Got change? Get change intelligence® (CQ®) and get results!


Principal, Change Catalysts, LLC


Studies show that as many as 70% of major organizational changes fail to achieve their business objectives. To overcome this abysmal statistic, change agents are encouraged to diagnose and develop their leadership behaviors in order to manage successful and sustainable change. Just as each of us communicates, collaborates, and handles conflict in our own unique ways, so do we each have our own style of leading change. And, just as we are much more effective in working with others when we understand ourselves and how we are similar to and different from others—and can adjust accordingly—so are we much more confident and competent in influencing and partnering with others towards challenging goals when we understand the various change leader styles.

This paper begins by defining change intelligence, or CQ, which is the awareness of one's own change leader style and the ability to adapt one's style to be optimally effective across a variety of people and situations. Next, the three core dimensions of the CQ model are described—leading from the heart (people-focused), the head (purpose-focused), and the hands (process-focused)—along with strengths and blind spots of each.

Then, the seven change leader styles, which are various combinations of leading from the heart, head, and/or hands, are presented. In order to avoid overdoing strengths or neglecting blind spots, questions are posed for each change leader style to help readers improve their effectiveness through learning how to inspire the heart, engage the brain, and help the hands. In order to bolster the ability to work with others in the change process, coaching hints are provided to influence and deal with each change leader style. In this way, change leaders learn to appreciate that what often looks like resistance in others may be a result of the fact that we as change leaders have not given people what they need to “get it” (head), “want it” (heart), or “be able to do it” (hands). This empowering realization helps transform resistance from enemy to ally and paves the way for powerful partnership toward winning new directions.

Finally, the ADAPT model is presented, offering five specific strategies that change leaders of any style can pursue for their professional development to emerge as more agile, competent, and confident project, program, and portfolio managers for the benefit of their organizations, teams, and careers.


You've heard of IQ—raw intellectual intelligence. You've heard of EQ—emotional intelligence. Yet, what about CQ—change intelligence? Change is the only constant. Reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, job transitions—the modern workplace is replete with never-ending, dizzying changes.

Yet, so many changes fail to achieve their lofty goals. According to various estimates, as many as 70% or more of change efforts fall short of expectations. With so much experience with change, what have we learned?

We know that to boost EQ we need to bolster skill in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management—to know oneself and to play well with others. What are the critical aspects of CQ to catalyze positive, powerful change?

The CQ System for Developing Change Intelligent Individuals and Organizations is based on decades of partnering with clients ranging from steel mills to sales teams, refineries to retail outlets, and healthcare to high tech, to lead organizational, team, and personal transformations; years of conducting global research spanning from America to Australia, Canada to the Congo, and Italy to India, on managing change; and study into the psychology and neuroscience of change.

As a leader...

✓ Is your organization struggling in the current economy, forced to make tough business decisions that are unwanted, undeserved, or involuntary?

✓ Are you tired of the “Program of the Year” and want to know how to make change stick?

✓ Are you frustrated with your inability to overcome resistance to new ways of working?

If so, read on to learn how to build your CQ for yourself, your team, and your organization.

What Is CQ (Change Intelligence)?

CQ (change intelligence) is the awareness of one's own change leader style, and the ability to adapt one's style to be optimally effective in leading change across a variety of people and situations.

The Heart, Head, and Hands of CQ: Your Heartset, Mindset, and Skillset as a Change Leader

We each have our own unique change leadership style. Our style is comprised of our tendencies to lead with our heart versus our head versus our hands. Powerful change leaders start with the heart, engage the brain, and help the hands move in positive new directions (see Table 1).

Table 1: Heart, Head, and Hand Model

Leading Change from the Heart Leading Change from the Head Leading Change from the Hands
Change Leader Style Defined Engaging, caring, people-oriented change leader Strategic, futuristic, purpose-oriented change leader Efficient, tactical, process-oriented change leader
Strengths Motivating and supportive coach Inspirational, big-picture visionary Planner and systematic executor
Developmental Opportunities May neglect to revisit overall change goals and not devote attention to the specific tactics of the change process May leave others behind wanting to move sooner than people are ready and lack detailed planning and follow-through May lose sight of the big picture and devalue team dynamics and individuals' emotions

Some change leaders have a dominant tendency, and others focus equally on two or even all three components. The most powerful change leaders have all three tools in their toolbag, skill in using the tools, and the savvy to deploy the right tools in the right situation. That's CQ! By building change intelligence, change leaders are able to overcome what looks like resistance but is really either confusion over the goal (no head), lack of connection to the goal (no heart), or lack of tactics and training to partner together to work toward the goal (no hands).

The Change Leader Styles

Of course, none of us leads only with the head or heart or hands. We are each a blend of all three. It is this unique combination that represents our change leader style. There are seven possible styles, depending on how strong you are on heart, head, and hands. (To learn your style, take the CQ/Change Intelligence Assessment available in the book Change Intelligence—see the Recommended Reading List.)

  • If you're a coach, you're all about heart. You love engaging your colleagues whenever you get a chance, and you find great reward in supporting people around you as you all move through a change process.
  • If you're a visionary, you are the one who's always looking forward to an inspiring future. Thanks to your head focus, you have a gift for seeing opportunity and planning for new situations, and you tend to get excited about what lies on the other side of a change.
  • If you're an executer, you focus primarily on the hands. You like to get things done, and people know they can rely on you to not just talk but take action. Often your execution is backed up by comprehensive, step-by-step plans.
  • If you're a champion, you use a combined strength in head and heart to get people pumped about a change. Like a visionary, you see abundant possibilities for the future and, adding the people skills of a coach to the mix, you're able to energize and excite your colleagues as you all work to bring about change.
  • If you're a driver, you're strong on both head and hands. You see an enticing vision before you, and you use your executional abilities to drive toward that vision, laying out clear strategies and tactics along the way.
  • If you're a facilitator, you focus on specific people and specific activities you need to support on a day-to-day basis to lead the change, thanks to your strong heart and hands capabilities. You know the tasks that need to be accomplished to make measurable progress, and you succeed in motivating others to work together on those tasks.
  • If you're an adapter, you're about even on head, heart, and hands. You can employ all three approaches as necessary, and you're generally flexible, politically savvy, and willing to collaborate with others.

The relationship between the seven styles can be represented as a triangle, which, incidentally, is also the Greek symbol for change, depicted in Exhibit 1 below.

Exhibit 1: The CQ/change leader triangle

Exhibit 1: The CQ/change leader triangle

CQ in Action: Leadership Agility and Effectiveness

CQ is a strength-based model. Obviously, each of the seven change leader styles has significant plusses in guiding change. However, each also has its blind spots, aspects of the change process they tend to overlook, downplay, or neglect. We can enhance our impact when we ask ourselves critical questions as part of our continual professional development.

Moreover, we can enhance our individual influence and our collective impact when we learn how to shift our influence strategy to more meaningfully connect with people of different styles. We all know the Golden Rule: “Do onto others as YOU want to be done unto.” To optimally partner with others through change, follow the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as THEY want to be done unto.” (See Exhibit 2.)

Table 2: Increasing Your Influence and Impact as a Change Leader

Change Leader Styles If You Have This Change Leader Style, Ask Yourself: If You Are Working With a Change Leader With This Style:

✓ Do you hold people accountable to challenging new expectations?

✓ Do you plan adequately or do tasks fall through the cracks?

✓ Do you scan the horizon for new opportunities and trends that impact your business?

✓ Help them focus on the end game and project planning, and look beyond individual emotions/team climate.

✓ Be prepared for overuse of humor, hesitancy to contradict, and desire to actively involve others.


✓ Do you at times neglect day-to-day realities?

✓ Do you have great ideas but lack processes to bring them to life?

✓ Do you get frustrated that people don't seem to be following you in pursuit of the goal?

✓ Help them focus on basic managerial tasks and take organizational culture into account.

✓ Be prepared for a disdain for details, surprise when others don't “get it,” and the “shiny penny” effect.


✓ Do you at times not see the forest for the trees?

✓ Are you more often the implementer versus initiator of new ideas?

✓ Do people complete their tasks without giving their creative/engaged best?

✓ Help them learn to use their own and others' emotions as data and to periodically revisit to see if plans still make sense.

✓ Be prepared for a change by checklist approach, inflexibility, and a lack of casual friendliness.


✓ Do your change projects veer off course at times?

✓ Do you find it difficult to work with more technically oriented people?

✓ Are you sometimes characterized as more a cheerleader than a champion?

✓ Help them see the need to slow down, focus on details, and finish strong.

✓ Be prepared for overselling, downplaying the importance of problems and risks, and talking more than listening.


✓ Do you get results but leave others behind?

✓ Do people avoid telling you about issues due to concern about your reaction?

✓ Are your people exhausted, stressed, or overwhelmed?

✓ Help them see the value of focusing on individual needs/objectives/fears, incorporating others' ideas, and praising effort and accomplishments.

✓ Be prepared for lack of engagement, bluntness, and impatience.


✓ Are you seen as more of a supportive team player than a strong team manager?

✓ Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by taking on too much?

✓ Do you find that you are reluctant to confront others?

✓ Help them see the strategic benefits of lifting their “heads up” and managing priorities in order to do so

✓ Be prepared for offers to help, failure to confront underperformers, and lower business savvy.


✓ Do people ever seem confused by you?

✓ Do you at times find yourself changing opinions based on the people you are with at the moment?

✓ Do you question whether you are following the right path or process?

✓ Help them learn when to insist upon consensus over compromise and when to remain resolute.

✓ Be prepared for playing the devil's advocate, stirring it up when bored, and behind-the-scenes maneuvering.

ADAPT and Win!

So many leaders keep doing things the same way, expecting a different result—the definition of insanity. They expect their people to change, but not themselves, or at least not their own change leadership styles. Yet, change starts with us, and to lead change, we need all three tools in our toolbag: to engage the brain, inspire the heart, and help the hands to get people moving in positive, new directions. That's CQ!

By adding the “missing ingredient” to our approach to leading change, we are able to overcome what looks like resistance but is often really confusion over the goal, lack of connection to the goal, or lack of training and tools to partner together to work toward the goal.

The good news is that we don't have to “change” ourselves. Instead, we are more effective when we become more savvy in “adapting” our behaviors. Here are strategies to ADAPT and win:

  • Acknowledge: Build confidence by understanding and appreciating your style and uniqueness. List the key attributes of your change leader style that are true of you. For example, “high hands” executors tend to be systematic, proficient, efficient, etc. Reflect on times when you moved the change forward by engaging in behaviors unique to you.
  • Deploy: Seek situations that bring out the best in you, that allow you to use your strengths to the fullest. What are opportunities right now that would allow you to capitalize on your gifts? Where in your organization could your unique talents make a significant impact? For example, a major organizational restructuring initiative may benefit from the perspective of a “high heart” coach to keep the impacts on people and their fears and hopes front and center. What possibilities can you invent looking toward the future that would enable you to utilize your capabilities to the fullest?
  • Avoid: Be mindful to moderate your most preferred strengths so you don't overdo them and waste time or energy or have a negative impact on others. Remember also to avoid neglecting your blind spots by devising mechanisms to keep them on your radar screen. For example, “high head” visionary change leaders may overlook critical implementation details necessary to truly “bake in” the change in favor of launching into the next exciting initiative.
  • Plan: Learn to be more versatile in your approach to people and problems by using more of the strengths of styles that are opposite or very different from your own. For example, a “high head and hands” driver might consider heart-oriented approaches such as focus group meetings and engagement surveys to check the pulse of the people side of change.
  • Team: Partner with others who are strong in areas where you are weaker and have a passion for aspects of the change leader role you do not. Supplement your talents with those of other change leaders to give you a wider reach and broader perspective. For example, “high heart and hands” facilitators might leverage “high head” visionaries to maintain a focus on the big picture and a sense of urgency to achieve business objectives.

What's Your CQ?

By now, you probably have some idea of your own CQ. Here are two additional tips to help in diagnosing your own CQ:

First, engage in self-reflection. Do you tend to lead with the head (the big-picture goal, the business objectives), the heart (personally connecting with your people at an emotional level), or the hands (giving them tactical tools, skills, and a detailed path forward)?

Second, what's missing from your change leadership style? Observe your people.

✓ Are they working really hard, but their efforts are misplaced? Then add more “head”—clarify the target (the “what” and “why” of the change).

✓ Are they unmotivated, indifferent, or even afraid? Then add more “heart”—share your own story, build trust, and show what's in it for all of us working together as a team.

✓ Or, are your people paralyzed, like deer in the headlights, and can't seem to get unstuck and into effective action? Sounds like they need a heavy dose of “hands”—a plan, a process, and skill-building to guide their efforts through the change.

Based on your self-analysis, and in addition to the recommendations in the ADAPT model, here are some additional tips and tools to jumpstart developing your CQ:

Head/Mindset: People need to understand the change that is needed—the business case, the bottom line metrics (the “what”). If they don't, chaos and confusion will result. Ask yourself:

✓ Have I created and communicated a compelling vision, business case, and plan for change?

✓ Have I painted the picture so others can dream the dream?

Heart/Heartset: People need to believe in the change—the sense of urgency, the emotional commitment (the “why”). If they don't, the best result will be passionless compliance and the worst demotivated resignation. Ask yourself:

✓ Have I engaged people in the change beyond the intellectual level—made the personal, emotional appeal?

✓ Am I continually listening, giving and receiving honest feedback, and keeping a finger on the pulse of the human side of the transition?

Hands/Skillset: People need to know how to act consistently with the change, to have the skills and knowledge to do the right thing (the “how”). If they don't, what may appear to be resistance may in fact be fear and frustration. Ask yourself:

✓ Do people know what to do? Have I made the parts they are to play and expectations for deliverables clear?

✓ Have I provided the training and other developmental experiences people need to build new competencies? Have I coached people to feel confident and empowered?

✓ Have I provided the resources and removed the barriers standing in their way to make them successful?

In addition to asking these questions of ourselves, these are the kind of conversations we can facilitate with leaders at all levels to their build their change intelligence, overcome resistance, and make change stick.

Concluding Thoughts

Eisenhower said that “leadership is the art getting people to do what you want done because they want to do it.” Giving people the big-picture vision, the tactical plan, and the personal connection motivates others to transition toward positive change.

Remember that depending on the circumstances, sometimes we lead in one way and sometimes in another. No style is better or worse, right or wrong. However, at any given time one style may be more effective in leading change. Awareness of our style can help us adapt to different people and situations and ultimately take action to become more powerful change leaders.

The most effective change leaders—project managers, program managers, and portfolio managers—are aware of their change leadership style, accept their strengths and developmental areas, and build CQ to catalyze powerful change in their careers, teams, and organizations. As you build your mindset, heartset, and skillset, you will become more savvy and adept at selecting the right tools for the right situation, bolstering your effectiveness as a change leader.

Recommended Reading List

Keller, S., & Aiken, C. (2008). The inconvenient truth about change management. McKinsey Quarterly. Boston, MA: McKinsey & Company.

Kotter, J. P. (1995, March-April). Leading change: Why transformation efforts fail. Harvard Business Review. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.

Maurer, R. (2010). Beyond the wall of resistance. Austin, TX: Bard Press.

Nelson, K., & Aaron, S. (2005). The change management pocket guide. Cincinnati, OH: Change Guides.

Rock, D., & Schwartz, J. (2006). The neuroscience of leadership. Strategy and Business, 43.

Trautlein, B. A. (2013). Change intelligence: Use the power of CQ to lead change that sticks. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press.

© 2014, Barbara A. Trautlein.
Originally Published as part of 2014 PMI Global Congress Proceedings - Phoenix, Arizona, USA



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