Yesterday, the wind chill factor was 52 degrees below zero but if I wasn’t listening to the news, I would have never known it. I stayed inside all day – where my house was the same temperature as always, pipes functioned properly, and I wore the same layers of clothes. It was a sunny day outside, and inside business was as usual.

While the view from the window may have been pleasant, the conditions in the environment were not. The sun was deceiving as the wind chills were literally life-threatening. The Weather Service estimated that frostbite could occur in five minutes of exposure.

The polar vortex is a metaphor for what often occurs in organizations as leaders try to garner support from employees about the changes that are necessary. They are preaching the equivalent of “it’s cold outside” or “climate conditions are altered” but all the employees see is the sun and normal operations.

As thought leader John Kotter says, you must first create a sense of urgency before any transformation effort will succeed. Leaders must share the thermometers and stories about the implications. They must point out the ice on the inside windows and make note of the canceled mail service. Employees should listen to the news and be inconvenienced by rescheduling or altered conditions.

If you’re leading a change effort, create a way for the employees to feel the chill without getting frostbitten by it. Business as usual in unusual circumstances won’t help you transform.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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