I was recently asked what I was observing as “hot trends” in organizations with which we work.

It took just a few seconds to consider the question before concluding that a key issue is leading change. Every organization needs to continuously adapt to the business environment that it operates in.

Responding to external changes requires leaders to make internal changes. These changes can range from incremental to transformational. Whatever the scope of the change, it places significant demands on the skills of leaders.

This is particularly true when leading medium to large scale change efforts.

We find that the single biggest challenge in leading change is changing people’s behaviour. The central challenge is not strategy, or systems or process or culture. These components are very important but—at the core—working with people in a way that has them embrace the change initiative is the key.

People change what they do–not because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking–but because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings. Both thinking and feelings are important and necessary, but we tend to be more comfortable and competent in using the former.

Identifying a problem often requires that it is analysed and quantified, and certainly careful data gathering and presentation has a place. Often it is a well analysed problem that opens people’s minds to the prospect that there is a problem that deserves their attention. And moving to the next step is essential.

Work needs to be done to awaken feelings and emotions that facilitate useful change and ease feelings that are getting in the way. The aim is to evoke feelings related to urgency, optimism and faith; and to reduce anger, complacency, cynicism and fear.

Leading change in a way that targets both the minds (analysis) and the hearts (emotions) of those involved greatly enhances the probability that the change will be successful and sustained.

Nic Tsangarakis, Principal