Change-Friendly Leadership: A book review by Bob Morris

Change-Friendly Leadership: How to Transform Good Intentions Into Great Performance
Rodger Dean Duncan
Maxwell Stone Publishing (2012)

“Vision without execution is hallucination.” Thomas Edison

Frankly, I did not know quite what to expect as I began to read this book. In a brief but thoughtful Foreword, Stephen M.R. Covey praises its relevance, insightfulness, and accessibility. Then as I worked my way through the material that follows, I agreed with Covey’s praise. Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi once held up a piece of chalk and said to his players, “I can beat any team with this.” Obviously, any strategy, framework, methodology, etc. is only as effective as those who use it.  That is why I selected the Edison quotation for the title of my review and that is why Rodger Dean Duncan places so much emphasis on explaining the “how” of change leadership and management at all levels and in all areas.

I commend him on his skillful use of reader-friendly devices throughout the book, notably checklists, sequences of action steps, clusters of bullet points, “Remember the Four Ts” reminders in Chapters 2-9 (more about that in a moment), [Fill in the Blank] Self-Assessment exercises, and “Influence Levers”  (e.g. “Change-Friendly Leadership”).  Duncan also provides “Bonus Points” material to consult after reading each of the three Sections in the book. Information about accessing additional resources online is provided on Page 274. I also appreciate the selection and strategic placement of dozens of relevant quotations throughout the book.

Regrettably the most important reader-friendly device, an index, is not included. However, one will be added to the second edition. Meanwhile, one is provided online at the DoctorDuncan website.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye:

o  “Levels of Engagement” (Pages 13-14)
o  “Change-Friendly Steps” (26-32)
o  “Authenticity = Trust” (41-43)
o  “Symbols and Metaphors” (48-50)
o  “Conclusion – Challenge the Stories You Tell Yourself” (70-75)
o  “Defer Judgment” (92-98)
o  “Trust Builders” (127-142)
o  “Compelling Purpose” (153-160)
o  “A Perspective on Resistance” (198-204)
o  “Use Multiple Influence Levers” (215-221)
o  “Diagnostics That Count” (245-248)

With regard to the “Four Ts” and why they should be remembered, Duncan frequently stresses the importance of Thinking, Talking, Trusting, and being Team Friendly in all behaviors and relationships with others, especially collaboration, both within an beyond the workplace. He devotes a separate chapter to each of the four in Section Two but they are really interdependent…or at least should be. Develop a positive mindset that guides and supports what you say and what you do so that others will trust you, indeed seek and appreciate opportunities to work with you to achieve shared goals. There will always be situations when, for whatever reasons, we are — or are perceived to be — negative in what we say or do. In a word, “Unfriendly.”  That is when we should remember the four Ts and then, more importantly, make corrective adjustments.

Credit Duncan with providing a framework that, with Change-Friendly leadership, can enable change initiatives to avoid or overcome the inevitable cultural barriers that result from what James O’Toole (in Leading Change) so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” However, the very culture that is then established after change initiatives succeed (most don’t) may then pose the same barriers to which O’Toole refers. Hence the importance of sustaining a continuous loop of exploring, discovery, and sharing throughout the given enterprise. I agree with Rodger Dean Duncan that “genuinely engaging with other human beings – especially those who are resistant to change – could well be the “secret sauce” of ultimate success. Hence, therefore, the importance also of the “friendly factor,” one that is based on mutual respect and trust.

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