Change is sexy, except for the people bit

Anne Parsons explores the big focus on ongoing change in the industry (in response to the Harvard Business Review article ‘Coaching For Change’ by Richard E. Boyatzis, Melvin Smith & Ellen Van Oosten) and in her view why change with people will deliver RoI.

There is a big focus on ongoing change in the industry. That seems sexy. There is little discussion on the change needed for industry practitioners to succeed. That seems wrong. Giving people the means to positively manage change is the difference between Donald Trump and Jacinta Arden. That is a whole world of difference. In this HBR article, despite some of the detail being a touch too “ touchy-feely”, the substance is directional, proven and highly applicable (Harvard Business Review).

Key points:

  • Change is a critical step toward fulfilling potential – because none of us are already as good as we could be – ever.
  • Coaching with compassion is the simple solution for intentional change, and whilst led through HR it is the responsibility and opportunity for all
  • Supported by 360 feedback it creates a plan for the individual to take each of us from current to better – shaped to perform at the highest level according to our ability and aptitude
  • It takes between 18 and 254 days to form a new habit – but investing that time is how you develop people to their best
  • Pushing them to try new behaviours assumes we accept the responsibility for helping support their essential change and enables the business to enjoy the heightened productivity it creates.

My Takeout

In the rush to in-house, to spend big on martech and data, marketing is guilty of overlooking and underinvesting in its single critical component: people. People deliver change – and the RoI is solid.

Coachable moments are the things that happen day to day that can be used to help an individual change behaviour, develop strengths and ultimately become better at what they do and therefore increase their value to the business. At a time when finding the competitive edge is fundamental to all business, the people you are able to help develop can become that very thing.

Change is the “thing” most often referenced in industry commentary but it is largely related to the non-human angle, like technology or speed or delivery. What about the human element to make all this stuff work well?

We are seeing a time where the purported lack of talent and expertise is causing marketers to question the talent level or access of their agency teams. Some consider the in-housing of media or creative to be a viable solution. Others the need to change agency. Others to deal directly with the media owners and access their expertise. Many bemoan the lack of trust and breakdown in true relationships.

But in each of these scenarios, the common element is “the people, stupid”. Only by allowing them to change according to their identified needs and aptitude will you have people who are better at their job or perhaps performing a different role but doing it better. And this in-between weeks and months. No technology is built that quickly.

In order for this to happen, an environment needs to be facilitated which encourages and enables coachable moments with a relevant learning plan implemented that ensures the change is watched and nurtured.

Why not make change with people as important and dynamic as we find change with technology and gimmicks? The first beneficiary at a commercial and corporate level will be the business.


This article was featured on Mi3 on 9th September 2019.


by Anne Parsons

Non-Exec Director and Global Advisor for Cherry London