Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

Authenticity is an over-rated leadership attribute

Authenticity is not the attribute I seek most in a leader.

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“Change leadership” is not THE silver bullet. The Silver Bullet series.

Seems like many organizations are looking for the secret to effective strategic execution―the one thing that will fix the so-called 70% failure rate. The problem is (and we all know it deep down), there are no simple solutions for complex problems.  In this series, I will look at the conventional “silver bullets” and explore why none work alone and each is only moderately effective in its common form.

“Change leadership” is a favorite clarion call among change practitioners.  And, don’t get me wrong, I too believe that “it” (once we can agree on what “it” is) is important.  However, I believe that by promoting change leadership as a panacea we are setting ourselves up for failure.  I realize that this is a bit of a controversial position to take―I may be asking you to think differently about what you know.  I will look at three points:

  1. “Change leadership” is not “leadership”
  2. Why is sponsorship regularly rated as the most important element for successful change if it’s not a silver bullet?
  3. The punch line

Note: the context for this discussion is “strategic” change or “transformational” change.  Our firm’s definition: “Transformational change is highly disruptive to the way people do their work. It generally affects a large portion of an organization, shifts the power dynamic, and requires changes in mindset and behaviors to be realized.” (1) This is very different than the more common incremental change.

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What can sports teach us about strategy execution? 10 lessons

Strategy is integral in both sports and business. Furthermore, the dynamics of competition are universal. In sports, every game is a full cycle. What can sports teach us about improving execution? Here are a few observations:

  1. Grit wins over brains every day—but neither alone is enough for the long run.
  2. Anything can happen. Play is dynamic. Never assume. Always be ready.
  3. Every event affects momentum (every play, every hit, every heckle). Lean in to positive, brace through negative, focus on realization objectives.
  4. Plays are important. Competencies are essential. Synergy drives higher performance.
  5. Play through (not to). Impact does not generate results; follow-through does.
  6. Playing and watching are different. Players know. Great leaders (advisors) have played.
  7. There’s only one coach. Players, parents, and spectators (employees, managers, and extended leadership teams) commit or leave.
  8. Your perspective depends on your position. Great leaders speak to every perspective (forward/defense, rookie/veteran, coach/parent, beginning/end of game, winning/losing).
  9. Skin in the game strengthens commitment (ambition, grudges, purses/bonuses).
  10. Records are made to be broken. We can always do better.

Have you got more? Let’s hear them. Comments welcome.

We are Conner Partners, a niche consulting firm, who senior leaders have come to because:

  1.  They are launching a high-stakes strategy and worry (from painful experience) that their organization might fail OR
  2. A current major initiative is losing momentum and getting bogged down

We have a 40-yr track record of delivering with companies such as Abbott, Lowe’s, Merck and Premier Health Partners, to name a few.  Would you be open to an exploratory call? You can reach me at

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Change Whisperer by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Library—Great resources on Strategy Execution


We all have a “library” of resources we’ve read that have shaped our thinking and practice.

These are my favorite books and the ones I reference regularly.  My top three are in bold.

“Strategy Execution” is defined here as the continuum from concept (strategy) to concrete results (benefits realization).

If you don’t see your favorites please share them in the comments section.

Every so often I will update this post and indicate the recent additions with an *.

Strategy Execution:

  • “Creative Destruction Whips through Corporate America”, Innosight, Executive Briefing Winter 2012
  • “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done,” Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, Crown Business, NY, 2002
  • “The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage,” Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, Harvard Business School Press, 2008
  • “How Organizations Work: Taking a Holistic Approach to Enterprise Health,” Alan P. Brache, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 2002
  • “Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change”, Lawrence G. Herbiniak, FT Press, 2013

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