Are You Missing Half the Change Equation?

Are You Missing Half the Change Equation?

Don’t Overlook the People Side of Change Leadership

Studies consistently show between 50-70% of change efforts fail. How can leaders and organizations improve the odds of success?

While many organizations focus on mastering the operational or structural side of change, they give little attention or effort towards the other half of the change equation: the people side of change.

To gain the desired results from a new direction, system, or initiative, organizations need the benefit of change leadership, along with change management.

Put another way, for an organizational change to be implemented successfully, leaders must focus on solving both sides of the change equation.

How Does Change Leadership Connect to the Change Equation?

Change leadership is about how people work and how they feel about the work. It’s about the phases of change — and the emotions associated with those phases — that people must navigate when change is constant.

Change leadership requires leaders, and the organization as a whole, to address and develop the practices, behaviors, mindsets, and beliefs that help people adapt.

Infographic: Challenge for Change Equation

When organizations focus on mastering change management without change leadership, they fail to recognize that all changes, even positive ones, come at a cumulative cost.

They miss half the change equation.

Leaders often tout changes with the attitude of this shiny, bright new thing will solve all of our problems. But employees have been working with the “old” and have committed a lot of time and energy to make it work. Leaders should recognize that there’s still value in some of the old before employees are able to move ahead to what isn’t working and why changes need to happen.

Answering the question of “What do we need to hold on to?” will help satisfy the fears and concerns that a new initiative is uncalled for or inappropriate.

Leaders also need to allow a conversation about what scares people about the new. By giving time and attention to helping people understand and adjust to changes, leaders allow them to move ahead to what’s next. This is key to becoming a successful change leader.

Tips for Solving the Change Equation

Once you understand that you must lead the people side of change — along with managing the operational side — you fully understand the change equation. Now, you’ll want to find tools and hone skills to help you lead the change equation more effectively. Here are 5 key tips:

1. Understand people’s built-in reactions. People navigate changes from a continuum of style preferences. If you pay attention to change preference, you’ll be more prepared to address concerns, leverage different contributions, avoid pitfalls, and adapt your own approach. Learn more about change styles and how leaders can navigate change in our white paper.

2. Get your head around the process. When you understand the process of change, you have a better picture of what’s needed and when. You can anticipate and mitigate many predictable problems. We break down the process of succeeding at complex, continuous change into 4 parts: Discover, Decide, Do, and Discern.

3. Embrace the polarity. When leading change, it helps to understand that it isn’t a problem to solve, but a polarity to manage. Leaders must both ensure that the current business model is solid, efficient, effective, and stable, and implement the changes necessary to be more competitive in the future. By seeking the sweet spot of both/and, you can present the effort in a way that others can embrace.

4. Hone your powers of persuasion. Change and influence are inextricably linked. Influence is about gaining commitment, identifying the critical change agents that must be brought on board, and defining what “buy-in” looks like from each stakeholder. Learn the 4 keys to strengthen your ability to influence others.

5. Take care of yourself and others. Resiliency helps people handle the pressure, uncertainty, and setbacks that are part of the change process. To combat change fatigue, you need to build your own reserves for your mental and physical health, and help others to do the same. This is increasingly important as people experience the cumulative effects of ongoing and often turbulent changes.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Upskill your people so they’re not just change managers, they’re change leaders. Ensure they understand the change equation through a customized learning journey using our research-backed modules. Available leadership topics include Communication, Influence, Innovation Leadership, Leading Through Change & Disruption, Managing Paradox & Polarity, Resilience-Building, and more.


Subscribe to our eNewsletters to get the latest on cutting-edge, leadership insights & research.
February 26, 2020
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

Related Content

image with microphone and lead with that podcast episode title, What Elon Musk Can Teach Us About Leadership & the Future of Work

Lead With That: What Elon Musk Can Teach Us About Leadership & the Future of Work

The future of work, the future of automobiles, and the future of free speech: At the nexus point of all of these is Elon Musk. Musk has never shied away from the public but recently, through his attempted purchase of Twitter and his recent comments about remote work, he’s once again caught our attention here at CCL. At the center of his comments stem 2 core issues of concern for leaders in this modern era: 1) Is leadership the role or realm of a single individual? And 2) What does the future of work really look like? Is Musk’s point of view a taste of things to come? Join Allison and Ren as they explore what lessons we can glean from the recent headlines involving Elon Musk and lead with that.

image with microphone and lead with that podcast episode title, What Cancel Culture Can Teach Us About Impact and Accountability

Lead With That: What Cancel Culture Can Teach Us About Impact and Accountability

Pepe Le Pew, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, even Minnie Mouse – all impacted by cancel culture. Dave Chappelle, Joe Rogan, Gina Carano, J.K. Rowling – whether an animation character or just simply an animated character, no one’s safe. But is it cancel or consequence? And really, how does it impact you, working with and on teams and leading people through change? Join us as we explore how leaders can make room for people to learn from their mistakes while also honoring the sentiments of those around them. We’ll take a look at how we as leaders can balance the benefits and consequences of cancel culture and lead with that.

image with microphone and lead with that podcast episode title, What Facebook’s Rebrand to Meta Can Teach Us About Change and Transformation

Lead With That: What Facebook’s Rebrand to Meta Can Teach Us About Change and Transformation

Facebook – a company that changed the way the internet was used and the way people connected with one another – recently announced their rebrand to Meta. What are the practical implications of a prominent company changing its name and its mission, and how can we examine the shift from a leadership perspective? In this episode we’ll dive into the way an individual’s leadership brand can impact their influence, and how leading change and transformation requires direction, alignment, and commitment. We apply what we know about change to what we see happening with Facebook’s transformation and how we can lead with that in mind.

Please update your browser. requires a modern browser for an enhanced and secure user experience. Internet Explorer is no longer supported or recommended by Microsoft. The Center for Creative Leadership recommends that you upgrade to Microsoft Edge or similar.