At this week’s change management for professional practices workshop, I welcomed delegates from legal, accountancy and property firms. Their roles included managing partner, head of HR, operations manager, lawyer and property management team leader. Their change challenges included new technology adoption, shifting from dedicated to centralised services, succession, team performance and strategy development. The workshop explored why change is difficult, the role of leadership, supporting individual transition and models for navigating organisational change. Along the way, change tools and processes were explored and assessed. I’m sharing the top insights chosen by the delegates – a summary of change management – changing heads, hearts and hands.

Heads, hearts and hands – rational, emotions and behaviour

Throughout the session we considered the different approaches to changing heads (rational business case), hearts (emotions and motivation) and hands (behaviour and actions – with a focus on small, tiny and atomic habits). So the delegate highlights are presented accordingly.

Heads – Rational

Rational business case – Typically, the business case for change focuses on data, evidence and the promised financial and organisational benefits. And while people may consciously agree with the concept their (sometimes unconscious) reactions and emotions about the impact on individuals remain unaddressed. Whilst people accept the rational, logical reasons for change they are unlikely to do so – and may resist – if their feelings, emotions and views have not been addressed. Dealing with resistance to change (

Accountability and Performance Management – Most professional practices have plans that outline their change intentions. But some fail to have processes and reward systems to ensure that there is a robust implementation plan and accountability. This led to discussions about performance management. The nine-box grid was mentioned as a useful tool and there were discussions about “grasping nettles” and “drowning puppies”.

On this topic, there was an interesting article in February 2023 from McKinsey on how a dual focus on performance and people can lead to greater competitive advantage Managing human capital: Performance through people | McKinsey

Vision and process – Collaboration and communication is needed to develop a compelling vision which is advocated by leadership. We reviewed several change process models – from three to 12 stages – and delegates crafted their own frameworks depending on their situations and needs. Keep the focus on the desired outcome and results rather than the detail of the process and project.

Hearts – Emotions

Attitude to change – Typically we think about the change we wish to promote in others. But it helps to consider how you have reacted to change situations in the past. And what you need to change before urging others to change. Sometimes a simple shift in how we think (as we do when we reframe Two big guns of communication – face time and reframing ( leads to changes in our behaviour, which in turn elicits different emotions, reactions and behaviours in others.

Appreciation – Whilst most were familiar with the concept of a feedback sandwich (a constructive criticism sandwiched between two positive comments), some were struck by the findings of Nancy Kline and the need for a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback to create an appreciative environment, psychological safety and a greater likelihood of change. The art of giving feedback – top tips (

Personalities and teams – Some of the delegates were familiar with the Colour Insights personality analysis. Insights Discovery & Colour Types: A Beginners Guide | The Colour Works  They had used the tool to understand the personalities of Board and team members. This led to a greater appreciation of the strengths of different approaches which led to less friction and conflict and greater collaboration.

Anxiety – We also explored a variety of reasons why some people find it hard to change. Role (and how you are perceived) was one. Learning anxiety was another – which led to fears about temporary incompetence, punishment for incompetence, loss of personal identity and loss of group membership.

Hands – Action and Behaviours

Explore the barriers to change – Often the focus is on persuading people why they should change. Insufficient attention is directed at what is preventing them from changing. We used force field analysis to consider the things that are promoting the change as well as the things (whether attitudes, policies, systems etc) that is preventing the change. Discussion and action to remove barriers often releases momentum allowing change to progress.

Assume positive intent – Whilst change managers may be frustrated that people appear not to be complying with change requests, it helps if you consider that everyone is operating with a positive intent. This is a fundamental belief in many models of human behaviour – not least the Humanistic school and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Exploring the reasons why people adhere to old behaviours and/or fail to adopt new behaviours often reveals an education gap or a flaw in the proposed change process.

Adaptability – A number of delegates were struck by the adaptability of chameleons (yes, each delegate took away an actual lizard model). The ability to adapt behaviours depending on environment and situation is crucial for all change. Research on leadership and emotional intelligence (EQ) ( shows that adaptability is one of the 12 domains of emotional intelligence (EQ). There was also interest in the adaptive third and their future focus (as opposed to dwelling on the past): Change management and creativity – the adaptive third ( 

Environment – There was healthy debate about the importance of environment – including reasons for untidy, file-stacked offices and status cues from leaders’ cellular offices and car parking spaces. There was a discussion about the importance of senior role models “walking the talk” and setting a great example of the desired change in behaviour.  We also considered how human safety needs are supported by control over our territory. Behavioural science research explores the use of defaults, nudges and habits.  

Small specific steps – Accepting the insight from a number of change experts, some focused on the importance of offering small, specific steps to make starting a change easier. Along with rational and emotional drivers, being specific about the first steps is a change framework promoted in Change management book – Switch (Chip & Dan Heath) ( There was also a discussion about the relevance of tiny and atomic habits in this context.

Deloitte’s Green Room podcast The Green Room: Episode #48: What’s the secret to changing behaviours? on Apple Podcasts features Richard Shotton, author of “The Choice Factory” and “The illusion of Choice” with a focus on how people react to climate change. Interesting points included:

  • Change is hard – it’s working against human nature
  • Susan Fisk used the term “cognitive misers” – it’s energy-intensive to think so people use heuristics and habits to be efficient
  • Behavioural science used to be called social psychology – the study of how people actually behave rather than how they say they behave
  • Change the environment and remove friction to help people decide to change
  • Hotel towels experiment – increase in compliance when messages suggest other people reuse their towels (Cialdini’s social proof persuasion technique Influence – Cialdini’s six principles of the psychology of persuasion (
  • The power of the default – helping people make a good choice (see Book review: Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth (
  • Elliott Aronson – In advertising, there’s power in admitting a flaw (e.g. expensive Stella Artois and slow Guinness). The Pratfall effect (cognitive bias) suggests that credibility increases when you demonstrate the humanity of imperfection
  • Identifiable victim effect – Donations doubled when people hear a personal story rather than statistics about how many people are suffering

It was good to hear from the delegates how the relaxed and fun environment created within the training room and the creative (“playful”) exercises using road tapes, colour stickies and physical items (including toy lizards, labels and emotion wheels) increased both satisfaction and learning effectiveness.

Change Management – Heads, Hearts and Hands

Related change management articles

20 insights on change management processes and communication ( November 2022

change management ( August 2022 – Change management standards

Nine Change Management insights (May 2022) ( May 2022

Classic management book reviews – The McKinsey way, Good to great ( Includes a review of 2001 The Sunday Times How to manage organisational change By D E Hussey

Dealing with resistance to change ( March 2021

Change management basics – personal and organisational change ( December 2020

Book review: Neuroscience for organizational change by Hilary Scarlett ( May 2020

change process – Emotions when reacting to change ( April 2020

Personal reflections on managing change – Coronavirus is here to stay ( March 2020

Change management and Employee engagement ( April 2021

Change management – Change Catalyst book review by Kim Tasso September 2018

change management and organisational change ( January 2017

Change management and creativity – the adaptive third ( July 2016

Change management book – Switch (Chip & Dan Heath) ( September 2015