Putting psychology at the heart of transformation

by David Lancefield Partner, Strategy&


Here we bring you the highlights from the third podcast in our Transformation Talks series, where I talk to Kathleen Saxton, founder of The Lighthouse Company, and Psyched Global, which brings transformational psychotherapy into corporate boardrooms. We explore the psychology of transformation. You can listen to the full interview on Soundcloud, iTunes or acast.

I was particularly interested to speak with Kathleen because of her work with start-ups, corporate celebrities and private equity around the psychology of leadership and in particular in the context of transformations. Putting the psychology of people at the heart of transformational efforts isn’t something that necessarily springs to mind immediately, yet Kathleen’s experience and insight brought home to me that it really should be a foundational aspect of how leaders approach bringing about change.

If you don’t have time to listen to the podcast now, here are a few of the main themes that emerged from the conversation.

1. You lead best when you are paying attention to your mental wellbeing.
Even with the the pressure of any transformation, leaders generally look after their physical health as best they can. Mental health, not so much. Mental health needs to be considered in the same way as if you were to have a personal trainer or an intellectual business coach - it’s deemed positive.
Kathleen explains: “You can’t lead other people unless you are okay. I think up to the 1980s and 1990s we kind of believed that speed was the badge we had to wear. But of course we started to get burned out and we realised it wasn’t good for us. So it is about boundaries and, particularly if you are transforming a business, having the space and time to think (is important) because our best creativity comes from when we are quiet.”

2. Understand more about the people you’re asking things of.
You may not immediately relate to or agree with everyone you are working with but it pays to start by understanding where they are coming from. When we understand more about somebody we tend to find ourselves being able to relate better to them, and in transformations understanding is vital as there will be periods of time where you need to ask extraordinary things of your people.
According to Kathleen: “My view is that rather than get frustrated by people, we need to be fascinated by people because that tends to bring us to a different space with them.” 

3. Be brave. Be prepared to let go, in order to effect change.
Charismatic leadership will take you so far, but the bravery needed to take the difficult decisions, and to stop doing things that don’t work in order to start new things, makes the difference.
Kathleen says: “We sometimes ignore the need to stop something, as much as to start something. Even if I’m the only one on the board that sees it differently, am I willing to stand by that? To me that’s real bravery.”

For the full conversation where Kathleen Saxton tells us about her transformation journey, click here.


If you missed the first in this series click here to read the highlights of the interview with Dan Cable, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, London Business School. Where we talk about “Keeping your people ‘alive at work’ when transformation's on the menu”.

You can read the highlights from episode two here, where Sir Mark Elder CH, CBE, Music Director of the Manchester-based Hallé Orchestra, talks about ‘How to transform the artistic fortunes of an orchestra’.

To receive the next in this series and more of the latest content on Business in Transformation, subscribe here.

by David Lancefield Partner, Strategy&