• Intelligent Shift

Leadership Series: The Tipping Point

This is the third and final part of this series about change (for now). The other two are:

Why Do People Resist Change and Solving the Change Management Enigma.


So how do you motivate people? There are really two ways 1. Scare them or 2. Show them the rewards of moving. We have all heard of the carrot and the stick. I have always visualized a team that has set up camp on a mountain and I want to tear down the camp and move to another mountain. No one wants to do that. It’s a lot of work and we don’t really know that other place. If I want to scare the team - a major storm is coming and we are going to die if we don't move to another mountain. If they can see the storm cloud, then they move quickly. Or focus on rewards - there’s a chest of gold hidden at the other mountain. If they see others flocking over there, they move quickly. Either way they have to believe you and value what they are going to lose or gain.


One major motivator is the movement of the herd. I talked about tipping point before and it’s

instructive to think of it as a herd. You only have to convince a few to move before a stampede starts. If one or two moves, no one even looks up. Fifteen percent is typical considering the tipping point when the movement gets its own momentum. See this article on Understanding Early Adoption Patterns.


So to get the team to pack up camp, you only need to get 15% to sign on? Basically, that’s the rule of thumb. This is where you have to target your scare or reward arguments. Plan how to get to 15% and think individually about how you get each one of the 15% to move. You already know who on your team is adventurous and will jump in. Pick an argument and give them the call to action first. Make them visible so people see something is happening. Many in the herd will dismiss them (i.e. there goes crazy Joe again), but they will see them. Then keep building the 15% person by person; always keeping it visible.


Eventually the fear of missing out on a reward or survival kicks in and stampedes happen.

Now this whole argument ignores two critical parts 1. people with power count for more and 2. antibodies fighting you. In your camp, there will certainly be faction leaders. Your plan has to account for when you bring them along. Map it out. Secondly, when you introduce this foreign idea, the team will react like your body fighting a disease. The antibodies attack you, especially if you have any set back. Some early adopters may backslide at the sign of this resistance. You’ll save a lot of worry if you think upfront where that pushback will come from and who is likely to be influenced by it. Overall, this is just one part of change management though it is often overlooked. Leaders rarely stop to really think about getting to the tipping point and how to motivate people on an individual level to get there. If nothing else, it breaks the problem down to small wins and clear steps. Try it.