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John Kotter Quotes

John Paul Kotter

John Kotter quotes: on why it’s so hard to change, lead, and communicate effectively, and what to do about it.

“Most people don’t lead their own lives—they accept their lives.”

“Develop the change, vision, and strategy. Clarify how the future will be different from the past, and how you can make that future a reality. Do we have a credible path to achieve that goal?”

“Create a new culture. Hold on to the new ways of behaving, and make sure they succeed, until they become strong enough to replace old traditions. Better still, make all of these steps a central part of the way you live to help you adapt to an ever faster changing world.”

“If you set high goals for yourselves and every day continue to reflect on them, step by step you will be more focused and make yourself a better human being, becoming a happier person for it.”

“Don’t let up.”

“Transformation is a process, not an event.”

“All wins, no matter how small, are stepping stones to the final result and need to be recognized, celebrated, and communicated. This is required to demonstrate progress and to energize and nurture the effort for change.”

“What humans do best is make decisions based on the past and what has worked before. Unless they’re really suffering and desperate, they often won’t try something new. They won’t make the changes that they need to make. People who have problems with addiction often have to hit rock bottom before they actually say, ‘Well, maybe this isn’t working. I have to try something new.'”

“The problem is that we come to a point where, increasingly, those incremental adjustments just aren’t working. But until you hit the wall, an individual won’t think, ‘This logically isn’t going to get me there. What’s got me here, isn’t going to get me there, and I’m going to look for solutions which are not incremental solutions, but a little bit bolder.'”

“Never underestimate the magnitude of the power of the forces that reinforce the status quo.”

“Tradition is a very powerful force.”

“There is no business that I’ve found yet that, from the right direction, that you can’t see something that people can get excited about.”

“If you cannot describe your vision to someone in five minutes and get their interest, you have more work to do in this phase of a transformation process.”

“What’s really driving the boom in coaching, is this: as we move from 30 miles an hour to 70 to 120 to 180… as we go from driving straight down the road to making right turns and left turns to abandoning cars and getting motorcycles… the whole game changes, and a lot of people are trying to keep up, learn how not to fall.”

“Budgeting is a math exercise, number crunching. Planning is a logical, linear process. Strategizing requires a great deal of information about customers and competitors, along with conceptual skills. Visioning uses a very different part of the brain than budgeting. As the name implies, it involves trying to see possible futures. It inevitably has both a creative and emotional component.”

“One of the most powerful forms of information is feedback on our own actions.”

“Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to talk around a little and see what lights people’s eyes up and what makes them cloud over.”

“Never underestimate the power of a good story.”

“Over the years I have become convinced that we learn best (and change) from hearing stories that strike a chord within us. Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies and for themselves.”

“Neurologists say that our brains are programmed much more for stories than for abstract ideas. Tales with a little drama are remembered far longer than any slide crammed with analytics.”

“Complacency is almost always the product of success or perceived success.”

“A higher rate of urgency does not imply ever-present panic, anxiety or fear. It means a state in which complacency is virtually absent.”

“Motivation is not a thinking word; it’s a feeling word.”

“Motivation and inspiration energize people, not by pushing them in the right direction as control mechanisms do, but by satisfying basic human needs for achievement, a sense of belonging, recognition, self-esteem, a feeling of control over one’s life, and the ability to live up to one’s ideals. Such feelings touch us deeply and elicit a powerful response.”

“In terms of getting people to experiment more and take more risk, there are at least three things that immediately come to my mind. Number one, of course, is role-modeling it yourself. Number two is when people take intelligent, smart risks and yet, it doesn’t work out, not shooting them. And number three, being honest with yourself. If the culture you have is radically different from an experiment and take-risk culture, then you have a big change you’re going to have to make—and no little gimmicks are going to do it for you.”

“Innovation is kind of a sub-piece of change.”

“The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades.”

“The heart of change is in the emotions. We see, we feel, we change.”

“Without conviction that you can make change happen, you will not act, even if you see the vision. Your feelings will hold you back.”

“Valued achievements connect to people at a deeper level—and a deeper level can change behavior that is generally very difficult to change.”

“One of the most common ways to overcome resistance to change is to educate people about it beforehand. Communication of ideas helps people see the need for and the logic of a change. The education process can involve one-on-one discussions, presentations to groups, or memos and reports.”

“The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people.”

“Leadership produces change. That is its primary function.”

“Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.”

“Effective leaders help others to understand the necessity of change and to accept a common vision of the desired outcome.”

“Leadership is about setting a direction. It’s about creating a vision, empowering and inspiring people to want to achieve the vision, and enabling them to do so with energy and speed through an effective strategy. In its most basic sense, leadership is about mobilizing a group of people to jump into a better future.”

“Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite the obstacles.”

“The leadership challenge facing you is impossible for you to handle alone. It can’t be done. I don’t care how smart you are or how good you are, you need a lot more people helping you. If you start thinking that way, not only will you start finding solutions… but also you are, in a sense, taking an impossible burden off your shoulders, and getting help in dealing with this fast-moving and the incredibly challenging world.”

“Good communication is not just data transfer. You need to show people something that addresses their anxieties, that accepts their anger, that is credible in a very gut-level sense, and that evokes faith in the vision.”

“Good communication does not mean that you have to speak in perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs. It isn’t about slickness. Simple and clear go a long way.”

“Great communicators have an appreciation for positioning. They understand the people they’re trying to reach and what they can and can’t hear. They send their message in through an open door rather than trying to push it through a wall.”

“Great vision communication usually means heartfelt messages are coming from real human beings.”

“Without credible communication, and a lot of it, the hearts and minds of others are never captured.”

“No vision issue today is bigger than the question of efficiency versus some combination of innovation and customer service.”

“If you’re overbooked, you can’t manage pressing problems or even recognize they’re pressing until too late.”

“I’m very uncomfortable in the sense that I do not sit on mountains in India and dream spiritual thoughts: that’s not what I do! I go out and study the world—or at least I try to—very, very seriously. I look into things deeply and see patterns that are important to how people live and run their organizations, and try to communicate that. That’s not sniffing lotus flowers!”

“I think about the future much more than I do about the past. I’m certainly very proud of what I’ve done so far, but I’m much more interested in what I can be doing over, I would hope, the next 25 or 30 years.”

“In an ever changing world, you never learn it all, even if you keep growing into your 90s.”

Related: James C. Collins quotes.

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