What’s Your CQ?

Excerpt from “Change Intelligence: Use the Power of CQ to Lead Change that Sticks” by Barbara A. Trautlein, Ph.D.

By Barbara A. Trautlein, Ph.D.         

Picture this: a $50 million steel mill—with a capacity to produce 1.4 million tons of steel per year—in bankruptcy. There I was, a 25-year-old fresh out of college and on my first consulting assignment. I was standing in a room before two dozen steelworkers, all men, and all in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. Almost to a man, they’d spent their entire career in the mill. It was my first day there, and I’d just finished introducing myself and explaining how we were going to transform the assembled group into high-performance, total-quality, self-managed teams. In the silence that followed my speech, a grizzled, 6-foot-5, 250-pound steelworker stood up, stomped to the middle of the room, and declared, “We’re steelworkers, and we don’t listen to girls!”

What an illustrious start to my consulting career! The devil on my shoulder whispered a suggested response in my ear: Well, maybe that’s why you’re in bankruptcy! But the angel on my other shoulder won out, and I held my tongue.

Fast-forward two years. Despite that inauspicious beginning, we were able to work together to bring about a culture change that returned the mill to profitability—without a single layoff in the 750-person workforce. And we were able to do this in the mid-1980s, during a recession much like the one that began in 2008.

Perhaps you’re not facing bankruptcy like this steel mill, but I bet you’ll answer “Yes” to at least one of the following:

  • Is your organization struggling in the current economy, forced to make tough business decisions no one wants to make?
  • Are you tired of the “program of the year” and want to know how to make change stick?
  • Are you frustrated by your inability to overcome resistance to new ways of working?

The CQ System

Change intelligence, or CQ, is the awareness of one’s own change leadership style and the ability to adapt one’s style to be optimally effective in leading change across a variety of situations. The idea behind the CQ System presented in this book is that each of us has a distinctive method of leading through organizational change. Just as we can measure our IQ, our EQ, and any number of our other intelligences, we also can assess our change intelligence. In doing so, we learn a great deal about how we can leverage our personal change leadership style to lead change far more effectively than before.

Until now, there’s been no assessment specifically designed to help change leaders understand themselves, even though this is the crucial starting point of any successful change initiative. The CQ System I’ve developed enables change leaders to diagnose their change intelligence, equips them with applied developmental strategies, and shows them how to be powerful agents of transformation. I’ve spent the last two decades partnering with clients—from steel mills and sales teams to refineries and retail to health care and high tech—to lead organizational, team, and personal transformations. As a scientist-practitioner, I have conducted global change management research with leaders around the world and incorporated insights from psychology and neuroscience. All of that experience has gone into the creation of the CQ System.

Just a few years ago, when I was in India presenting at a conference on IT leadership and managing change, much of the conversation centered on frustrations IT professionals had as they tried to implement technology transformations. Their complaints ranged from business leaders “not getting it” and peer managers in other functional areas “not wanting it” to front-line employees “not using it.” The mindset these comments revealed was interesting. These leaders saw change as something they did to others, not with or for them. They saw others as resisting change, when in reality, the “resisters” probably didn’t understand the change, feel committed to it, or see its benefits. I wanted these leaders to turn the mirror back on themselves, and see that the negative behaviors they saw in their teams were likely a reflection of a lack of effective change leadership on their own part.

Heart, Head, and Hands

The CQ System starts with the fact that each change leader has a basic tendency to lead with his or her Heart, Head, Hands, or some combination of the three. If you lead mainly from the Heart, you connect with people emotionally (I want it!). If you lead from the Head, you connect with people cognitively (I get it!). And if you lead from the Hands, you connect with people behaviorally (I can do it!). Depending on your natural inclination toward one of these, you have your own set of talents and areas to improve:



Leads Change from the Heart

Leads Change from the Head

Leads Change from the Hands


Engaging, caring, people-oriented

Strategic, futuristic, purpose oriented

Efficient, tactical, process oriented


Motivating and supportive coach

Inspirational and big picture visionary

Planful and systematic executer

Developmental Opportunities

May neglect to revisit overall change goals and not devote attention to the specific tactics of the change process

May leave others behind, wanting to move sooner than people are ready and lacking detailed planning and follow-through

May lose sight of the big picture and devalue team dynamics and individual’s emotions


It is not inherently better or worse to focus on the Heart or the Head or the Hands. However, the effectiveness of a change leadership style shifts in different scenarios depending on the type of change occurring, the business objective, the organizational culture, the people involved, and many other factors.

Many people are unaware of their dominant aspect (or aspects), and of the impact their leadership style has on the change initiatives they lead. But the effect of how you lead during change is significant—overreliance on the Heart, Head, or Hands to the detriment of the other aspects can alienate the people around you and limit your success. Fortunately, we can all build our capacity to use all three aspects and adapt our change leadership style to be more effective in any situation.

Excerpt from “Change Intelligence: Use the Power of CQ to Lead Change that Sticks” by Barbara A. Trautlein, Ph.D. For more information, visit www.ChangeCatalysts.com/Book.

Barbara A. Trautlein, Ph.D., is a change leadership consultant, international speaker, and researcher with more than 20 years of experience. She helps all levels of leaders in achieving their personal and professional goals and is the author of “Change Intelligence: Use the Power of CQ to Lead Change that Sticks” (www.changecatalysts.com).

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