Tag Archives: Susan Scott

Knowing is Easy — Doing is Much More Difficult (Maybe “The” Lesson of Switch)

“Knowledge does not change behavior.”
(Jerry Sternin, working for Save the Children).
Quoted in Switch: How To Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath.

I have really been struck with the lessons that I learned — or maybe, the truths that were reinforced – in Switch. In fact, to borrow a phrase from Susan Scott’s Fierce Leadership, nearly everything that I learn, from anywhere/everywhere, really is simply a matter of the “fricking obvious.”

What the Heath brothers tell us is that habit/automatic pilot is “easy.” It’s going off of automatic pilot that is very, very difficult. Here’s a quote from the book:

Self-control is an exhaustible resource… Much of our daily behavior is more automatic than supervised, and that’s a good thing because the supervised behavior is the hard stuff. It’s draining.
We burn up self-control in a wide variety of situations: managing the impression we’re making on others; coping with fears; controlling our spending; and many, many others.
When people try to change things, they’re tinkering with behaviors that have become automatic, and changing those behaviors requires careful supervision by the Rider. The bigger the change you’re suggesting, the more it will sap people’s self-control.
Change is hard because people wear themselves out… What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.

And they also say, in their imagery of the Rider (who thinks rationally – “If I understand this intellectually, I will change”) and the Elephant (who thinks “emotionally” – “I have to feel like changing”), that “knowledge does not change behavior.” This is truly “fricking obvious.” Everyone knows that we should floss our teeth every day. Every supervisor knows that he/she should catch an employee doing something right, reinforce positive behavior more than criticize what needs to be changed; every smoker knows that smoking is bad for their health. The “knowing” is already a done deal. But the change, the switch itself, the doing, the actual changing, is so very, very difficult.

It is such a universal reality that there is a name for this problem: the “knowing-doing” gap. Check out this article from Fast Company in 2000, Why Can’t We Get Anything Done? by Alan M. Webber. It refers substantially to the book The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton. (Here is Bob Morris’ review of this book).  And here is the first of sixteen rules from the article:

Rule #1. Doing something actually requires … doing something!

The Heath brothers say that to succeed at the doing – in other words, to actually make the switch/embrace and implement the change — you have to stack the deck in favor of change.

Make small steps. Overload “convenience.” In the book, they recommend that you actually put 1% milk in your refrigerator, and never put whole milk in your refrigerator. We drink what is conveniently available. Again from the book:

How do you get Americans to start drinking low-fat milk? You make sure it shows up in their refrigerators… People will drink whatever is around the house… you don’t need to change drinking behavior. You need to change purchasing behavior.

So, if you don’t floss your teeth, buy a small convenience store supply of floss. Put some by your bed, some in your bathroom, some atop your coffee maker, some by your computer, some in your car. Let floss stare at you every where you turn, and then actually floss. Make it convenient — take a small step until it becomes automatic.  When it becomes automatic, you have then actually changed; you have arrived at switch.

Find and use such convenience triggers with everything you are trying to change — at work, at home, everywhere.

Knowing is relatively easy. It is the doing that is so tough.

Start doing!

The Three Primary Derailers (for a business, and an individual) – these can really bring you down {more insight from Susan Scott’s Fierce Leadership}

(A note from Randy:  it is common to see me “revisiting” points from books, or the books themselves, on this blog.  This is partly due to the fact that I present my synopses of some of these books multiple times.  And sometimes, the books have enough different points, and are just that good, that I keep thinking of new points to blog about.  Well, Fierce Leadership is just that good, and I keep thinking of new points to blog about.  So – here goes).


What will knock a company, or a person, off their game, and may lead to serious failure?  In Fierce Leadership, Susan Scott identifies “three primary derailers:”

1)  difficulty handling change

2)  not being able to work well in a team

3)  poor interpersonal relations

I think she is right.  Throughout the years of the First Friday Book Synopsis, change management and innovation rise to the top of the list of themes covered by the best business books.  And the evidence is clear that not playing well with others/inability to work well in a team is a killer – thus the continuing popularity and value of Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  And as Susan Scott herself says, “your most valuable currency is relationship, emotional capital.”

How are you doing in these three areas?

And, here is my opinion – nobody actually likes to change, so difficulty handling change may be the most difficult one to fix.

The other two are “fixable” – but you really, really have to work at cultivating interpersonal relationship skills.

We do not and will not get better by accident – we have to work at it.

Memo to Members of the Executive Leadership Team – Mix and Mingle and Listen to All of your Folks

Business books, business book authors, and regular folks all agree – there is too much segregation in the workplace.  I’m not talking about racial or ethnic segregation, but rather segregation between leaders and the people they need to be leading.

I have noticed this is at companies where we speak.   If a company brings us in for a book synopsis presentation, it is frequently the case that people in key leadership positions seldom come to these book presentations.  And these presentations are designed to facilitate conversation.  And it is so very common for someone to say to me “I wish my boss/supervisor had heard this.”

Tom Peters was the first (that I remember) to say that we need more management by walking around.  And Susan Scott says that companies need lots of purposeful, intentional, honest conversations.

Here is the obvious fact:  there can be no such conversations in a segregated workplace.  Here was the last point on my handout at the end of my presentation of Susan Scott’s Fierce Leadership:

No more work place segregation – for conversations to matter, you have to mingle up and down the hierarchy!

So, memo to the executive leadership team: Mix and Mingle and Listen to All of your Folks.   Sit with them at lunch.  Walk around and strike up conversations.  Listen!  A lot.  Every week.  Maybe some every day.  You have to know your people to lead your people.  And, to state the obvious, you have to spend time with your people to know your people.

You Can’t Legislate Integrity

Cheryl offers:  This week at Take Your Brain to Lunch, Randy Mayeux delivered a synopsis of Susan Scott’s new book, Fierce Leadership.  In his remarks, he included a few from her “Memo to Managers” which I loved as soon as I heard them. The one item that I was most excited to hear was “Do not, under any circumstances, tell a lie – of either commission or omission. Do not stretch the truth, exaggerate, or make __ up to get out of trouble or make yourself look good.” I love that! Scott has captured exactly what I believe is one of the most important aspects of leadership. Tell the truth, the whole truth. I recall conversations with my own teenagers on this very topic. I wasn’t trying to make them into leaders at the time; I just wanted them to learn the valuable lesson of telling the truth. If you bend or omit the “facts” in any manner, it’s manipulating the truth to suit a purpose, almost always one that benefits the storyteller. Since either telling or not telling leads to the same result: manipulation of the facts to benefit the teller, it’s the same egregious act: lying. The link I see from being transparent to being a leader is clear. We can’t legislate integrity, ever, no matter how many seemingly clever laws we pass. However, if a leader is honest and acts consistently in an honest manner, they will be of integrity. And they will likely be successful and admired. No laws necessary!

The Three Tasks of a Leader

There are a few themes that pop up time and time again on this blog, because these themes pop up time and time again in the business books and articles we read.  You might call these the “big business issues.”  And I am beginning to think that the mother of all themes/all business issues is leadership.  People need to be led.  Leadership is what points to the future, and helps people get there.

I think there are three great leadership tasks.  Yes, these flow from all that I have read, including the most recent read, Fierce Leadership by Susan Scott.  And these three flow from the three great problems, even failures, of leaders.  Let’s describe these this way:

#1  We have too many uncaring leaders. (leaders who may care for the bottom line, but not for their people).

#2  We have too many unlearning leaders (leaders who do not keep learning)

#3  We have too many paralyzed leaders (leaders who are afraid to take risks, leaders who fail to see the changes needed).

So – if these are the problems, what are the three great tasks of leaders?

Task #1  Leaders are called to develop a good heart.

Susan Scott writes about smart+heart, and I would say as I read her book and thought about this that heart trumps smartSmart enough with a developed heart is much, much better that really smart and no heart.

A good heart describes a leader who cares about his/her people.  And these people include all people in the leader’s circle: family members, friends, colleagues, employees, and customers.  In other words, heart is not reserved for a narrow few, but for the many.  You either care about people or you don’t.

And a good leader finds ways to deepen the heart, to learn to care more deeply, and more consistently.

Robert Greenleaf coined the phrase “servant leader,” and he stated simply that the leader is servant first.  “Servant first” is all about caring for people.

Task #2  Leaders are called to nurture a keen and active, well-fed mind.

A leader needs to know what to think about, what to focus on, in terms of business innovation and business execution.   A leader simply needs to keep learning.

Here is one simple test:  does a leader keep reading?  If a leader is not intentionally exposing herself/himself to the new and best thought available, then that leader is depriving the people of a great gift, even a great need.  A leader has to keep learning.  If you are a leader, your people need you to keep learning.

Task #3  Leaders have to be willing to decide.

Decide what?  Everything.

With really good input from all of the people, with really good insight about the marketplace, the times, the trends, and always caring about the people — but ultimately, the leader has to make the decision.  And not deciding is a terrible decision to make.

These are the three:  develop a good heart; keep learning; make good decisions.

What would you add to the list of tasks for genuine and effective leadership?

A Quote for the Day — from Susan Scott in Fierce Leadership

Bob Morris has reviewed Susan Scott’s book Fierce Leadership here on our blog.  Her earlier book is Fierce Conversations.  Here is a key quote from her new book about the importance of such conversations:

The conversation is the relationship.  Business is fundamentally as extended conversation with colleagues, customers, and the unknown future emerging around us.  What gets talked about in a company and how it gets talked about determines what will happen.  Or won’t happen.

A leader’s job is to engineer the types of conversations that produce epiphanies.

A fierce conversation is one in which we come out from behind ourselves, into the conversation, and make it real…  It is the unreal conversation that should scare us to death.  When you think of a fierce conversation, this authenticity, integrity, collaboration, execution muscle, innovation, emotional capital…


(I’m presenting a synopsis of Fierce Leadership tomorrow at the Take Your Brain to Lunch gathering).