How to lead change that sticks: Engage Elephant and Rider

Focused action is critical in leading change that sticks. Great ideas are just that – great ideas – without focused action to execute.

There are many great books on change, and one of my favourites is Switch: How to change things when change is hard by Chip and Dan Heath. They maintain that for change to be successful we need to engage both ‘the elephant’ and ‘the rider’.

The elephant is the emotional instinctive side. It’s the part of you that wants instant gratification; where you would rather a quick payoff (a sleep-in this morning), over the long-term payoff (feeling fit and fabulous). The elephant is also your emotional centre – love, compassion, stirring anger. Once motivated, the elephant gets things done with energy and drive.

The rider sits on top of the elephant holding the reins and appearing to be in control. The rider is the rational side with the ability to analyze, plan and think long-term. These are all vital skills. The rider’s downside is the ability to get stuck in analysis paralysis, brainstorming forever without taking action.

For focused action that results in successful execution, you need to lead change by engaging both the elephant and the rider. The rider brings planning and direction while the elephant contributes energy.

The Heath brothers add a third step that is equally important for successful change leadership: ‘shape the path’. This involves refining your behaviour when the situation changes, building supportive habits, and ‘rallying the herd’ to take advantage of contagious behaviour.

Think about a change you want to make. Who is most engaged right now, your Elephant (the emotional) or your Rider (the rational)? How can you fully engage the other?

Love to hear your thoughts on change. Leave your comments below. 

Have an Extraordinary day
Corrinne