Kevin Turner wants you to forget everything you know about change management. President of Turner Leadership Strategies, Turner is an author and executive coach with 25 years of experience. In his newest book, Change is Good, Turner says he is also a student of brain science, and goes on to apply the things he’s learned studying neuroscience to help business leaders embrace and effectively execute change in themselves and their companies.
Leadership Through Change
Turner defines leadership a bit differently than most. He goes a bit further than defining a leader merely as someone who is able to communicate with his team, adding that a good leader must use three internal skills to navigate through change: self-control, focus and vision.
In Turner’s eyes, leaders are made, not born. He says all of these crucial leadership skills are learned through experience, which means someone can become a better leader by cultivating the behaviors and habits needed to lead a business through any change, no matter the size.
A Culture of Fear
The main obstacle facing leaders who are guiding their businesses through change is fear, Turner says. Some business leaders even use fear to motivate their employees, which can actually kill productivity and innovation. Over the short term, fearful employees may be more productive, but their morale will decline and their productivity will eventually follow suit.
What are leaders afraid of? Mostly it’s change in the workplace, Turner says. This could be a fear of losing a job, a fear of having ideas rejected, or a fear of business failure. Business leaders face enormous pressures to succeed and, in some companies, a culture of fear permeates the office, which leads to defensiveness, reduced judgment and other business missteps caused by hasty, reactive decision-making.
Turner points out there are two types of fear: instinctive and unfounded. Instinctive fear is good; it’s helpful. Instinctive fear is there to protect us, and it’s best not to ignore it. Problems arise, however, when leaders let unfounded fears guide them.
Unfounded fears make up the majority of fears, according to Turner. These fears are completely unimportant, especially when it comes to the fear of change. Unfounded fears are time wasters, taking energy and attention from the things that really matter. They can put leaders on the defensive, which in turn can seal the fate they’ve been fearing — self-fulfilling prophecies are no myth.
Battling these unfounded fears can be a challenge, according to Turner.
“The problem is that most people are unaware of how far the tentacles of unfounded fear penetrate their thinking,” he says.
Turner’s research into neuroscience has helped him develop a plan for leaders looking to overcome these pervasive, unfounded fears that cloud their business judgment. He says that belief conquers fear, meaning leaders will never overcome their fears if you don’t believe in themselves, their teams and their strategies. Even when the risk of loss or failure is possible, a leader must embrace change and believe in his or her ability to lead through the change. Turner points out that leadership is more of an internal skill than external.
“Leadership through change is about personal and interpersonal control, not the external control of the people around you,” he says. “This type of leadership through change is about the control of the internal dynamics that drive you and your organization: the feelings, beliefs, thoughts, attitudes, fears and habits that shape your collective behavior and your performance.”
Training Over Time
Fear is an emotion, and a person’s emotions help generate his or her habits. The good news is habits can change. Turner suggests that training over time is the best way to change a habit and build productivity. It’s not a speedy process, and it requires a plan or a roadmap. Turner believes in keeping it simple, but is adamant that consistent practice is required to bring about real change.
In the third section of his book, Turner details a specific plan for leaders looking to change their habits, overcome their fears and lead through change. This section is split up into six strategies leaders can use to train themselves, or others, over time to build the skills that will govern their performance. These skills are:
In each of his six strategies, Turner offers a question to think over, such as “What am I afraid of?” and “What’s the worst that could happen?” He then asks leaders to contemplate their answers and go through several detailed exercises during the course of a week. He recommends that leaders journal their progress to help them identify, respond to and learn from their emotional responses in each area.
He also offers tips for making a business a “change is good” organization, meaning that the employees are partners in the business, not just workers. This kind of leadership has been proven successful, and it’s a methodology Turner himself uses in his business.
After detailing all of these training methods and helping set a schedule for changing leadership behaviors, Turner explains his core tools: The TLS-T2 Training Over Time Globe model and the TLS ADAM Change Map, which leaders can combine and use to navigate through any business situation, including project completion, turnarounds and M&As. ADAM stands for: Acclimatize, Analyze, Design, Deliver, Audit, Adjust and Master, Turner’s seven-step plan for successful leadership.
Turner also delves into the nitty gritty of how leaders can influence change externally after working through the personal training. This can be useful in a company with staffing or leadership problems, and Turner offers specific steps for bringing about change in another individual in a way that is positive and proactive.
Change is inevitable, and a fear of change is often ingrained at a young age. Turner believes that his steps for training over time can help overcome this fear, the negative emotions associated with it and the business issues that can stem from these feelings. He feels his method is better than coaching or teaching, as it allows leaders to take ownership of the change by reflecting on their own actions and reactions and making a conscious choice to adjust their thinking for the better.
Dacia Rivers is a writer and editor for Texas CEO Magazine.