The Secret Sauce of Leading Transformational Change | Beth Cohn


What is the secret sauce of leading transformational change?

In uncertain times, leaders will face change…

But how can you create organizational changes that stick—even if your team fears change?

Beth Cohn of ADRA Change Architects is here to share her framework for leading through change.

We’ll discuss:

  • How the 3 parts of the mind experience change

  • Making difficult changes a positive experience

  • Using the Kolbe Index to navigate change

  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Beth Cohn: If the change requires me to do more, or put out more effort than I’m putting out now, it’s not going to work. But if it saves me time in some way, then it’s absolutely going to be something people are going to get on board with.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast with professional speaker, coach and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole Greer: Welcome everybody to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer and they call me the vibrant coach and I am here with a special guest. I have Beth Cohn with me today. Beth and I have been chatting it up before we got started. We girls have been in business for a while and dare I even say this, we know what we’re talking about. And I’m excited to bring this brain trust together. Beth Banks Cohn is the President and Founder of ADRA Change Architects. She knows all about change. She’s got books about it, she got a brand new book about it. We’re gonna talk about the brand new book today. 

She is an accomplished organizational consultant, senior executive coach, entrepreneur, and thought leader with more than 25 years of success in the healthcare, pharma, biotech, IT, high-tech, retail, engineering, and manufacturing industries. That should cover just about all of you listening. Regarded by many as an authority on culture, leadership and change, Beth is a sought-after speaker and consultant on key aspects of executing organizational change initiatives that stick. That means they work, so people actually listened to her and do what she says. Her passion for educating and guiding people has positioned her clients to feel empowered to thrive in an era of uncertain times. Hmm, perhaps that would be right now. 

Beth began her career at Johnson and Johnson, which, who I’m a big fan of the baby powder, I just gotta say. And over her 16-year tenure, she has held various positions of progressive seniority. Beth holds a PhD in human and organizational systems from Fielding Graduate University and Bath has authored numerous blog posts and the books I mentioned earlier. Most recently is an essay in The Secret Sauce of Leading Transformational Change. Let me say it again, The Secret Sauce of Leading Transformational Change available on Amazon. Go over there and click on that right now. Hey, Beth, how are you? 

Beth: I’m good, Nicole. How are you? 

Nicole: I’m fantastic. It’s a new year. And it’s opportunity to do change. And you know, I don’t know about you, Beth, but I’m one of these people that likes change. This whole resistance to change, don’t understand it never will. But I’ve got you here to explain things to me. So right out of the gate, I am collecting definitions of leadership. I’m just wondering if you’ve got a little definition for leadership you’d like to share with my listeners.

Beth: So, to me a definition of a leader, a true leader, is someone who is not only concerned about the business, but also about the people that make the business thrive. So that’s my definition.

Nicole: I love your definition. Because the truth is, if your building, take a look around, are there humans around you. If they got raptured out of here this afternoon, nothing would happen. So the business is the people. I agree with Beth 100%. See, we’re tight as ticks already. That’s how we talked down here in Concord, Beth. All right. So you’ve got this brand new section, or a chapter in the book that you co-authored with Ian Siskin. And it’s called The Secret Sauce of Leading Transformational Change. So would you please tell me what your chapter is all about?

Beth: Absolutely. So of course, as my bio shows, I, I am all about change. It’s how I’ve made my living as a consultant since 2004. And so not only do I know a lot about it, but I’m very passionate about it. From the perspective of it can always succeed. And it can always be for the good of everyone, right? So I’ve worked on changes where we’ve laid off everybody, right. Where we’ve closed down, buildings where laid off everybody, but people walked away feeling good about how it was done. Sad that it was that their job there was over but positive about what was going on in the future. 

It is possible to have change without bodies laying around. And so that’s what I always that’s what I think about. That’s what I write about. And in the book, I write about really looking at change from the perspective of three parts of the mind. So we know that there are three parts of the mind. And we know this because even Aristotle wrote about it. Only two parts really made it into sort of the mainstream, but there is this third part. So the two parts we know about the affect of or feeling part of the mind, the cognitive or thinking part of the mind. 

So we know about those but there’s this third part of the mind, the conative or doing part of the mind. It’s where our instincts sit, where our natural talents sit, where our mental energy sits. And companies often will just focus on the affective part of a change, like how people feel about it, they should you know that they want them to feel good about it, those kinds of things. But there’s also the cognitive, right? So we say, oh, they just need to know they need training, that’s what they need, then there’ll be fine with the change. But it actually doesn’t work that way, exactly. 

And then there’s the conative or the doing part where we think, oh, we can just introduce unlimited amounts of change, right? Because now we’re used to it or we know how to do it. But there’s this, we still have a limit in our mental energy. And so companies come up against that. That’s why they often fail. And then also, if we fundamentally change people’s jobs, we may have changed that job. And it’s something that person really isn’t going to be able to do in the long run. And so really helping companies see that change just isn’t about, oh, we need to tell them about it. And we need to make sure that they feel good about it. Like, it’s, it’s way more than that. And maybe before that sort of worked. 

But it’s definitely not working after the pandemic, because this mental energy that people have, they are not capable of replenishing their mental energy because they’re working all the time, or they’re worried all the time, or they’re constantly trying to figure out how to make their lives work all the time. Even though the pandemic is all just say, quote, unquote, over, it really isn’t. And so so what I write about is, how do we approach change from looking at those three parts of the mind in a way that will make change more accessible to people. It will make change, easier for people to implement and easier for the changes to stick.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. Okay, so the first thing that popped up in my mind, Beth, and I not sure if you’re familiar with the work of Kolbe, the Kolbe index. Are you a Kolbe gal?

Beth: I’m a Kolbe gal.

Nicole: Oh my god, okay.

Beth: And that’s what it’s based on. Like, when I became certified in Kolbe in 2009, really, I started working, I was already doing change with my clients. And I started to see the changes that we were trying to make it in a really in a new way. I mean, it gave me, it gave me a completely different perspective. And so I’ve worked very hard over the years to really incorporate Kolbe into the change work that I do. And I often don’t, I, in the book, I do attribute this to Kolbe, right to Kathy Kolbe because it’s where he heard it first. Because I think I think it’s really, it’s really important to think about those three parts of the mind. And it makes a huge difference. When I work with companies on changes. 

When I say to them, let’s talk about mental energy. Let’s talk about how you fundamentally change to this job. And so maybe the people that are in those jobs really aren’t the people for those jobs anymore, because you’re literally fundamentally changing what they do on a daily basis. And do you really want to do that? Is it necessary to do that in order for you to implement this change? So we have lots of conversations about is this change in its current form the right change? Or is there is there a different way of going about it that makes it better? So and yeah, and it all comes from Kolbe.

Nicole: Yeah. Okay. All right. So this word, so I never heard of conative the third brain that you’re talking about until I took the Kolbe and so let’s let you and you were so fast you rattled off what conative brain does but I think only got two things, but maybe I didn’t even get it right. So straighten me out here. Conative is like where your instincts lie and your mental energy. And then there was a third one and I missed it.

Beth: Your natural talents.

Nicole: Thank you. Okay, natural talents.

Beth: And also, like, what goes on with instinct is drive, right. You are driven. It’s like you can’t not do the thing that you’re doing. That’s where that’s what instinct really is, right. And so for example, my instinct is when I am motivated to solve a problem, the first thing I do is I gather information. Like that’s my instinct. I cannot start problem-solving until I gather information. Now other people have different instincts but that’s mine. And I know that about myself so that even if somebody says oh, let’s go brainstorm about something and that’s how they want to start the problem-solving process. I know that I need to gather information in order first in order for that me to be productive. And so, and that’s what’s, so that’s where that comes out. It’s that drive. I’m driven to do it I can’t not do it.

Nicole: Right right. I gotta have the facts. Yeah, so not to go down a whole Kobe you know, thing here, but there are four different instincts is that right? Am I speaking correctly? Because everybody on this show, they know me. I’m a quick start. So I just want to jump in with both feet in depth change. That’s why I said change. I’ll never understand it, why people don’t like it and why they’re resistant. I just think what the heck, let’s change. Alright, so talk talk talk.

Beth: Yes, yeah. So what’s interesting about being an initiating quickstart, which clearly you are, is that you have this, you have a level of comfort with risk and uncertainty that many people do not. Right. And the truth is, I haven’t equal numbers, in fact finder and quickstart. And so I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’m also very comfortable with risk of uncertainty. 

But there are lots of people who aren’t, right. There are lots of people who are hardwired to prevent risk and uncertainty. And those are the people in an organization that are often labeled people who hate change. And I always say they don’t hate change, they hate risk and uncertainty. And until you can explain to them how the change you’re about to implement is not going to create chaos, risk and uncertainty, they’re going to be against it. But there’s an easy solution. Let’s just talk about how it’s not going to do that. And then they’ll be on board, as long as it makes sense, as long as that cognitive piece is there for them. Right. 

And so that’s where where really looking at all three parts of the mind, it’s really important because you can’t just have conative and you can’t just have an affective or cognitive, you have to have all three. Our mind works together. These are three parts of it. And so we need all three. And that’s, those are the conversations that I have with companies, companies that don’t have those conversations that just say, oh, well, the bottom line says, we need to do this. 

So we’re just going to explain it, we’re going to teach them the new system that we’re implementing. And then we’re going to talk about how great this change is with the organization. They often fail, I mean, 70% of changes fail, right? And so that’s why because they’re not thinking of the whole person, they’re just thinking about one aspect of the person. And because the other stuff is hard, and it’s harder to do. But it’s worth the time. Because if you spend a little time upfront, the rest of it’s gonna go really smooth.

Nicole: All right, so the four different styles is quickstart, fact finder. And what are the other two?

Beth: Follow through and implementer. And they’re, and we call them action modes, right? They’re not styles, they’re action modes, all right. And there’s numbers in each of them, right? This is a little Kolbe, a little Kolbe lesson, right. There’s numbers in each of them, there’s different zones of operation. If you have, if you have a number between seven and 10, you’re initiating, like you’re an initiating quickstart. I’m an initiating factfinder. But there’s other zones of operation as well. And they all come into play. And here’s the here’s the thing that makes change messy, right. Is that in a company, you have every zone of operation, right, and every action mode represented. For the most part. 

Especially if you’re in an organization that includes manufacturing, you probably do have every zone, every action mode in every zone of operation. And so you have to, you have to think of your change from all of those perspectives. And that’s just the doing part of the mind, right. Then you have to think of cognitive, you have lots of different levels of education, lots of different levels of experience. So how this change gets introduced is gonna look different depending on who you are, right? And what you bring. And your affect. People have different values, some people value, sort of doing what’s best for the company. 

Some people value what’s doing best for themselves, most people are in the middle, right. They want to do what’s best for the company, because they know it’s good for them in the long run. But there’s other there’s other things that go along with that. What are my preferences? What are my motivations? And so thinking about all of those things, is really what makes change possible. And is one of the secrets of success, leading successful change is thinking about all of those, and that’s why I wrote that chapter.

Nicole: Okay. All right. So here’s what I want everybody to do is I want you to go over to Beth’s website. And so let me tell it to you again, And get yourself hooked up with a Kolbe so you know, kind of what your action mode is. And you know, how you accept change, and maybe how your team. She could do that work with you. That’s fantastic. Okay, so the secret sauce, the chapter that Beth wrote in this book, talks about the three different brains. Okay, so the first brain was the feeling brain. And just a second ago, she associated, the fact that people’s core values or their values, kind of mess with how they feel about the change. So will you talk a little bit more about the feeling brain and the values and whatever else slides in there.

Beth: The motivations and our preferences, how we like to operate. So the way that that comes into play with change, obviously, is a change is announced. And we have an opinion about like, we have a feeling about it, right? So right, our first instinct, although that comes from the conative, but our first thoughts are, does this align with what I’m trying to do, right? So if I’m working in a company, and they say okay, from now on, we’re going to, we’re going to require you to work overtime, but we’re not going to pay you. 

So let’s say that they say that. So your value, you’re gonna evaluate that based on your values, right? And if one of your values is I want to get paid for the hours that I put in, like I want to get, I want to get compensated for the work that I do. I deserve to get compensated for the work that I do. It’s part of sort of that contract that I had with the company. I work for you, I do a job you pay me, right. And then if the company comes in, says, oh, no, we want you to work extra overtime, but we’re not going to we’re not going to pay you for it, then that goes against that. 

So then there’s already a disconnect. Because you’re thinking, well, I don’t, I don’t want to get participate in that change. Because that goes against my values, right. And no matter how the company talks about it, it’s never going to change how you how it sits with your values, right? Because they could say, oh, this is really important. It’ll let you keep your job, because then we’re not gonna have to fire anybody, if everybody works overtime. So then you start thinking, oh, well, maybe it does align with my values that everybody should work. Maybe it aligns with my values that I want to, you know, I love my job. And I love the people and I want to keep it so. 

So it’s, it’s really always this interplay between what you’re being told and what you feel about what you’re being told. And, and so and the truth is, is that there’s a sacrifice that the company is asking you to make in some way, you have to believe in the idea enough in order to make that sacrifice, right. That’s the bottom line for the for the affective or feeling part of your mind, is you have to, you really have to believe in that idea enough to sacrifice, maybe time, maybe energy, maybe the job as you know it right? 

Maybe you’re motivated by, you work for a manager and they really motivate you, but in this change, they’re no longer your manager. Then like, then you sort of feel a little lost around your motivation. So is it, you know, then we label our change as good or bad. Even though changes are not good or bad. They’re just changes, right? But sort of the what we do is we label them good or bad. So that’s where the affective comes into play.

Nicole: Okay, all right. So just to recap, she’s saying there’s three parts of the brain. There’s the affective, the cognitive and the conative, and what the affective, is how I feel about it, what I believe about it, my motivations, my preferences, and my values. All right, so think about that. You know, people gotta have a good feel about the change, for sure. Alright. So the second part.

Beth: What I wanted to say was, you know, sometimes companies think that they just, if they just sort of put enough lipstick on the pig, the pig will look great. But sometimes I go into a company and I, the first thing I say to them, after they explain to me the change that they want to make, is I say to them, really? Like why would you want to do that? Like what’s like, what’s driving that? Like, what’s in it? I mean, I get the bottom line, like I get the spreadsheet part of it, but like, what’s in it in general? 

Like, how is this helping your culture? How is this helping your people thrive? How’s it helping you sort of in the long term, like, yeah, maybe in the short term, but in the long term? How is this really helping you? If you’re going to, if you’re going to alienate your employees, basically, who are just going to stay working for you, because they might not have another job? Like, what? Really, what are you? What are you thinking? That’s basically what often what I say. And sometimes, like, they haven’t thought about it at all. 

Like, they just think they said, well, we’re just gonna hire, we’re gonna hire a consulting company, and they’re just going to help us, they’re going to help us like, like, make the change meaningful for people. I’m like no, no, no, the change needs to be meaningful for people. Like don’t don’t like to hire a PR person to make it meaningful. Like, it has to be meaningful. There has to be something that galvanizes people to want to come together to help you make this change.

Nicole: I think people would be willing to work overtime, unpaid if they understood that we’ve got to get this new major client on boarded. So it’s 24/7 around the clock for a little while. But then once we do that, we’re gonna make you know, a bazillion more dollars, which means there’ll be promotions and growth and blah, blah, blah. Right. But there has to be a what’s in it for me, you know? You know, this has been going around Beth and I know this from the way back there’s this radio station that people are tuned into called WIIFM, What’s In It For Me radio. And so you know, that one’s been around since the Zig Ziglar days. Look him up, Zig Ziglar. 

But anyway, so you know, it’s true. I mean, people have to have a meaningful reason why they’re going to do something and okay, so Beth, I want to go down a little bunny trail real quick. The other thing too about change is that I think sometimes there is a really good to your point about the P&L or the bottom line. There’s a good business reason why we’re going to do something. And sometimes I think leaders discount how smart their employees are regarding the money or whatever, you know what I mean? It’s kind of like if you would teach them, A, business acumen and, B, tell them about the numbers like a little, not complete transparency of the books, maybe but a little open book management would go a long way to change. What do you think about that?

Beth: Oh, absolutely. That’s where the cognitive comes in. It’s not enough to just tell people. It’s really interesting, because this has been going around for a long time. It’s like companies think, oh, I just need to tell people about the change. And as long as I tell them about the change, and I’m open about the change that we’re making, then people are going to go along with it. But what they discount to your point is that people are really smart. And yeah, they need to get to the evaluation level, right? It’s not like knowledge isn’t enough. They need to understand the thought process that you went to, to get to this point. 

And maybe it is about opening the books, maybe it is about saying, listen, we you know, we have a chance to make x more dollars, and that’s going to allow us to invest in these other things. Like there’s reasons why we decided we’re going to do things. But companies think or leaders of companies think because companies don’t exist without leaders, right? So leaders think, oh, I just have to tell them, and they’re going to trust me that I’m making the right decision. And those, that ship has sailed. Like that doesn’t exist anymore. Like maybe it existed 50 years ago, people didn’t question, but it definitely doesn’t exist today. 

And so people, employees need to be brought up to that evaluation level. They need to understand your thought process. And then they can decide, do I agree with your thought process? Or don’t I? And if I don’t, then at least I understand where your thought process is coming from. And okay, it’s, it’s one way, some maybe not be the way I would have done it. But it’s a way and so let’s try it, we’ll give it a try. I’m on board. And if it works, amazing. And if it doesn’t work, then I’ll, you know, sit back and say, see, I told you it wasn’t gonna work, right. 

But that’s where the really the cognitive comes in. I mean, it’s just, it’s so critical. And companies really underestimate the smartness of their people. You know, they hire people, right? And then they say, shut up and get back to work. It’s ridiculous to me, that companies still do this, that leaders still do this. But I think it has to do with, you know, when, when, when a change is introduced into a company, the leaders have already been talking about it for six months, at least. They’re so sick of talking about it, they don’t want to talk about it anymore. 

But what they don’t realize is that they’ve just introduced it to a whole new group of people who now need to talk about it. And just because you’re done talking about, it doesn’t mean that people that work for you are done talking about it. And so you need to get in there and have those conversations and be able to really justify to people why you’re doing it, and down to a granular level where they say, well, you know, what, if you did, what if you went this way, instead of that way? 

Like, have you thought about that? Like when you go into a company and you have an idea, your leaders say to you well have you thought about this? And have you thought about this? And have you thought about this? They don’t like it when people ask them the same questions. That’s exactly what you have to do in order to have a successful change, is you have to be able to answer those questions for people. What about this? Have you thought about this? And maybe you did. And maybe you didn’t. But if you did, then be prepared to say about why you chose not to go that way.

Nicole: Yeah. And I think leaders can sometimes like you say they’re fatigued. That’s one reason. They’re tired of talking about it, they’re fatigued, they just want people to help them, you know. And then I think also, maybe ego pops up. You’re questioning me? I’m the leader, you work for me. That could pop up. And then I think the third thing is, we don’t want to see a flaw in our work. However, one of the things that I know in this lifetime is that, you know, again, like you said, you hire smart people, they’ve got some genius, and they might have been at some company you didn’t know that went through the exact same change. And they’re like, oh, my God, be careful of this or that or this happened, you know, at my last experience. 

So the frontline people really know what’s going on in your company. You have to cross-pollinate your idea all the way down, really probably way before you’re ready to execute. You know, you should be cross-pollinating way before, like, the budgets already made, or something like it’s in the final stages. All right, so that, so that’s the first part. So we have affective, how we feel. Which again, let me repeat was motivations, preferences, my values, what I believe about this change. You’ve got to manage that process. Then the cognitive, which is what I’m thinking about the change and my opinions about the change. And then you said training too, right?

Beth: Yeah, it’s part of cognitive. I don’t I don’t have, the knowledge is part of cognitive. So I may not have the knowledge that I need to work in this new system or this new process. So we’re going to train people but what companies make the mistake of is they think that that’s all they need to do. It’s like, oh, well, we have a training plan. When I say to them, you know, have you thought about from a cognitive perspective, like, really being able to get people to that level of really, truly understanding what you’re trying to do and why you’re doing it this way, not another way. 

They say to me, well, we have a training plan. I’m like, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about having the conversation so that people really understand at an elemental level, why you’re going in this direction, and not that direction. What you thought about, why you decided this way, not that way. And, and they, a lot of companies don’t want to do it. It’s time-consuming.

Nicole: Oh, it is it is. And usually, there’s, I mean, I think too, with the changes that I see, I would love to know what you’re seeing is that these changes is like, they are quick. I mean, everything’s at a rapid pace, you know, like, we got to make these changes. And so they don’t think they have the time. But really, I think it bites you in the rear end on the back end, if you don’t slow down to deliver the change in the right way, you’re gonna have hiccups down the road. And so just to illustrate Beth’s point. All during COVID, I worked with Duke Energy, which is a big power company down here in the south, they’re also up in Kentucky, and Ohio, and wherever. 

But they had a huge training program. But one of the things that they rolled out was ahead of time, the change management team, which was really genius, they had town halls, they had group meetings, they give, and hear me, they gave scripts, now they didn’t have to sit there and read the script, but it said, this is why we’re making the change. You know, and here’s the questions we think that will come to you. And here’s the answers we’ve prepared. I mean, like it was all scripted out in such a beautiful, amazing way, we had a beautiful change. We change the software that over 800 humans were using, and we didn’t have a lot of resistance. 

And the main selling point was is we’re gonna go from five different programs, you gotta log in and out of to one program that you log in and out of. That was the number one, you know, so this is gonna save you, you’re gonna be on the phone less with people. And everybody was like, absolutely. I want to be on phone less with people who kept their electricity. So I think that the, you know, the slowing down and getting people to think about things the right way, you might have to do all that kind of thing. Can you tell us a story of a change that you’ve seen that was done really, really well? And then one that maybe wasn’t done very well, so we can see the differences?

Beth: Yes, so and first of all, I also want to say about that change that you just talked about it also have the key and critical element to any change, which is, if the change requires me to do more, or put out more effort than I’m putting out now, it’s not going to work. But if it saves me time in some way, then it’s absolutely going to be something people are going to get on board with. Now, how it gets done, and how it gets rolled out, so you still have to worry about that. But the effort that is required needs to be less than the effort you’re already putting out. Or people won’t do it. 

You know, they did a study years and years and years ago about people getting flu shots on college campuses. And they found that if they made the places where they could get flu shots in the path that they were walking in, to go to class or to go back and forth, to the cafeteria, whatever, then people would, people would definitely stop and get their flu shot. But if they made it like in some out-of-the-way place, and they didn’t give them a map, even to how to get there, lots of people didn’t go because it was too much trouble. 

And that I think is a key and critical thing for any any kind of change. You know, it’s like it’s like in the 80s, they would make, wanted to make changes. And they would say, well, this is a really great change. It’s really important for us, but it’s gonna take you a lot longer to do. Those changes never succeeded ever. The ones that I know of anyway. Because why should I spend more time doing something that I spent less time on yesterday. Didn’t even make any sense. But to go back to a change that worked really well. 

So I worked on a, I worked actually on a plant closing. So I was worked on closing of a manufacturing plant. And it needed to close over time because it was a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, and they were going to external manufacturing, and so they had to transfer the products. And when you do that, you have to get recertified by the FDA, so it was gonna take three years. But in the meantime, they had to keep the plant going, and had to continue to produce quality product. And they also had to be able to use their knowledge to transfer the products and the knowledge to another location. And they were all losing their jobs in the end. 

So I mean, it was it was a recipe for disaster. And these were complicated products. So it was a recipe for disaster. But we went in, we created a plan and part of that plan was that we incentivize everyone monetarily. No matter who they were, whether they swept the floor or they were the plant manager and everybody in between. Everybody was incentivized to stay from a monetary perspective. And then we proceeded during those three years to support not just the leadership, but the frontline supervisors in really dealing with how people were dealing with the fact that losing their jobs was looming over their heads. And should they just go and get another job, right. Nobody needed to stay. They could have gone to get another job somewhere else. 

And so we really worked with the frontline supervisors, because they were the ones that were going to have those conversations with people. So we gave them a lot of extra support, gave them lots of support in how do you have that conversation? How do you look out for people who may be thinking about it, and they haven’t even talked to you about it yet. And so gave them a lot of really great tools. And then we also took everybody in the plant off-site, when they had the plant shutdown, for cleaning and everything every year. And we gave them extra training on things that you wouldn’t think about, we should get involved in. 

Like, what are you going to do with your extra money? For some people who live paycheck to paycheck, having this large amount of money, they literally didn’t know what to do with it. So we brought in a financial planner to help them understand what some of their options might be. We also brought in somebody that would talk to them about how do you take the skills that you have here and transfer that to a different job? How do you think about a career change? And we put them through, or gave them opportunities to have lots of support and different ideas about what they were going to do afterwards, even when it was three years away. 

We did that every year for the three years before the plant closed. And had lots of different topics and got their input also into what topics they wanted to see. And then we also didn’t lower any standards for performance and those kinds of things. But we also really focused on recognizing people for really great performance. And so there was finally a recognition program in the plant that really worked. So people really liked that. They liked having somebody to talk to. They liked the fact that they had this chunk of money coming in at the end. 

Only about 5% of the people didn’t take advantage of it, which was amazing. Like our goal was under double digits of attrition. And we ended up around 5%. And so it was just a constant dialogue and conversation the entire time around what was working, what wasn’t working, and realizing that they may not be able to get a job in pharmaceutical manufacturing anymore. But were there comparable industries or were there industries in the area. We made contacts with other companies that were potentially could hire them. We found, some people we found jobs internally in the company that they could do remotely. We also, the contract manufacturer also made people offers to come and be employed by them if they wanted to continue working in the manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing. 

So we really worked very hard to create those connections all along the way. And so everything we did was really focused on the experience that people had, and keeping them happy in their jobs. But knowing that their jobs were going away and helping them plan for that. In the end, it was exactly what was possible. People were very sorry to see their jobs end. But they were well prepared. Pretty much everybody had a job within three months, if they wanted a job. Some people decided they were going to go back to school with the money that they got, and take take a year off to do to finish a degree. 

We gave them money all along the way for training. Like every year they had where they could do external training. Some people got different certifications, somebody got their real estate certification, somebody else became a photographer and took photography classes so that they could that could be their career change. And so it really was the kind of program where it just took a matter of thinking about sort of what was the end goal for the company and really focusing on that end goal the entire time. And one of the things that I loved the most was that they really, the company itself was really dedicated to this. 

And they were rewarded, by the way because not only were the products transferred well, and did really well in the contract manufacturer. But the quality numbers went up the KPIs that they had, were met and exceeded every single time. So within those three years, they never lost a beat. I mean, they helped the company, each worker that stayed and worked and was diligent helped the company avoid a loss of billions of dollars. And they were rewarded with that in the end, right. Not what that billions of dollars, but they were awarded with the retention bonuses that they that they earned. And it was it was an amazing thing. But anyway,

Nicole: I love that I know you just gave hope to somebody who’s up against some kind of recipe for disaster as you say. So I love that. Okay, so there’s cognitive and then we’re back to conative, right? So this is the doing, the mental energy, the natural talents and I did hear in what you just said, that we, really what you did is you gave people the opportunity to explore their natural talents during that three-year period. And people decided to go do be in sales and do real estate or take pictures. So talk a little bit about the third part of the brain, the conative. And don’t forget that you can go over to Beth’s website and check her out at and get with her and get a Kolbe workshop cooking. But talk to us about conative, the third part of the brain. Bring us home.

Beth: Yeah, so the third part of the mind is really this conative or doing part. It’s where our mental energy sits. It’s where our instincts, how we instinctively take action when we’re motivated to solve a problem. Now motivated comes from affect, right? But it’s what kicks off the conative. And when we’re motivated to solve a problem, we have a way, we might not even be paying attention to it. Because it’s something that we do. It’s so much a part of who we are. We don’t even think about it. Like when I took the Kolbe and I realized that I started every project by doing research. I mean, it makes me laugh. I’m like, oh, I have a problem I need to solve, I better read a book about it.

Nicole: Well she is a PhD, everybody. So she loves the books. And if you see the picture I’m seeing right now she’s got books galore in her office.

Beth: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I do. I mean, it’s and it’s actually very funny, right. Because I have like, a million books.

Nicole: You can’t get rid of any of them, can you? I can’t.

Beth: No, and you know, actually, I did because I ran out of room. So, I did. 

Nicole: You need a bigger house.

Beth: Oh, my God, it’s crazy. But anyway, so but I think it’s that it’s this part of the mind that often gets ignored, right? Because sometimes companies will say to people don’t trust your instincts, right? They’ll say no, it’s all about the facts and the numbers. And it’s all about, you know, the bottom line and, and people will say, oh, but I have this feeling about it. And the companies are like, no, no, no, we’re not making any decisions based on your feelings, right? Your gut, because not really feelings. It’s your gut, right? It’s your instincts, what are your instincts telling you. And so it’s really important for people to be in touch with this. Often they’re not. 

But often they become more in touch with it when a company changes their job. And before they were doing really well. And it was almost effortless, and they changed the job. And now it’s like literally like a slog fest, right? Walking through mud every day. Because when you’re working against your grain when you’re working against your instincts, in a job, that job takes longer, you’re way less productive. And companies are like, oh, we’re so worried about productivity, but they don’t think about, if you change a job so that a person is not working in their instinct anymore, then you’re going to change productivity because the person can’t be as productive. You know, I’ve recently worked with somebody who, who had a boss who was an initiating factfinder like me, right? 

But she was an initiating quickstart. And that boss wanted her to follow his way of doing things. She was so unproductive, until we had this conversation, and I had the conversation with her boss as well. I say, listen, you know, you got to stop telling her how to do it, right? Just tell her what you want, she’ll get it done. But she’s not going to do it the way you would do it. And she and you don’t want her to because she’s way less productive, you get way less for your money, if you’re gonna make her do it your way, because she’ll do it. But it’s gonna take her a lot longer, and it’s gonna take its toll and she’s not gonna be able to do as much as you want her to do.

Nicole: Right. And she’s got all these ideas that are probably better than his way. Because quickstarts, because I am one. We see lots of options. And we’re great at experimenting, but we experiment in the same amount of time it takes somebody else to do it the one way. Do you know what I mean? And so we’ll always find a better way. We’ll always have the MacGyver, but anyways, go ahead.

Beth: So from a conative part, you know, when you’re thinking about change, it really is about understanding the impact of the change at the job level. And often companies will say, well, you know, we think it’s at a high level, the impact. But when I work with companies, I I work with them on, really, what’s the impact. Like you tell me, this person was an analyst, and they were doing X, Y and Z. How are they going to do that job differently tomorrow based on the change? And does it fundamentally change the job? And if it does, what’s the impact then going to be on the people that are in that job? 

Because they’re probably in that job, and they’re probably really good at it, because they’re working with their instincts. And if you’re gonna change it and take that away, then you’re gonna have a lot of unhappy, unproductive people, and then what are you going to do? And so that really, it’s really getting down to that to that level. And so it’s and from a mental energy perspective. You know, you everybody has a limited amount of mental energy and we all have the same mental energy. But when we’re done with it, like when we’re when we’ve depleted that energy because even you with your quickstart energy and me with my factfinder energy at some point we run out of both right. 

And we need to replenish it, we need to take time off, we need to take a break, we need to do something else. And often people, especially now since COVID, right. If you’re working out of your house, it’s almost like you work 24/7. And so being able to help people take those boundaries, right, don’t send that email as a leader at 10 o’clock at night, and expect people to respond to it. Because if you do, you’re not giving people the downtime that they need, from a mental energy perspective to replenish their mental energy so they can come in fresh tomorrow, and give you a really quality day of work. And so I actually just got an email the other day from an executive who on her email says, I send emails at weird times. Don’t feel obligated to respond. 

Tomorrow during regular business hours is enough, is good enough, right? And so she’s being really upfront about it. But a lot of executives aren’t. I went to work for a company president, as a consultant who said to me, I expect you to check your messages on the weekend. I said well, you can expect that, but it’s never happening. And if that’s if that’s a requirement for me to be your consultant, then I shouldn’t work for you. Because I’m not working. I work five days a week. I work hard. I work maybe longer hours, but on the weekends, I’m recharging. And people have lost those boundaries, and companies haven’t helped them regain them.

Nicole: That’s right. And FYI, everybody on Outlook, you can set the time that an email goes out. So this leader who’s saying I send them out at weird times, she just needs to send it to go out at 9:10 on Monday, if she’s not expecting people to do it. Because here’s the thing, there are people that, we’re all, and this isn’t part of the three parts of your mind. But maybe well, hold on, you’ll tell me, maybe it’s in the, I don’t know where it is, but you know how you’re raised? Right. So I don’t know. I don’t know how Beth was raised. But I’m guessing it’s a little similar to how I was raised. I mean, like, you know, get to work, work hard. Get her done, do what the boss says. I mean, that’s what I how I was raised. And so even if your boss says don’t respond, you probably feel like guilty. You’ll have guilt if you don’t respond. 

Beth: It’s affect. It’s your values.

Nicole: Ok, it’s your values. That’s right. Okay. So you will respond. So that’s why that gal needs to just set the timer on her outlook to send it to your inbox at 9:10 on Monday morning. She doesn’t really need an answer. That’s just silliness.

Beth: Yeah, totally agree. But at least she says it right.

Nicole: Yeah, I agree with that. Yes. She has consciousness.

Beth: Like I get, and texts, like now with texting. It’s like, oh, my God. I mean, I turn my phone off at night. But people are like, didn’t you see my text? I’m like, you send it at 11 o’clock at night? What did you think?

Nicole: Yeah. And so let’s just say this about change too, is agree, how we’re going to communicate the change and how we’re going to work with what technology, you know, that kind of thing. I think every place I go, Beth, they’re on Slack, they’re on Teams, they’re on text, they’re on phone, they’re on voicemail, they’re on email, they’re all over the place. It’s like we got to decide what channels and what’s appropriate for where. So I think a big part of that is also divvying up, figuring out how you’re going to actually communicate this change. Alright, so there’s three parts of the mind that you’ve got to have cooking. You’ve got to have the affective, the cognitive and the conative. And this will help you have the secret sauce and the change if you’ll pay attention to all three. Is that right? 

Beth: Yep. Absolutely. 

Nicole: That’s fantastic. Okay, now, listen, you’ve got a couple other books too, will you, maybe you’ll come back and hang out with me again in the future. And we’ll talk about these other books. But tell me about the other two books you have just real quickly in case anybody’s interested. They’re like, we want to get a little more of Ms. Beth here.

Beth: So the first book I published is called Change Smart. It was the first iteration of the framework that I use to help companies make successful change. And it’s a short easy reader book, you could read it on a flight or read it, we don’t have a book on tape, but you could you could definitely read it in a very short period of time. And it was written for middle managers, so lots of really good gems in there. 

And then the second book I wrote with a friend of mine, Roz Usheroff, and from the Usheroff Institute, and she and I wrote a book during the downturn after 2008 called Taking the Leap: Managing Your Career in Turbulent Times and Beyond. So it’s really about how do you manage your career in turbulent times. And you know, who thought that we’d have more turbulent times, right? So it’s actually pretty appropriate. And, there’s, so there’s lots of really good advice in there as well. Lots of really good things to be thinking about. And, yeah, I’m happy to come back. You know I’ve changed my format. I’ve changed my framework a little bit. I’ve added to it and refined it. 

We’re using the three parts of the mind and other things and so and so I’m working on the next book, it’s not going to be out for at least a little bit of time, but I’m working on that. But I’m happy to come back and talk about that framework in more detail and talk about how people you know, when you follow a framework and not a, not a methodology, it helps you have more freedom in the way that you, in the way that you do change. And so that’s why I have a framework and not a methodology.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. All right. Well, everybody if you’ve enjoyed this episode of Build a Vibrant Culture with Ms. Beth Cohn, would you please go and press the like button and leave a comment? We would really appreciate that. And if you want to hear more from Beth you can check her out on Twitter. She’s Beth Banks Cohn and Cohn is spelled C O H N. She’s also over there on the Facebook, like everybody else at adrachangearchitects and she’s on LinkedIn. Beth-Banks-Cohn, c o h n,-phd. So check her out there. Pick up her new book, The Secret Sauce of Leading Transformational Change. Beth, it’s been a delight to have you on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. I’m delighted.

Beth: Oh, me too. It’s been so much fun talking with you, Nicole.

Nicole: Okay, have a great day everybody.

Voiceover: Ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with her strategies, systems and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email And be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

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