This week I talked to a group of international Masters’ students at the University of Chester, about leading change in their organisations. Whatever you are changing, there are some common factors related to personality that underlie the type of change people prefer. Personality affects innovation.

Some people prefer to make step-by-step incremental changes, improving what’s already there. They have an impulse to keep what’s working – to not “throw the baby out with the bath water”. Others prefer to introduce something completely new, replacing what has been done before. They have an impulse to scrap everything and “start from scratch”.

Some years ago my husband and I bought a house and had it renovated, building on and adapting what was already there ie “process innovation”. The alternative would have been to knock it down and build a new house ie “light bulb innovation”. (Credit to Rob Toomey for these terms).

Wherever you personally are on this spectrum between process innovation and light bulb innovation, it is likely that your team members will be somewhere else. So, when introducing change, you have to appeal to the whole range of personalities in your team.

In a team there are as many personalities as there are people, but there are ways to group people who broadly share certain core motivators and patterns of behaviour, while recognizing that they will have many different individual characteristics. Our brains automatically put things and people into categories and this helps us make sense of the world. Using the core motivator categories helps you to work out what your team members need from you to move forward with a change.

Here are the four patterns and the concerns they have when change is being introduced


Have a plan of action, a framework they can adapt and run with.

Questions they ask:

How will this change affect me right now?
How will this change be helpful right away?
Where do we begin?
What can I do?
What options do I have?

Do Say: this is what you can do now
Don’t Say: wait while we decide what to do


Appeal to their sense of tradition, offering step by step procedures and timescales.

Questions they ask:

Why change what is already working?
What is wrong with what we are doing now?
Has anyone else tried this change?
Is there evidence that this change will work?
Where, when, why, and how will the changes be made?

Do Say: this is the proof it will work
Don’t Say: it’s an experiment, let’s see what happens


Ensure your ideas are theoretically sound and backed up with relevant research.

Questions they ask:

Why are we doing this?
What could we do differently?
How will this change improve things in the long term?
How will this change affect the bottom line?
Do we have the competence and expertise to accomplish this?

Do Say: this is how it will be more effective
Don’t Say: we will stick with what we know


Be inclusive and nurturing, recognising the impact on staff.

Questions they ask:

How will this change improve things for the people involved?
Who will be negatively affected by the change?
How will the change be supported?
How will this change support the identity and integrity of the organization?
Will this change affect atmosphere and morale?

Do Say: this is how it will be better for people
Don’t Say: it doesn’t matter what people think

Next time you introduce a change, use this guidance as a checklist to give yourself the highest chance of engaging more of your people for more of the time. If you can cover off all four angles, you are well on the way to success!

Find out how to set a clear vision for a change and communicate in a way that engages emotions as well as minds, in my blog on the Motivation Equation.

Note: Core Needs based on self-determination theory of Ryan and Deci, and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; Behaviours based on Keirsey and Berens’ Temperament theory.  (Improviser™, Stabilizer™, Theorist™, Catalyst™ as described in Exploring Essential Motivators™ by Linda V. Berens, InterStrength Press, Huntington Beach, California, are used with the permission of Linda V. Berens).