The Secret Sauce
The idea for The Secret Sauce for Leading Transformational Change began during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2022 with the transformational changes taking place in people’s personal and work lives, and society at large. Over 935,000 people died in the United States, with nearly 6,000,000 lives lost globally at the time of this writing. This unprecedented period was characterized by massive disruptions including economic instability, racial and social injustice, declines in mental and physical well-being, remote school and work challenges, and political divisions. Living with all this change and uncertainty prompted questions about what it takes to lead, survive, and even thrive in periods of transformational change.
The book highlights the practical experience of several hundred leaders who contributed their expertise on the art and science of leading transformational change. It includes diverse and sometimes conflicting perspectives on transformational change from CEOs and other senior business leaders, CHROs and other senior HR leaders, transformational change experts, authors, coaches, and consultants. These experts have executed and delivered on transformational change, and share insights, vivid stories, and lessons learned on what to do, how to do it, and what to avoid. There really is a secret sauce for leading transformational change!
“Ian’s lifetime of experiences has generated a marvelous compendium of ideas with impact. Transformation happens when thoughtful colleagues share insights on truth, talent, timing, and tools.”
- DAVE ULRICH
Rensis Likert Professor Ross School of Business,
University of Michigan; Partner, The RBL Group
Book Chapter Abstracts
Introduction – The Spirit of Abundance
The idea for this book began during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2022, inspired by the transformational changes taking place in people’s personal and work lives, and society at large. This unprecedented two-year period, with reverberations expected for years to come, was characterized by massive disruptions including economic instability, racial and social injustice, declines in mental and physical well-being, remote school and work challenges, and political divisions. These monumental changes, exacerbated by lockdown fever, prompted thoughts of what it takes to lead, survive, and even thrive in periods of transformational change. The core group for this book project began with the Consortium for Change (C4C), a community network of independent coaches, consultants, and transformational change experts. C4C is based on The Spirit of Abundance. Its purpose is to share business opportunities, competitive intelligence, learning and ideas, and best practices that allow collaboration on behalf of clients. The book also includes the practical experience and perspectives of an additional several hundred leaders and thinkers who contributed through essays, interviews, a survey, and tools, all focused on the art and science of leading transformational change.
Chapter 1 – From What to What?
1969 was a pivotal year in my life. As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Long Island, New York, it was the season the Knicks, Jets, and Mets all won championships in their respective professional sports of basketball, football, and baseball. For an 11-year-old who loved sports, everything seemed pretty awesome. Life was good, until it wasn’t. That year was also when my father, Ted Ziskin, began bumping into walls and other previously navigable objects. Finally, a diagnosis. Multiple sclerosis. There is a theme that began taking shape in my life over 50 years ago, starting with my father’s illness and untimely death. Recognizing and facing transformational change. This pivotal time taught me many valuable life lessons. One such lesson is the importance of understanding and articulating, “from what to what?” This question is about knowing where you came from and where you are going. Most importantly, it is the central question in leading transformational change. This book reveals a formula for successfully leading transformational change, which emerges in stark relief as the book unfolds. There really is a secret sauce for leading transformational change!
Chapter 2 – The Beauty of “And”
Leading transformational change, perhaps more than any other aspect of leadership, is highly dependent on the will and skill to reconcile competing priorities. It often comes down to balancing incongruous interests, and to mastering paradox. But, truly effective transformational change is not about winners and losers, or either/or. It is about the beauty of “and.” Two contradictory things can be true at the same time. There are seven paradoxes that matter most in leading transformational change: 1. Past and Future, 2. Reality and Aspiration, 3. Facts and Feelings, 4. Speed and Rhythm, 5. Flexibility and Focus, 6. Difference and Improvement, 7. Change and Transformation. This book acknowledges the value of tweaks and disruptions, as well as difference and improvement. As the book will make increasingly clear, leading transformational change must be about change and transformation!
Chapter 3 – Expert Perspectives (Essays) – Collective Wisdom
This chapter presents eight essays focused on the Individual element of transformational change that will guide you through concepts and techniques such as engaging the mind, vulnerability moments, intentionality, constructive disruption, and a VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world. The chapter also touches upon deeply personal challenges like confronting a life-threatening cancer diagnosis that transforms life on every possible level. Each author has extensive experience and credentials in leading transformational change, yet every essay is unique. The angles on leading transformational change are diverse and rich, the lenses varied and vivid. But, despite the breadth of perspectives, every essay concludes with the same laser focus – Three Things to Know or Do About Transformational Change.
Chapter 4 – Teams
This chapter presents four essays focused on the Team element of transformational change that will guide you through challenges such as toxic positivity, developing an effective DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) strategy, and changing from within to create the change you want to see in your team. The chapter even takes you through the journey of arts-based dialogue, which will leave you wanting to break out your paints. Each author has extensive experience and credentials in leading transformational change, yet every essay is unique. The angles on leading transformational change are diverse and rich, the lenses varied and vivid. But, despite the breadth of perspectives, every essay concludes with the same laser focus – Three Things to Know or Do About Transformational Change.
Chapter 5 – Organizations
This chapter presents 13 essays focused on the Organizational element of transformational change that will take you on a journey of understanding a world of work without jobs, being a continuously adaptive leader, leveraging change, sustaining DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), going wider, farther, and deeper, and creating a transformation playbook. Can you become the agile experimenter required to have strategic foresight? Can you identify your change champions, build positive energy, and ensure usefulness to make transformational change stick? This chapter will tell you how. Each author has extensive experience and credentials in leading transformational change, yet every essay is unique. The angles on leading transformational change are diverse and rich, the lenses varied and vivid. But, despite the breadth of perspectives, every essay concludes with the same laser focus – Three Things to Know or Do About Transformational Change.
Chapter 6 – Leadership Storytelling (Interviews) – Do Something
A handful of the Consortium for Change (C4C) members interviewed eight CEOs and other senior business leaders about what it takes to actually lead transformational change. These highly experienced executives did not theorize, speculate, or equivocate. They knew it was time to do something. These leaders did not act alone, but they did lead. They each entered the scene in “the middle of the movie.” They inherited circumstances, facts, and history that preceded them. They needed to figure out what was going on, and then act. The leaders set a new vision, mission, or sense of purpose. They drove culture change and innovation. They built a new team, insisted on collaboration, and held people accountable. They globalized, sped things up, communicated more transparently, made people feel like owners, and recognized change champions. These leaders understood the holistic view of transformational change, built trust, embraced VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity), took risks, learned from failures, and delivered results. They treated customers, employees, investors, and communities like they mattered. Every leader learned – both from what they did and did not do.
Chapter 7 – Crowdsourcing (Survey) – Build a Bonfire
This chapter is a compilation of great input from 150 people who have led transformational changes, been affected by them, or both. The chapter builds a bonfire of ideas and advice in response to the following question, “What is the single most important action or step a leader or organization can take to ensure successful and lasting transformational change?” You will find a summary of the following three primary themes, supported by a sampling of quotes that provide context and reinforcement: 1. Go First, but Not Alone, 2. Define, Align, and Refine the What and Why, 3. Energize the Village. Leading transformational change begins, not surprisingly, with leaders. The survey respondents offer advice that includes change yourself first and hold others accountable. And, successful leaders of transformational change travel in packs. Survey respondents reinforce that leading transformational change demands definition of mission and purpose, alignment of organizational processes and systems to reinforce expected behaviors and actions, as well as constant adjustment and refinement to overcome obstacles. Leading transformational change takes a village, and the survey respondents loudly agree! Their advice is to create energy and engagement, promote “pull,” and focus on the culture needed to enable and sustain lasting transformational change.
Chapter 8 – Don’t Do It
We sometimes benefit from understanding what we should not do, before we settle on what we should do. This chapter will remind you – explicitly and implicitly – about what not to do. In case it is not yet clear, if you want to effectively lead transformational change, DON’T . . . do it by yourself, refuse to tell people what needs to be changed, or why, or confuse doing things differently with improving results.
Chapter 9 – The Secret Sauce
Read the book first, formulate your own views, and decide whether you agree or disagree with the book’s contributors. Then, consider this definition of transformational change so you can decide for yourself whether it resonates with your take. “Transformational change is completely rethinking and repositioning the what, why, how, who, when, and where associated with dramatically improving the effectiveness, happiness, health, and/or survival of someone or something.” Everyone can provide leadership of transformational change, and having an execution plan to get there that everyone understands really makes a big difference. People hate change, but they hate failure even more. In addition, transformational change is most effective when it is simple and practical. This chapter focuses your attention on the top ten most differentiating ingredients for success. Think of these actions as the formula, the secret sauce, for leading transformational change: Start with Truth, Talent, and Timing; Cultivate the Spirit of Abundance; Answer from What to What?; Appreciate the Beauty of “And”; Embrace VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity); Go First, but Not Alone; Define, Align, and Refine the What and Why; Energize the Village; Love Influencers and Resistors; Taste-Test the Secret Sauce.
Chapter 10 – A “Pizzanalogy”
Question: What the f*#k does pizza have to do with leading transformational change? Answer: Everything. How and why would something as ubiquitous (and awesome) as pizza need to be transformed? Pizza, like transformational change is not only subject to continuous revision and the endless quest for perfection, it is defined by it. Pizza is the ideal analogy for, and official food of, leading transformational change. And, do not forget about the secret sauce! Just about every product, service, and industry has been reimagined, reinvented, and repositioned to some degree. None more so than pizza. As we learned from Mike Tyson in Chapter 1, pizza keeps getting punched in the mouth and changing its plans accordingly. Pizza shows us that the argument for and evidence of the need to lead transformational change is everywhere. Even and especially in those places where longevity and traditions could easily lull us into a false sense of security. But, what about the secret sauce? The most important ingredient is knowing that the secret does not remain a secret for very long.