Leading Change That Sticks: The Board’s Role



Are you part of the problem?


It’s January and with New Year’s Resolutions fresh, it’s a time to contemplate change. Few would dispute that we are facing a time of what seems like increasing change and complexity. Failure to convert intention to action is a major risk in planning and responding to the changing landscape.


What if as a director, and as a board, your own unconscious motivators around change were part of the reason for change being unsustainable in your organisation?


Effective change management involves directors


The Australian Institute of Company Directors suggests that “effective change management requires directors to be active in modelling and communicating the need for and nature of any change”[1]. Yet what happens when the individual directors, and the board collectively, does not know exactly what they are modelling and communicating in relation to change?


Knowing and leading from your own ‘change profile’ is the key to modelling and communicating sustainable change — leading change that sticks.


What is your change profile?


Your change profile comes from the three relationship sorting metaprograms[2], the unconscious sorting filters in our mind that determine what we pay attention to in our environment — what we filter into and out of our experience. This sorting function happens outside our conscious awareness and drives how we think, feel and act.


The three change profiles are:


  1. Sameness: A person with a strong preference for Sameness will prioritise stability, security, routine and predictability, preferring to work with what is known. They tend to focus on what is the same in their environment and will match current experience with previous experience. This pattern also reflects the length of time an individual will productively engage in a work role before they need and/or seek a change. People high in Sameness typically remain in a role for 10+ years.
  2. Evolution: A person seeking incremental change in their work environment. They are motivated by growth and continual improvement in manageable increments over time, without disrupting the status quo. People high in Evolution typically remain in a role for 5-7 years.
  3. Difference: A person who has a strong preference for Difference is motivated by frequent and/or significant change in their work environment. This person will become demotivated in a stable or slow-paced environment. People high in Difference typically remain in a role for 1-3 years.


Here’s how you might recognise the change patterns around the board table:


Corrinne January 2014 article image


Your change profile is the result of your relative motivation for the three change patterns. For example, your change profile might be high Difference, happy to work with Evolution, and demotivated by Sameness.


What is your personal change profile? What do you now know about the change profile of your director colleagues?


What is your Board’s change profile? How does that relate to the change culture across your organisation? And your sector?


Meet a few of my clients


Simone[3], a leader in the aged care sector, is highly motivated by Difference. She wants to lead new and innovative initiates in a sector that overall is motivated by Evolution and Sameness. She becomes frustrated when her peers don’t connect with her ideas.


Jason, an auditor, has a strong preference for Sameness. He wants to maintain the status quo and finds it hard to stay tuned into conversations about change.


Fuelled by a strong belief that the current systems are broken, Amy is leading a lean systems development program in a health care network. Her strong Evolution focus results in a resistance to what she sees as ‘big risky changes’.


Jim chairs the board of a sporting organisation. As long as there is forward movement, Jim is happy. With an equal preference for Evolution and Difference, for Jim, staying where we are now is not an option.




Imagine they were all on your board (and they probably are)… how would you present your proposal? What would you need to cover to ensure that each remains motivated and engaged in the board conversation, able to reach a decision, and committed to the outcome?


Speak my language


Each change pattern has its own language (see table above). To communicate to my change pattern, you need to use my language. If you don’t, at best I might tune out. At worst, I could become demotivated or even actively resist.


After all, why would you speak French to me and expect me to respond and engage, when you know I only speak English?


In communicating a change to a broad audience, make sure you cover what will remain the same, where incremental changes will be made, and what will be different. Communicate in a way that everyone can hear and embrace.


Helping your board to model and communicate change


If the board’s role in effective change management is modelling and communicating change, how well is your board doing?


To increase your collective effectiveness and lead change that sticks:


  • Understand your own personal change profile and notice how that influences your communication around the board table and beyond. Build your own flexibility around change.
  • Get curious about the change profile of your director colleagues. Notice their language, what they value, what they question. Speak their language.
  • Determine the change profile of your organisation overall — its change culture.
  • Understand the Board’s change profile and communicate consciously to your key stakeholders, including your staff team.


Leading with conscious awareness of your own ‘change profile’ is a critical factor in modelling and communicating sustainable change — leading change that sticks.


[1] Australian Institute of Company Directors Company Director’s Course Manual 2013/14


[2] Metaprograms are an underpinning concept of NeuroLinguistic programming. NLP is the study of human excellence: Neuro is thinking, linguistic is language, and programming is the doing. Motivational Profiling, through the inventory of Work Attitudes and Motivations (iWAM) measures 48 motivational patterns or metaprograms, including the change patterns. For more information see http://extraordinaryfuture.com.au/what-we-do/profiling


[3] Client names have been changed so as to preserve client anonymity without distorting the essential reality of the story.


Corrinne will be speaking at the 2014 Better Boards Conference in Adelaide on the 1-3 of August. Registration is open now. The full program is available here

Avatar About Corrinne Armour

Corrinne enables her clients to achieve objectives faster through embracing the fearless leadership that results from the intersection of purpose, communication and motivation. She is passionate about enabling effective leadership through decoding the below conscious influence of motivational patterns. Corrinne is a co-author of ‘Peak Performance Patterns – Cracking the code for workplace performance’ and the forthcoming book 'Shift: Making the change that matters'.


  1. Hello Corrinne.

    Thank you for your article, I found it of interest and will be useful in my work. I found the table that links the profile with language, questions and considerations a useful overview and ‘cheat sheet’ when listening to group members and when developing communications and resources.

    I am a project officer in Sport Governance in the South Australian government. I work mainly with state sporting organisations, but our office also works with sporting clubs. We are currently conducting some change projects with the boards of these not for profit organisations.

    As I read about the profile types I wondered if there is any infomration about the learning styles that may prevelant or linked to the profiles? The reason for my question is that when considering how to incorporate the language and considerations for each profile into the overall presentation of information, I wondered if this could be tackled by targeting the communication tools. For example, if people who fit into the ‘sameness’ profile prefer detailed information, statistics, etc – the communication could be written and incorporate tables, charts. The ‘difference’ profile may be more extroverted and prefer information in short flyer format or by a story of what the outcomes will be – may engage with a short powerpoint presentation with limited detail. The ‘evolution’ profile might want the information presented as a chart defining the steps of the process and outcomes.

    Just curious.


  2. Hello Michelle.

    Great question….. And the short answer is ‘no’. Change profiles are not directly linked to a communication style or a learning style – they are separate. So for example you could have a person with a strong preference for Difference who prefers to listen to take in information, and another person high on Difference with a strong preference for hearing to take in information. You will also find a person high on Sameness who wants the detail, and another person high on Sameness who is only interested in the big picture. Each of these are separate motivational patterns or metaprograms, and so you can’t predict that a Sameness profile prefers detailed information, etc.

    Michelle what you do need to do with your communication is ensure that you use the language of your audience (see the table above). When you are communicating to a group such as in your board change projects, you need to cover the language of each pattern as there will probably be someone high on each Change Pattern on the board. So you must tell them what will stay the same, what will be evolving, and what will be different.

    You might find my last article for Better Boards on ‘Enabling Better Decisions at the Board Table’ useful as that covers decision making strategies. https://betterboards.net/governance/enabling-decisions-board-table/.

    Thanks for your feedback Michelle. I am glad the article was useful for you. Corrinne

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