SWITCH: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard

Switch Book Cover.jpg

In our work as performance consultants, we are discovering the critical importance of culture.  It drives performance more than any one factor.  Positive culture is one of trust, respect, clarity, accountability, and celebration.  It allows teams to overcome obstacles, to honestly access situations, to carry another’s burdens when things are tough, and to “pass the baton” with assurance that the race continues with quality and dignity.  The Heath brothers provide tremendous insight about how to address the changes necessary to “tweak the environment” toward high performance.

“What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.  For anything to change, someone has to start acting differently. Ultimately, all change efforts boils down to the same mission: Can you get people to start behaving in a new way?” (p. 3-5)

Note: At Crouch & Associates we have learned that the beginning of change begins with self-assessment.  Understanding oneself is the beginning of the change process.  It takes courage.  It takes determination. It takes leadership. It is hard work, but without this understanding, change can not happen.

“Fundamentally we are all schizophrenic.  Part of us – our rational side – wants to get up at 5:45 a.m., allowing ourselves plenty of time for a quick jog before we leave for the office. The other part of us – the emotional side – wakes up in the darkness of the early morning, snoozing inside a warm cocoon of sheets and blankets, and wants nothing in the world so much as a few more minutes of sleep.  Your brain isn’t of one mind.” (p. 5-8)  

“Anytime the emotions and the rational disagree about what to do, the rational is going to lose. The emotional side is lazy and skittish. Is always looking for the quick pay-off (ice cream cone) over the long-term payoff (being thin). Emotion is about love and compassion and sympathy.  Emotions are what gets things done. To make progress toward a goal, whether it’s noble or crass, requires the energy and drive of our emotions.  Emotions are what provides energy.  When emotions and rational thinking come together, change can come easily.”

Note: In our capitalistic world, it is the rational that often takes the lead.  We are driven to sell, sell, sell.  We have charts that remind us of how many calls we have to make daily, visits that have to be made, and results that are required to make budget, meet our goals and lead to financial incentives.  All this makes rational sense.  We become anxious, feel stress, turn inward and the culture suffers.  The Heaths want us to realize it is our emotions that provide the energy to succeed.  

“If you want people to change, you have to provide crystal-clear direction. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. When the emotions and rational work together change can come easily.” (p. 16-18)


“Direct the rational: provide clarity.  Follow the bright spots… what works – clone it. Script the critical moves, don’t think big picture, think in terms of specific behavior. Point to the destination.”

“Motivate the emotions: what looks like laziness is often exhaustion.   Find the feeling – make people feel something. Shrink the change, break it down to small increments. Grow your people by creating a sense if identity and initial growth mindset.”

“Shape the path.  Tweak the environment. When the situation changes, the behavior changes. Build habits using action triggers. Rally the herd. Behavior is contagious, help it spread.”

Note: If organizations and teams can focus on these three areas, amazing performance can happen.  This requires humble and committed leadership.  Action triggers are critical.  The Heaths point to research over and over in their book that verifies this point.

“Action triggers protect goals from tempting distractions, bad habits, or competing goals.  Action triggers have a profound power to motivate people to do the things they know they need to do.

“Peter Gollwitzer, a psychologist at New York University, is the pioneer of work in this area. Gollwitzer has shown that action triggers are most useful in difficult situations – the ones that are most draining.  With hard goals, action triggers almost tripled the chance of success.”

“What action triggers do is create an ‘instant habit.’ Habits are behavioral autopilot, and that’s exactly what action triggers are setting up.” (p.210-212)

“How can you create a habit that supports the change you’re trying to make? There are only two things to think about: (1) The habit needs to advance the mission. (2) The habit needs to be relatively easy to embrace.” (p. 216)

Note:  I use action triggers all day long.  To build confidence (something my grandfather taught me 40 years ago), I make my bed everyday, first thing even in hotels. It instantly makes me feel good.  Our team has adapted an action trigger from Mel Robbins we call the HIGH PERFORMANCE DAILY LIST.  This action trigger allows us to start the day listing the 4 most important things to accomplish that day. It keeps us focused on the hard things first. A former colleague of mine wears a rubber band on her wrist. Whenever she feels she is getting distracted from the task at hand, she pulls on it and pops her wrist, immediately bringing her back into the moment.  All top performers develop action triggers to stay on track!

We enjoy helping our clients create their action triggers.  The results are seen in the higher level of accomplishment they achieve!