Positive Mindset – the Key to Success in Change Management

Journalist Halina Guryn interviewed Ben Shoshan for an article published in one of Poland’s leading HR publications Personnel & Management to find out how having a positive mindset is the key to success when it comes to change management.


HG: What are the key competencies of an authentic and effective leader in organizational change management today in turbulent times?

Ben: When considering authentic & effective leadership, it needs to be separated into the ‘WHAT’ and the ‘HOW’. The ‘WHAT’ refers to leadership pre-requisites which include a clear vision, specific goals, and the strategy for achieving those goals. When it comes to the ‘HOW’, the old-style ‘Command & Control’ leader is becoming less relevant. Instead, the ability to let go and only lead rather than manage is crucial. A great mindset for a leader to nurture is seeing himself/herself in the service of his/her people. To use a PULL rather than PUSH strategy i.e. coach rather than manage, thereby empowering and inspiring individuals to do and want to do the best they can, is extremely powerful. In other words, effective and authentic leadership is about managing emotions and guiding the hearts and minds of the people in the business.

HG: How can a manager or a leader recognise the mindset of people in their team? What are the best methods and tools for diagnosing mindset?

Ben: First and foremost, managers and leaders need to be interested in each individual and value their ideas and contributions. With this PULL approach in mind, the best methods are powerful intelligent questions which not only focus on facts but also dig deeper into opinions, feelings, and beliefs of the individuals. Developing insights on people’s world views as well as having an understanding of how perceptions and beliefs impact our emotional state, and how that drives our behaviours is very important. A manager’s sensitivity to how individuals behave in different situations is another fundamental skill of a great leader.

A whole host of instruments / measurement tools are available which allow the manager and leaders to see where each individual sits on the development curve. There are also many instruments that can be used to uncover people’s communication styles, their level of EI, their leadership capability, including psychometrics. All of which can serve to help managers recognise and understand the mindsets of their teams.

HG: In what ways can a manager/leader help employees  change their mindset during the change implementation process? What steps do they need to take to begin  changing mindset? And should they communicate to their people about changes in their work environment?

Ben: One of the best validated and well-researched change processes comes from John Kotter who highlighted 8 steps of successful change implementation. A key first step is creating a compelling reason to change: the ‘burning platform’ – in other words a sense of urgency. This will have to be aligned with the ‘What’s in it for me’ (WIIFM) piece for each individual. This requires a certain amount of ‘PULL’ and the ability to step into the shoes of the employees. Once we have established what the story is and why it is important to the individuals, the ‘how’ to communicate will become much clearer.

HG:What is the role of top managers, line managers and HR professionals in this process?

Ben: Top management needs to gauge the appetite of the people and then deliver the message. Following that, they need to continue to drive and support. A selection of top managers from across the organisation should form part of the ‘guiding coalition’ i.e. the ambassadors who are constantly reinforcing the change messages.

Line managers need to lead change in their teams by walking the talk, involving their teams in customising the ‘WIIFM’ for each individual, as well as coaching and motivating desired behaviours.

HR professionals can fulfill the key role of advising project leaders in skills available within the organisation – identifying any skills gaps, training needs, new posts, and new working practices.

HR professionals and line managers should support, empower – by this I mean elevating the level of expertise and treating people as experts thereby increasing ownership and confidence -, coach, and stimulate a level of comfort within this environment of uncertainty. It is important for both line managers and HR professionals to identify people’s differing responses to change, and help individuals work constructively through change.

HG:  What are the most effective methods and tools in mindset change? 

Ben: Some of the most effective methods and tools I have come across and used include:

1. Coaching to uncover individual’s drivers, ‘WIIFM’ and values

2. Models such as Blanchard’s Skill-Will matrix allows a manager to access the best coaching style for each individual

3. 360 Surveys: such as the Haygroup’s Emotional Competency Inventory and Zenger Folkman’s Extraordinary Leadership process.

4. The ability to make the link between values, beliefs and goals is a very powerful skill of any coach, and especially those in leadership positions.

HG: What are the key risk factors that managers and HR specialists have to take into consideration when managing change? How can they solve conflicts between people and their different needs and be during the change process in the organisation?

Ben: If this refers to the context of the change journey, then the number one priority must be to do with awareness of where we are on the change curve. An obvious risk may be to lose sight of where we are or the desired outcomes:

  • Ensure incremental steps are manageable so that progress can be seen
  • Remember to celebrate small successes
  •  Continual feedback to the ‘guiding coalition’ as well as updates for individuals on the change journey

Conflict is a necessary part of a fruitful and dynamic process. And as long as the ‘why’ and the goal are continuously reinforced and re-clarified, and people’s intentions are sufficiently aired, then this will be a healthy and constructive process. Make sure that people have platforms to voice their concerns and feel that they are listened to. Encourage involvement of people in the process.

HG: What  advice would you give (top managers and HR managers and specialists) who want to successfully build positive mindset of employees and who want to link strategic goals and key value’s system with individual goals of people in organisation?

Ben: A famous quote from a UK minister when asked what advice he would give to aspiring consultants on how to succeed at one of the Big4 firms highlighted two things:

1. “Be Cheerful, because it’s more difficult for someone to tell you off when you’re cheerful.” I translate that as understanding your emotional state because that will affect others.

2. “I’ve always found the best way to be interesting is to be interested.” I think this is so true and so important for any manager. If the desired outcome is to link strategic goals to personal values and individual goals, then how can you do this without understanding the individual first? Therefore being interested is a critical first step.

Once we know what the individual goals and values are, it becomes easy to link these to the strategic goals of the organisation. You can’t link individual goals without knowing them, and that’s why you will need to start with being interested in the individuals.

This interview was first published as an article in the Polish magazine Personnel & Management, August 2014