Pocket Change Leadership: How Do You Use Change?

by  Jon Mertz  |  Leadership Development

We all have it: pocket change. It is the leftover amount that goes into our pocket or pocketbook. Where it goes from there, who knows.

Pocket change is never core to a major purchase yet, as it is collected and stored, we are always amazed about how much we have “saved.”

As leaders, we talk about change a lot. We talk about how others need to change, and we may talk about how we need to change. Sometimes, it ends there, stored in our words and thoughts, but never immediately put into action. The danger is we become passive pocket change leaders, saving our proposed actions for someone else or banking them for some later “right” time.

On the flip side is an opportunity that we become leaders who embrace our pocket change, using it to do something more with our time and efforts. We make choices each day in how we use our change, so the question becomes, simply, what type of pocket change leader are you?

In thinking about this question, it is valuable to break it into three key areas.

1.) Big Change or Small Change. Go big, or go home. This is how some approach change. In other words, the changes being proposed and pursued have a large scope, requiring much time and effort to make it happen and stick. The change is transformational, revolutionary… no doubt. People around you will take note of the change underway as well as the end result.

One the other side of the coin is “baby step” change. Changes made are small in scope, slight improvements that make us better in what we do. People around you may miss the evolutionary adjustments. At one point in time, the small changes add up, and people notice the renovation that has happened.

2.) Store it or Use it.  We do one of two things with pocket change. We either put it in a jar or we use it. When making changes as a leader, we have a choice as well. We can either put it into action or we can save it for later. The issue with the latter approach is that it may never get used. “Saved for later” turns into “saved for never.”

Yes, we can save several smaller changes and implement them together when the time is right. Or, we can take each change step as it becomes apparent.

If we store a change, then we need to put a process in place that triggers us to use it. If we make the changes as we go, then we need to put a mechanism in place that triggers the recognition of the progress made.

3.) Value it or Lose it. Pocket change seems to have lost its value. In a world of card swipes, change is a nuisance. In fact, you may have noticed more change scattered on the ground or around various places, valuable yet unused. People just leave it.

Here, again, is the choice:  Do you value change or not? Do changes get lost in the maze of everyday distractions, or do they carry an importance, regardless of size? We need to recognize the importance of change and grab onto it. Change is always valuable, and the learning and progress it delivers.

In business or government today, the talk of change is lying around everywhere. We just need someone to pick it up and use it, lead the change. It is the same in our personal and career life. We need to pick up the valuable change insights and lessons we receive, and we need to advance the change to make us better people, contributors, and leaders.

We need to decide what type of pocket change leader we are. Do we choose to:

  • Take actions to make change – big, small, or both
  • Bundle changes together to adapt, or make the changes as we move forward
  • Value change by leading it or just listening with no intent to use it

Look around your home and workplace, where do you keep your change? How do you treat change?

What type of pocket change leader are you?

Featured image by on2wheelz via Creative Commons, with some rights reserved.
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About The Author

Articles By jon-mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. At Thin Difference, Jon writes and facilitates a conversation on how to empower, challenge, and guide the next generation of leaders.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Chad Balthrop  |  14 Dec 2011  |  Reply

Great article, Jon. I like your analogy. The thing people often fail to realize is that everything changes all the time. The two questions we all need to ask are:

1. Will these changes make things better or worse?
2. How will I be involved in the change? Will I lead it, follow it, or fight against it?

God bless,

Jon M  |  14 Dec 2011  |  Reply

Chad, I love your two questions! I believe those are very accuarate and essential ones to answer. The first question determines whether things will move backward, stalemate, or forward. The second question determines how we grasp change. Great addition! Thanks! Jon

Mike Henry  |  14 Dec 2011  |  Reply

Great post! The other thought I have about change is that we always seem to want someone else to produce it. We seldom want to be the change, take the action, absorb the pain or expend the effort. At least for me, I’m quick to see what change others need to make but I’m slow to make the change I need to. It’s convicting.

Thanks for the great post! Mike…

Jon M  |  14 Dec 2011  |  Reply

Agree, Mike! It is always easier to see the change needed in others…. we need to be more self-reflective and better listeners in what we need to change. What a great community of leaders who are committed to driving change you are facilitating and building! Thank you! Jon

Chery Gegelman  |  14 Dec 2011  |  Reply


Thank you for your post. It spoke truth in both the analogy and the literal. In our current economic climate I continue to hear executives dismissing the value of “low hanging fruit” or “small change”. The reality is that many of those small change solutions are worth millions in tangible revenue not to mention employee retention, customer loyalty etc.

I heard a great analogy years ago about a truck that got stuck on a mountain road trying to go through a tunnel. It was blocking the road so there was no way for anyone else to pass. A small child finally asked, “Why don’t they take the air out of the tires?” That suggestion worked.

Small change solutions are a way to take the air out of our own tires and change our current reality. Love it!

Jon M  |  14 Dec 2011  |  Reply

Chery, Thanks for your comments & insights! They spark two thoughts. First, it is important to get a new, fresh perspective. Second, don’t ignore the obvious solution. Appreciate it! Jon

Simon Harvey  |  14 Dec 2011  |  Reply

Jon, great post, love change of all types, coins, life and business. As for the type of change leader we are, I go back to your analogy. Use what you need at the time, but use it. If you require a penny then that’s what you use. If you require a large change then bundle it together and use it. Storing it in a pot hidden in a cupboard with no intent of use is just throwing money away, literally, and keeping it in you pocket will wear it out. It is amazing, as you point out how many of us tend to not bother with change (yes I am guilty sometimes), for the only fact I can think of, it is just too much effort.

Even collection change, rolling quarters and dimes is a pain, it requires effort and perseverance. Then you have to go to the bank and wait in line only to be treated with indifference, perhaps even a little ridicule. Finally your bank balance reflect the change and you are treated with respect, and here it is where you have to keep going, what was a change is now your new system and this requires use, and guess what, more change.

Change is not for everyone, but it is a requirement of leadership today. It is not always easy and it requires effort and perseverance, even once you have made that deposit it takes time for change to have an affect on balance.

Thanks for the great brain food.
Kind Regards,

Jon M  |  15 Dec 2011  |  Reply

Thank you, Simon, for your insights! I always enjoy learning from you. I love the way you took the analogy and the concept of change to a whole new level. Your time and added value is greatly appreciated. Thank you! Jon

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