Are You Flipping the Switch as a Leader?

Leadership has always involved helping others see the big picture and leading through change. Most leaders don’t effectively do either. They talk about it and explain it, but to change someone’s behavior  usually involves changing their situation. When you try to change things, you are tinkering with behaviors that have become automatic. In order to change behaviors, you have to figure out which behavior to change. Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch paints a vivid picture and gives many examples of how this is done.

Everyone has a Rider and an Elephant. The Rider is rational, thinks, and plans long term. However, the Rider can also over analyze and over think situations. The Elephant gets things done and has energy. However, the Elephant is lazy, skittish, and looks for a quick payoff (Eating Ice Cream) instead of long term pay offs (Being Thin).

There are 3 parts to help make the Switch:

Direct the Rider

  • Follow the Bright Spots- Investigate what’s working and clone it
  • Script Critical Moves – Don’t think big picture, think in terms of specific behaviors
  • Point to the Destination – Change is easier when you know where you’re going and why it’s worth it

Motivate the Elephant

  • Find the Feeling- Knowing something isn’t enough to cause a change. Make people feel something.
  • Shrink the Change- Break down the change until it no longer spooks the elephant.
  • Grow Your People – Cultivate a sense of identity and instill the growth mindset.

Shape the Path

  • Tweak the Environment- When the situation changes, the behavior changes. So change the situation.
  • Build Habits- When a behavior is habitual, it’s “free”- it doesn’t tax the Rider. Look for ways to encourage habits.
  • Rally the Herd- Behavior is contagious. Help it spread.

Behaviors are contagious at the individual, group, and societal levels. The Elephant constantly looks to the herd for cues. Every herd watches how the leader reacts in every situation. How you deal with those situations depends on how the rest of the herd responds. Change isn’t an event; it is a process.

How do you effectively lead through change and help mold behaviors?



Content from this post from the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath