At Leadership Development Services we frequently refer to Switch by Dan and Chris Heath to help our clients enhance team leadership and make change when change is hard and necessary. The authors share compelling stories of powerful changes and describe what it takes to make change happen. Their stories aren’t examples of complex, organizational restructures (although the changes they cite are exciting, compelling and even radical).  Rather, they illustrate how successful change agents identified simple, easy steps to follow.

Successful change agents give compelling reasons that capture hearts and minds.  They make it easy for people to implement changes and support them along the way.

At a recent leadership offsite, we introduced a struggling team to Switch and shared some of its key concepts.  The team had been through two sluggish years and relationships were frayed.  There wasn’t a lot of trust; cliques had formed. It wasn’t a productive atmosphere. Their leader had had enough and was ready to turn things around.

Lory started the retreat with a recap of the popcorn story described in the opening chapter of Switch:  “Moviegoers were offered free containers of popcorn when they entered a Chicago movie theater.  Some were very large tubs of popcorn and some got the medium size, but no matter the size, all the popcorn was stale, burnt and inedible.  Nevertheless, everyone ate their popcorn, and those with the large tubs ate 30% more!”

Although the Heath brothers use this study as an example of how to change people’s eating habits by giving them smaller containers or plates, Lory presented the example by drawing an analogy between the popcorn tubs and their individual “organizational plate.” She asked the group to consider the popcorn tub their plate. “There is so much on it,” she said, “that even though you know it isn’t working (the popcorn was stale and burnt), you haven’t been able to stop and fix it. Let us agree that now is the time to change the way we do business and we aren’t going to eat stale popcorn anymore…. We aren’t going to put up with behaviors that got us into old dysfunctional habits.”

She placed an empty container of popcorn on the table in front of them and they agreed that if anyone heard something from another team member that sounded anything like the old way they did business, they would call them on it, and say, “that sounds like stale popcorn.”  And it worked beautifully throughout the day — so much so that it has now become an embedded part of their team meetings.

Make the switch and try it. We guarantee you’ll like the results.