“Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know” Jim Rohn.

Communicate and Engage to Infinity and Beyond!

Article by Mark Gregory:

I have never come across a single person who has been associated with change, in one form or another, that has not articulated the power of effective communication as an imperative for success. John Kotter, probably one of the single most influential people on the subject of change and change management in the last two decades, describes communication as; “one of the eight most critical steps within any business transformation”, and he talks about “communicating your vision and direction to the power of 1000”.

From my own experience, if I had received £1 every time I thought I had clearly communicated and then found myself having the same conversation (just like in the film Groundhog Day), or when the person had told me they had understood me, only to find out later that they hadn’t, I would be a very wealthy man. My experience of communication within change is that the breakdown is even more apparent, as change also invokes lots of other emotions that restrict us from receiving the correct messages.

It is my view, formed from experience, that the subject of communication is the most untapped and misunderstood element of change. If we want to effect true and sustained change, we require a bit of what Buzz has going on. We need to communicate and engage to ‘infinity and beyond’.   


Communication vs Engagement

Often when people start a conversation with me about communication, they are actually, without realising, really referring to engagement. I use a simple maturity continuum to describe communication versus engagement with respect to change.

Level 1 – Awareness:

You meet someone you know and ask them, “Have you heard about the change that is going on?” They haven’t, so you make them aware by explaining it to them.

Level 2 – Understanding:

You meet someone you know and ask them, “Have you heard about the change that is going on?” They have heard of it but don’t know the detail, so you explore it with them and help them understand.

Level 3 – Advocacy:

You meet someone you know and before you can speak they say to you, “Hey, have you heard about the change that is going on?” They then proceed to tell you all about it, becoming an advocate for the change.

‘Awareness’ is communication, ‘Understanding’ is the tipping point between communication and engagement and ‘Advocacy’ is engagement. It is important that we understand where the audience is on the continuum and recognise what it may, therefore, need to move to the next stage. All too often, we assume the audience is at a more mature stage than it actually is, that all the members of the audience are at the same stage, or, worst of all, we simply do not think about it!

Communication is a process where people are aware and understand. Engagement is a process whereby people become personally implicated in the success of the change.

Organise to Communicate and Engage

Quite simply, if you want to create engagement, you have to organise to provide it and, in my experience, organisations do not. They continue to believe they can invoke change by connecting with people in the same way they have always done, using the same methods, in the same format, with the same output. Remember Approaches to Change – 1? What did we say? Without a doubt, you need to do something different here if you want a different result. Let me give you an example: when once leading a change programme within a large organisation, I actually created an engagement steering group that met at least weekly and, at times, daily over a twelve-month period. We focused on using every avenue possible, even inventing a few new avenues along the way, to connect with our change audience. We quite simply took the audience along the engagement continuum, always looking at different approaches.

Time and Energy

The success one has in this area of change is a pure function of time and energy. My experience shows that organisations and leaders generally do not apply enough time and energy in this area, preferring to work on the detail of the change rather than engaging the audience in it. Remember Approaches to Change – 3?  No involvement generally means no commitment. How much time do you spend focusing on the change engagement proposition?


Change sustainment is about engagement; engagement means advocacy, and advocacy means focused time, energy and organisation. Underestimate it at your peril!


Always remember the Buzz Light-year effect – ‘Communicate and Engage to Infinity and Beyond!’

If you have any thoughts or questions regarding this article or any of our services, please do not hesitate to get in touch – click here to contact us today.

Read more…. click to see the series 1, 2, 3


Without involvement, there is no commitment. Mark it down, asterisk it, circle it, underline it. No involvement, no commitment.” Dr Stephen Covey.

Article by Mark Gregory:

Over the years I have been involved in many change programmes both on the receiving end of the change and leading it. When on the receiving end, more often than not, these programmes never quite felt right to me. When leading them I often found it difficult, initially, to convince others of the need for change and the benefits of the change. I also found whilst the change was often understood at an intellectual level, it wasn’t always carried out as intended.

In Approaches to Change – 2, I explored the logic of change versus the emotion of change. I also spoke about the data and the imagery used in change, and the need for the emotional connection. While in my experience these elements all play a key role, they are not the whole answer to the ‘hearts and minds conundrum’. Another major element is the idea you have to be involved in the development of change to emotionally connect.

What Your Reaction Means

As Covey says, ‘no involvement means no commitment’. Have you presented something that you have put time, energy and effort into, which you felt was a solution to a problem, but the audience disagreed? How did you feel when it was challenged? What were your reactions? Were they ones of logic or emotion? My guess is, you had a desire to protect your ideas, quite simply because you built them. In my experience, people protect what they build. Or, put another way, the more involvement the more commitment we find we have (that is of course on the basic assumption the output is aligned with our way of thinking in the first place).

So if we buy into the principle, no involvement, generally means no commitment and people protect what they build, the question is not one of ‘should or should I not involve people?’ but ‘how do I involve people?’

Involving The Right People

Ask yourself the question, ‘why do you not involve people today?’ The answers, I am sure, are many and varied, ranging from, ‘this is not a democracy, we can’t all have a vote on everything’ to ‘we all have a job to do and we are experts, so we decide’. The reality of it is, the level of involvement from other people probably all comes down to time and effort. Does the scale of the change justify the time and effort required to generate the involvement and commitment? Remember the question here is not ‘is the solution or the change the right one?’ but ‘will those responsible for the sustainment of the new order live it as if it were their own?’

Only those charged with the change responsibility will be able to understand the full extent of the involvement opportunities and how they could possibly be weaved into the change journey. There are a few stages to consider:

  • Concept stage: How can I involve people in the conceptual thinking? Top tip, resist the urge to only present the finished ideas, that’s the point!
  • Design stage: How can I involve people in designing the solution? Top tip, involve those most affected by the change.
  • Implementation stage: How can I involve the change receivers? Top tip, the more the merrier, wildfire spreads quicker than an inferno. Leave room for improvement.
  • Sustainment stage: How can I involve people in the refinement of sustainment? Top tip, As exponents of the virtues of a lean philosophy we could not pass the opportunity for a bit of Plan, Do, Check, Act.

The Real Question

Having said all this, it only really comes down to one question – ‘How much effort am I prepared to put into the involvement for the commitment proposition?’ That depends on how much you want the change to be sustained. My experience dictates that – sustainment is a function of involvement.

If you have any thoughts or questions regarding this article or any of our services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – click here to contact us today.

Read more…. click to see the series 1, 2,

By why, I don’t mean profit, that’s the result. By why, I mean what’s your purpose why are you doing what you do?” Simon Sinek

Article by Mark Gregory:

Over the years I have been involved in many change programmes both on the receiving end of the change or leading it. When on the receiving end more often than not these programmes never quite felt right to me.

Whilst I often understood the change at an intellectual level, the logic, often presented as some output or result benefit, cost, safety, quality, delivery etc. I found the organisations involved would fire immense amounts of detail at me; facts, figures, numbers and the customer feedback all offering me the compelling case for change. I would attend briefing after briefing were these figures would be explained and justified and re-justified. I would listen to other members of staff’s frustrations overflow in the form of some debate around what was being presented which would send the leaders into a further spiral of data and number justification. Which in turn would leave the majority of the audience talking about why this would never work.

What I observed through these experiences was that on the whole people got the numbers, they got the logic and they understood the business or economic reasons, but inside they held some emotion about the presented change that they could not quite release.

My conclusion was organisations spent a disproportionate amount of time explaining the logic and relatively no time on managing the emotion around the presentation of the logic. In the worst of these experiences they completely ignored it! Leadership just closed down and any dialogue became a one-way communication channel justified by some floored logic around consultation rules. Trust me, never a good place to be.

So when leading such activities I worked really hard to allow people to feel the change as well as intellectualise it. In my view there is never one solution to this issue but you have to focus on holding the balance of logic v emotion. A few useful principles I hold dear to help in this conundrum:

  • Take time to Understand: It is not about you or your organisation but the people within it. More often and not such programmes become about the organisational needs and the people just simply get lost. Stephen R. Covey said “Seek to understand before being understood.” This is definitely the case hear, organisations just don’t spend time seeking to understand. So think hard about this principle and how to do.
  • Leaders get lost too: Not sure about anyone else but for me to engage others I have to be engaged myself. This becomes even more critical in times of change. Leaders have emotion too and very often their emotion around change is just ignored as they stop becoming real people in the eyes of an organisation and become the logic communication vehicle. So think hard about how to manage the leader’s emotion.
  • Emotion is from a different place to logic: Emotion is about that part of our brain that visualises, it is about present and future, where imagination rules. Look at the mechanisms that connect with us here. Pictures of the future, feeling based forums and discussions, consider alternative conversational methodologies application based technologies. The focus here, think hard about creating powerful images of the future, so people can see the change.

In part one I spoke about if you want a different result then do some different stuff. My experience tells me organisations who focus on both logic and emotion are doing some different stuff.

Read more…. click to see the series 1, 3, 4

Recognise that the world is changing and the future looks very different from the past. What worked in the past may now be obsolete. A new future requires new ideas and perspectives.”

B J Gallagher Hateley

Article by Mark Gregory:

There has been much written on the subject of change and change management. As in the past I have spent large parts of my career trying leading organisations through periods of change, I have read most of them!

Whilst these texts are sound and predicated on research and observation of those organisations that have been successful at change, I often found they did not quite fit my situation and or set of particular circumstances. As a result I found myself, overtime, modifying and developing a metamorphosis of the best of these approaches. The result was a more practical, less abstract view of change. One that I found actually worked, not just for me but those I led.

The first of these change steps I learnt was obvious, simple and just plain common sense. However, as we have probably all heard and said at times common sense is not that common!

One: If you want a different result do some different stuff.

Told you it was simple! It has over the years, however, never ceased to amaze me how many leaders and organisations embark on change programmes but just behave and act in the same way. Sometimes these leaders and organisations even fool themselves into believing they are doing different things by setting up new forums with cross functional teams and giving them a fancy title in a demonstration of difference. They may start to talk about new topics or worse, rebadge the same topic they failed to implement last time. The reality is, however, nothing different actually happens and the same old level of change success is obtained.

Change has to start with change and that means different, a paradigm shift, in as many ways as possible: behaviour, language; communication; speed; clarity of purpose; people etc. Let me give you an example in one organisation I led there was a strong trade union power base and they were led by a group of ten senior representatives. Over the years the way the organisation had interacted with this group had varied slightly but fundamentally the ten always faced off to the organisation as one group. So how did the organisation operate? They too had ten leaders to meet the ten representatives. What was the result? The same position of negotiation and impasse, us against them, adversarial relationship. Yet I heard the organisation and the trade union saying they wanted a different result. So why do the same thing? My response as the new incumbent was to meet the representatives alone. Ten of them, one of me, the result was a paradigm shift that created a different response. Yes it took time, but ultimately it started a chain reaction of events that created a different result. That’s obvious I hear you cry. Well only when you are not in the thick of it and you can be objective. You will often hear me say we only know what we know and that often rings true in change.

So the simple message hear for all those embarking on change is if you want a different result then do some different stuff…..oh and by the way difference is not what you have always done in a different wrapper.

Read more…. click to see the series 2, 3,

Here’s a depressing fact – British workers are the least productive in Europe. Add to this that we also work the longest hours and the picture looks pretty bleak.

Article by Greig Walker:

Why is this?

The answer may surprise some of you – it’s because of their Boss. That’s right – you!

Still with me? OK, when we get promoted, often two things happen. Firstly, we feel recognised for the hard work that we’ve put in, which makes it highly likely that we will put even more hard work in – this is just human nature. Secondly, we get invited to a lot more meetings, which gives us less time to do the (additional) work we now have on our plate.

When these things collide, then we work longer and harder on our own work, to the detriment of the entire team that we’ve been promoted to lead/manage/oppress.


What can we do about it?

The good news is that we can shift this situation to a better place; creating more time for ourselves, making work a better place to be and getting more of the right things done into the bargain.

There are three key ingredients to increasing the productivity of any team, whether it be in an office or in a factory; Structure, Visibility and Culture.

  1. Structure

Regardless of how creative your industry or job is, providing a degree of structure for your team will help them get things done quicker in the right order.

The starting point for this is building your daily schedule. Get time blocked out for the things that really matter to you – seeing your family, doing exercise, date night – the really important stuff. Once these ‘rocks’ have been laid down in your schedule, be kind to yourself and do not allow them to move. Ever.

Next, set aside time blocks for checking (without responding), responding to and filing emails – this should never exceed 2 hours per day. Check your response to this point and let me ask one question – if your house was on fire and you needed the Fire Brigade, would you send them an email?

The next, most important thing to set aside time for, is spending time with the team – in time blocks to suit your energy levels, between 2 – 4 hours per day. Every day.

Amongst the first work appointments in your schedule should include a focused conversation with your team about the work from yesterday and the work tasks for today. This ensures everyone is on the same page about what is required and builds a clear picture of demand and capacity.

  1. Visibility

In a factory, it is easier to see the flow of work through the process than in an office, but it’s no less important. In an office the types of things that should be made visible are; backlog, priorities, workload, problems, attendance, performance against targets, where to find things and people, who knows what.

This always starts with clearing out what isn’t needed, setting things in order, cleaning up and keeping things ‘VIP visit ready’ every single day. The next step is the introduction of traffic light colours to indicate status in the workplace, where you then introduce guidelines and rules around these indicators so as to trigger responses and actions across the team.

  1. Culture

If I can define culture simply, I would say; it’s what we do when we think nobody is watching. In the workplace, this translates as how things are done around here. If you choose not to consciously design this, then it will emerge based on the dominant characters in the team, and you may not like it.

With the time created in your schedule, use this time with the team to observe behaviours and really focus on reinforcing the behaviours that we want to see more of to create a habit loop (Craving-Cue-Action-Reward). When doing this there are a few key ingredients; 1) be around to see and reinforce the behaviour when it occurs, and; 2) reinforce individuals in a way that’s wholly suited to them, so it has the desired effect. To make this work you need to be in the workplace a lot – 30-50% of your time to be really effective.


So, how do we make Britain more productive then?

Well, starting with the first-line Managers, we teach them (in the workplace, not a classroom) how things are done around here with their team. And, as with all change, it begins with a long hard look in the mirror and admitting that there is a problem with how things are done today.

Are you ready to admit there’s a problem? Do you need help to figure out what to do next?

Contact Greig Walker, Director at Unleash & Engage on 07811 255 055

Alex recently presented to a conference of global HR Directors in New York on the Unleash & Engage 5 Key Insights on Change. C-Suite leaders from organisations such as Ford, Honeywell, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, Johnson Controls, Arcelor-Mittal and Georgia Pacific heard Alex talk about Unleash & Engage’s take on productivity and the role of true engagement.

Much of the conversation in the room centered on the paradox that despite the great advances in management science and capital investment, productivity in the US, Europe and Asia has steadily declined over the last 60 years. The biggest opportunity to drive improvement in productivity lies in engaging people, harnessing ideas and giving ownership for performance to the teams who do the work.

Alex shared with the group five key insights from the experience of Unleash & Engage:

  1. Change starts with creating a shared belief through the team: real change is only possible when there is a shared belief that the destination is more attractive than the current position and that there is a shared understanding of the journey. Too often leaders issue instructions that practices and behaviours must change, not realising that as soon as they look away we will all revert to what we have always done.
  2. Once belief exists, transformation is just a matter of changing habits: too often we tell ourselves change takes a long time, and change is very hard to achieve.  It is more effective to focus on simply changing one habit at a time – ‘culture’ is simply a collection of organisational habits.
  3. Habit change does not take long – but building habits takes intensity and frequency – nobody got fit by going to the gym once a month,  your new routine must be performed regularly and with commitment.
  4. Engagement is the route to sustainment – people protect what they build: co-creation truly is the only way to engender commitment. As the saying goes, no involvement – no commitment. If you think involvement takes more time, try disengagement.
  5. Sustainment is the route to profit: whilst top down change can deliver a short term blip in performance, sustainable change requires people wanting to maintain and accelerate improvements they have created.