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In a Crisis, Who Ya Gonna Call?

Change itself is changing. That's why Change Leaders do well in today's crises.

"Who ya gonna call?" The Ghostbusters are long gone. There must be somebody out there with a better and different approach. Actually, we bet there is somebody in there. There are people in your company ideally suited not just to manage this crisis, but to solve it. It's too bad you haven't already identified them and prepared them for this. 

Who are they? They are people with a high "Change Leadership Quotient" or "CLQ."  They are only a little smarter than the average rising management-bound employees, but they are more disciplined, creative and ambitious. And they are chafing under the leadership of their current managers. These Change Leaders are probably a year or so away from bolting from your company to start their own. Meanwhile, they just might be able to turn this ugly situation around. 

Change Leaders: That's the category of companies and leaders we identified years ago in our work with Steven Jobs and Mike Murray at Apple. 

Today, change itself is changing: In fact, change is in control of the dialogue in your markets and probably in your company. Leading change is the best and only way to win. That's why this model is so ripe and relevant. And that's why Change Leaders do well in today's crises. They are: 

Win-oriented: They want unequivocal results, not just results. All their lives, they have resented plastic participation trophies.

Difference-focused: These people care less about performance reviews than they do about results and breakthroughs. They want to make a difference.  

Future-driven: They don't focus on heritage or expect the best strategy to come from last year's crisis management manual. They are vision-driven, working toward a better-world goal.They want to be a part of something great. 

Informal and Heretical: To these people, corporate bureaucracy provides nothing but an unending colonoscopy. 

Change-focused: They love it. Others fear it. To others, change is threatening, so they fear it and fight against it. But, to Change Leaders, change means opportunity. And they know every crisis presents opportunity for somebody. 

The crisis war room is kind of like the safe place where these people mentally go to calm their nerves. In chaos, they can create control. They are the most important unrealized assets your company has. Oh, sure, they're part of your future leadership; you already know that. They perform. But they could do a lot more, and do it now. 

Here's what you should do:

  1. Identify them. Do some testing for high CLQ. Then, compare the results of that testing with the perceptions of people you know better and trust more. Identify six to ten of them, maybe more, depending on the size of your organization. 
  2. Gather them. Bring one or two of them into any key senior strategic meeting. Rotate that opportunity among the identified Change-Leaders. Get your Change Leaders used to the feeling of these high altitude meetings. Make sure to ask their opinions, inside and outside the meeting. They may be a little reluctant at first to speak up around the brass. Make sure they know these sessions are unplugged. Make sure everybody knows it. 
  3. Focus them. Allow them to develop a minority report, an alternative strategy, or suggest an alternative set of tactics to execute the consensus strategy. Give them an impossible deadline to produce these reports in a big hurry. 
  4. Use them. Allow them to provide an offline analysis for your eyes only about how they perceived the process, the people and the result. 
  5. Empower them. For your own learning, develop with their help a set of insurgent strategies for crises of challenge and opportunity; they are both equally important and equally fast moving.    

This is how you draw on the value of this rare corporate asset and help develop it at the same time. Also, remember loyalty is developed as much by what you ask of people as what you give them.

Don't wait for the next crisis to realize you need these Change Leaders. Identify, gather, focus, use and empower them. 

David Morey is founder, chairman and CEO of DMG Global and vice chairman of Core Strategy Group. He is the  co-author of "The Underdog Advantage," and has worked with wide range of Fortune 500 companies and the world’s top business leaders.

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