrations go as scheduled. Rather, there is a continual speeding up and then slowing down of the process. A visual analogy to this phenomenon is what happens when a train with a heavy load of cars begins to move. There is often lurching back and forth.

This phenomenon of speeding up and slowing down is due to several factors:

  • Buyer and seller negotiating the transaction because of changes occurring in either or both of the businesses
  • Questions or delays due to outside factors, such as regulatory bodies, unions, local or national governments, etc.
  • Changes in terms needed to fit outside financing sources’ requirements
  • The time of the year (e.g., people going on vacations, holidays, etc.)
  • Internal snags coming from legal, accounting, finance, HR, etc.

The Jolt Factor

Obviously, these sorts of issues are to be expected, and managed through. But generally, what is not addressed is the stress added to the executives involved, and to the people in the organizations involved. This stress often has a jolting impact on everyone. This jolting experience has a growing impact on the people in the business as each delay happens. We can use a freight train as a good analogy.

When the engine of a train begins moving, there is a jolt felt by each of the cars as their couplings become engaged. This is referred to as slack action in the railroad industry.

From Wikipedia:

In railroading, slack action is the amount of free movement of one car before it transmits its motion to an adjoining coupled car. This free movement results from the fact that in railroad practice, cars are loosely coupled, and the coupling is often combined with a shock-absorbing device, a “draft gear,” which, under stress, substantially increases the free movement as the train is started or stopped. Loose coupling is necessary to enable the train to bend around curves and is an aid in starting heavy trains, since the application of the locomotive power to the train operates on each car in the train successively, and the power is thus utilized to start only one car at a time.

When the train starts, the first car behind doesn’t move until the slack is eliminated in the coupling, then it jolts into movement. The second car doesn’t move until the slack is eliminated between cars 1 and 2, and then car 2 jolts into movement. And so on.

Organizational Impact

As an executive of a company involved in some merger or acquisition, the start and stop nature of these transactions give this jolting experience to all people in both companies, even if they are not directly involved in the process. And just like a train car along the line, if you can’t see what the engine is doing, the start and stop of the process turns out to be a surprise and a jolt. This goes on for either starting or stopping the process, just as it happens on a freight train.

The resulting organizational impact includes,

  • Stress from the jolting actions
  • Feeling “out of the loop”, so less effective in making things happen
  • Frustration because no one understands what is really happening
  • Loss of enthusiasm for the transaction, especially if the transaction takes a long time

Transformational Leadership provides an excellent antidote to mitigate these impacts during any M&A activity, for both organizations involved, and particularly for major M&A activities. My partners and I have written extensively about Transformational Leadership, which is available on request.



Half of M&A transactions fail to create value. Ever wonder why? Download our whitepaper ‘The Conundrum of People in M&A’, and understand the critical elements that impact mergers and acquisitions success or failure.

In it, you will learn:

  • Eight common flaws in decision-making often made by executives in M&A transactions
  • Why the integration process is so critical
  • Tactics in organizing, planning, and communicating that lead to successful integrations

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Change Leadership: Why is Change So Hard, Even When You Want to?

Quite a few years ago, I was hitting golf balls with my 5-iron, when Kelly, my golf instructor, asked “Larry, what do you want to get out of your lesson today?” I told him of my frustration of hitting a short 150 yard slice (ugly) and I want to hit a 175 yard shot with a slight draw (beautiful!). After hitting a few balls, Kelly showed me a “strong grip” – which is not about how firm to hold the club, but rather the location of the hands on the club.

I tried hitting the ball using this new grip, and I swear, I could hardly get the club face on the ball. After a number of tries, I turned and looked at Kelly and said in frustration, “Kelly, I can’t hit the ball this way. It just feels too strange. Let me go back to my old grip and show me something else!”

I will never forget the look on Kelly’s face. He said, “But Larry, it is SUPPOSED TO FEEL STRANGE! If it doesn’t feel strange, then there is no change, and if you don’t change, you will never hit a 5-iron 175 yards with a slight draw!”

What a lesson! Yes, I can still hit that shot, but that’s really not the point. The biggest lesson for me was, how change can be so difficult, even when I wanted to result of the change! Here I was, a relatively inexperienced golfer, wanting to become a much better golfer, and yet, making the change was so challenging.

Why is Change Hard? Cognitive Bias

Haven’t you ever wondered why it is that change can be so difficult, hard, upsetting, takes a long time, challenging – even when the business case for the change is so promising? These are but a few of the many descriptions that any of us have experienced when going through some change. Whether it’s landing a new client, going to a new job, changing strategic direction, learning a new software program, acquiring or being acquired, or combining corporate entities – all are ripe with changes, some small and some big.

We can look to the decades-long studies of Cognitive Bias to help shed some light on possible answers to this question: Why is change hard?

Cognitive bias can be loosely defined as a systematic, automatic pattern of observing or evaluating things around us, and from this, draw conclusions, make decisions, and behave in ways consistent with these biases. Part of what it is to be a human being includes cognitive bias.

In fact, when you really study different biases that we all have, it is obvious that cognitive bias is a way of describing the way our brains work, and have been working for generations, which allowed our species to survive. Many cognitive biases are so automatic that they don’t seem like a bias at all.

For example, if you look at the following illustration, what do you see?


Is your answer: A box? A square? 9 random dots?

We generally would not see “9 random dots”, although technically that is exactly what is shown. We can’t help but see a box, or a square, or some pattern. So one type of cognitive bias – we look for patterns in things. In the illustration above, try NOT to see a pattern.

3 Types of Cognitive Bias

Here are a 3 types of possible cognitive biases that could explain why change can be so difficult, even when we WANT to change:

Congruence Bias

Congruence Bias is the tendency to test hypotheses exclusively through direct testing, instead of testing possible alternative hypotheses (indirect). The classic example was discovered by Peter Wason who presented subjects with a number sequence “2, 4, 6”, telling the subjects that the sequence followed a particular rule and instructing them to use logic to find the sequence logic.

  • When asked for their answer, they responded with “ascending by + 2”.
  • When told they were wrong, they then guessed “the previous two numbers summed equals the next number”, which was also incorrect.
  • Most participants felt much stress and confusion by the test although the answer was simply “a group of numbers that are ascending”.

We often will jump to a conclusion especially if we perceive a pattern. Thus, instead of a subject testing to see if saying “5” was the wrong answer (thus proving their theory) they instead decided to test numbers they thought would be true.

Loss Aversion Bias

This is the natural tendency for humans to value avoiding loss much higher than the risk of potential, even if that potential gain far outweighs the potential loss. Studies have shown that the pain of a loss is almost twice as strong as the reward felt from a gain.

Status Quo Bias

This is an emotional bias; a preference for the current state of affairs. The current baseline (or status quo) is taken as a reference point, and any change from that baseline is perceived as a loss no matter how irrational.

So you can imagine that when someone has done something the same way for a long time, and they have been rewarded for delivering a given result as a consequence of that, trying to change could be very challenging. After all, they are losing the tried and true way of getting something done. And losing their status quo way is more painful than the potential of some gain based on changing.

The Real Problem and What is Required

Now for the alarming part. Yes, we can hypothesize why change can be so challenging. And we can describe behaviors and actions, and justify it because of what we know about change. But this is woefully insufficient in MOST major change initiatives, due to enormous consequences from error (energy industry as an example).

We see little evidence of cognitive bias being acted on in many industries, including the energy industry. What we see are engineering approaches designed to control cognitive biases through tight processes and technology – and these approaches do not work. If you visit company training centers you will see impressive programs and technologies, but little to no awareness of cognitive factors. If you speak to energy executives about cognitive biases you will likely hear some version of “we are attempting to engineer it out via processes and training”. Cognitive bias is NOT controlled by process nor eliminated by training.

What is required is changing people’s actions and collaboration between people… change leadership. This uses the creativity and resourcefulness of people to learn and to be engaged. Action requires strong leadership commitment – really transformational leadership – given very fundamental contexts and cognitive biases will be challenged.

Our approach at KingChapman is to recognize these challenges in any change scenario, and to provide the guidance and direction to transformational leadership as a successful way of making these changes.



Half of M&A transactions fail to create value. Ever wonder why? Download our whitepaper ‘The Conundrum of People in M&A’, and understand the critical elements that impact mergers and acquisitions success or failure.

In it, you will learn:

  • Eight common flaws in decision-making often made by executives in M&A transactions
  • Why the integration process is so critical
  • Tactics in organizing, planning, and communicating that lead to successful integrations

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Empowering Accountability in Leadership Communication

There is a common misconception that effective communication is a formal activity, such as a manager conducting a town hall meeting. Further, communication is thought to be what a specific functional group does. That is, communication is what our ‘communications department’ is responsible for.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Communication is a primary responsibility of anyone who seeks to be a leader. Communication is how leaders accomplish their work, including creating accountability which empowers others. Leadership occurs in communication. Leadership involves engaging and inspiring others to act in ways which produce extraordinary results. Absent effective communication there is little to no leadership.

Empowering Accountability

Among the ways leaders engage and inspire others to act is establishing Empowering Accountability. This is an expression of leadership in which employees are given direction and guidance with clear understanding of their purpose and boundaries for inventing and taking risks. Extraordinary results seldom happen when organizations “do what we have always done”. No, achieving the extraordinary requires employees “stepping out” with creativity, innovation, inspiration and prudent risk taking. Employees in most organizations will not step out like that unless they know their leaders “have their back”. Empowering Leadership is precisely how leaders watch their employees backs and encourage the desired risk taking.

Leadership communication and Empowering Accountability go hand in hand. Leaders communicate and make decisions with openness and straightforward disclosure, in contrast to using only “need-to-know” communication. Leaders are acknowledged for talking straight and telling us as much as possible about what we are doing, why we are doing it, what it will mean to me, and how it will benefit our business performance. Accountable leaders act from a commitment to be answerable to their constituents.

Acknowledge Mistakes Without Blame

Leaders also acknowledge the difference between good choices and poor ones. They are in communication about these poor choices and the consequences on the business. This open communication is at the same time complementary and supportive of the innovation and intent of those who made these choices which are later regretted. Of course, that is not the case if those involved in making the decisions were devious and acting with ill will.

At the beginning of an organizational transformation, the leaders often need to address actions and decisions from the past which are now causing issues for the business. Blame should NEVER be part of these leadership conversation. Rather what is needed is a clear, concise statement of what happened. In most cases, the employees are already aware of the circumstances. Yet, something magical happens when the leaders stand and be accountable for past events, even if the leaders were in no way involved. The point to establish is that we will communicate directly our understanding of what happens, will not issue blame, and will support our people’s creativity, innovation and risk taking. This is crucial positioning for both leadership communication and Empowering Accountability.

Leading to Breakthrough Projects

This positioning is important because in most Breakthrough Projects and organizational transformations there will be dramatic moments when something did not go as planned. Leader’s ask the right questions, and their conversations must focus on what was learned and how can it be used going forward. This is in direct contrast to the typical management investigation in the form of “who is to blame?” and “how do we make sure this never happens again?”.

The leadership approach assumes full accountability for events and based on that seeks to promote organizational learning and possible breakthroughs which can occur only through an empowering inquiry into the events. This leadership approach will promote action and learning. In contrast, the typical management approach ends up focusing on who to blame, how to punish that individual and group, and writing additional processes and procedures in hopes of preventing any future recurrence. While common and well-intended, this management approach actually has harmful effects. Blaming and punishing people has a suppressive impact on willingness to create, innovate and take risks. Further, the new procedures usually add onto existing procedures and increase the complexity for employees. Many companies’ procedures have become so complex and voluminous that have the unintended impact of being a burden for employees rather than an asset.

Leader’s establishing Empowering Accountability, which supports employees’ creativity, innovation and risk-taking, is a key enabler of breakthroughs and organizational transformation. These leaders provide a platform for employees to learn, grow and ultimately become leaders themselves.


If you want to learn more about what characteristics and roles leadership plays in the success of any organization, download our whitepaper: ‘Successful Strategic Execution Begins With Leaders’.

In it, you will learn:

  • The two hallmarks of an effective leader
  • The most crucial value for leaders to possess
  • The greatest contribution a leader provides
  • The most valuable ‘tool’ for a leader to wield

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