Leaders Own Context

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Context n. the situation, the interrelated conditions, in which something occurs.

Any change is considered within the context.

The beliefs, assumptions, perceptions, and methods, all of which create context are deeply ingrained in our organization.

Understanding the perceived context is the foundation of leading change.

It’s important to realize that context is a construct of the mind.

How we perceive context determines our action, our choices. It’s easy to see this if we look at the choices of a clinically depressed person. The choices this person makes are easily explained by them given their context. When we say their context, we’re talking about a perceived context. Clearly not reality. At least not our perception of reality. Of course ours is a perception as well.

We know we can’t legislate participation and engagement.

The real job of the change leader is to influence people to change their perception of their environment and how the change fits that environment. Without that all the other change work is simply busy work. People need to want to change their perception of their environment. Want to is the operative phrase.

Frankly, it’s easier to stay in the current context because it’s a risk to shift to a new one. When you implement a new approach into an old context there is a sense of a fish out of water. The most basic functions don’t work. I recall after the installation of a new accounting system in a bank, while the new system did many fancy things, people were unsure of how to make a deposit. Even the most simple activities were now out of context.

Context can only be changed if we are able to change the foundational thinking that creates the perception of context.

Not everything is broken

Change is exciting. We buy in. We get why we should change. Why doesn’t everyone else? Part of explaining the change is to explain why the current environment doesn’t work. What’s easy to forget is that you are explaining this to the people who built and embrace that environment.

Find what works in the current environment and how you will leverage that. Think improvement rather than total rebuild.

While everything is not broken, obviously some things are. Focus there and honor the past.

Understand 90/10

The New Leadership Normal mindset’s formula 90/10 – 60/40 assumes a starting parochialism (90/10) in which most people’s focus is on their department. People naturally think locally. A bond develops in local teams. These local teams create their work process. This creates the environment we are trying to change. There is a great deal of ownership in the current environment. It’s also comfortable.


Empathy is crucial. One of the most important components for those accepting the change is that those leading the change care. This is a perception but one that can be actively managed if true. Understanding the history and what makes up the current environment and honoring it goes a long way. That doesn’t mean that you can’t influence the change of this environment but the understanding and empathy must come first.

The Customer

There are many levers for change. The most powerful is the customer. If the marketplace and the customer requires that we change everyone can understand that. There are direct metrics that can be used to help make the case. You can’t get too far away from this lever. You must link every shift to this lever showing how the desired action supports the customer.

Pay particular attention to perceived context in order to influence change.

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Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On April 19, 2016
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