Making Small Changes for Big Impact in Developing Others

Tips and Insights for Coach-Consultants

Dr. Peter Fuda writes about transforming leadership and he’s most interested in transforming results. Glad to hear, because results are what counts! He had several key themes in his talk at the recent Ultimate Culture Conference hosted by Human Synergistics, and I’ll recap a few of my favorites here.


This is an interesting point for those who say that a leader doesn’t need to be out in front. Maybe we need to look at what “out in front” means.

Peter told the story of a mother who revered Gandhi and wanted her child to give up sugar. She spent a day traveling a difficult journey to get to Gandhi’s ashram, and when she got there and explained what she wanted, Gandhi said to come back in two weeks. Exasperated, she went home and did the grueling journey again two weeks later. When she asked what she should do, Gandhi said to her child, “You must give up sugar.” Perplexed, she asked why he couldn’t say this the first time. Gandhi replied, “Because I hadn’t done that myself.”

An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.
-Mahatma Gandhi

Think of the immense credibility Gandhi displayed, and the credibility we all have when we can speak from experience and not just from anecdotes. Can you imagine how much more effective and powerful we would be if we “gave up sugar, too” (or whatever the behavior may be)? We can’t have first-hand knowledge of everything we work on, but the more we can put ourselves in our client’s shoes, the greater our credibility.


As professionals involved in the development of others, it’s easy to tell them what to do and expect change while giving ourselves a pass. Instead, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Peter shared another story about a five-year-old girl. There were two apples left at home, and the mother asked her daughter to give one to her and keep the other for herself.” The daughter took both apples out of the drawer and promptly took a bite out of each. How do you think the mom felt? Perhaps she thought, “My daughter’s doing all she can to keep me from having either apple.” The mother asked her daughter why she bit into both apples. Her daughter replied, “To find the sweetest one to give you!”— precisely the opposite of what the mom expected!

Always assume a noble intention.
-Peter Fuda

I have always said, “There’s always a reason for irrational behavior.” That’s what the girl showed – something irrational, but with a reason in mind. And yes, we are judging her by her actions, not her intentions. Remember that your actions speak volumes. And so even with the best of intentions, it’s actions by which others will judge us. Take the appropriate actions that match your intentions.


People need to identify the gap between where they are and where they want to go. Defining that gap so others can clearly see it is the first step you need to take in consulting with them. Second, help them identify what they need to do to get to the other side of the gap. This can help them determine ways they can implement the change they desire.

That may not be enough. There’s a third step that’s often missed. You need to ignite the fire from within.1 Too often we think about lighting a fire under certain individuals or teams to get them moving. This is often called a burning platform. But what happens then? They run – and in any direction! You want them to run in the right direction and run with passion and purpose. Drive them to close the gap by not lighting a fire under them that could cause harm and panic. Light the fire INSIDE of them and create a burning ambition instead of a burning platform. Let their passion drive their desire and energy in the direction they need to go. They’ll move ever closer to closing the gap and implementing the change needed to reach their personal and organizational goals.

Heeding this advice will make you a better consultant and, equally, help make your clients more successful.

I invite your thoughts and comments on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Editor’s note: Something BIG is coming from Peter in 2018. Sign up at and be among the first to know.


1 Fuda, Peter (2013). Leadership Transformed: How ordinary managers become extraordinary leaders. Boston: New Harvest-Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

About the Author

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Howard Prager

Howard Prager brings significant knowledge and experience in leadership and talent development. He is known for his keen listening, understanding, and translating client needs to action, whether it be through instructional design, facilitation, consulting, organizational development, change, measurement or coaching. A thought leader in leadership development, his article on "How can we fix the leadership crisis?" was lead article in the March 2016 Talent Development Journal. Howard created the Team Banquet, a highly-regarded experiential team building exercise used globally. With over 30 years of corporate, academic, and consulting experience, he meets and exceeds client needs regularly.