Braving BREXIT: Executing on Britain’s Daring New Direction

By Shane Cragun & Kate Sweetman

Whether you agree with the results of BREXIT, the votes have been cast. Blue-collar Brits have snubbed both Britain and European elites. The European Union birdcage has officially been rattled.

In some cases, the vote was more about the past than wealth distribution. It was about who the British think they really are. For ordinary British, their home country was getting too far away from their cherished history and culture.

Now comes the hard work for official leaders of Britain’s “Leave” campaign. Nigel Farage, and Boris Johnson, both prominent BREXITer’s, must proactively and transparently chart a course for a newly independent and more effective Britain.

But it has been a rocky start, to say the least.

Farage, who, since the vote, has been on a mission to patch things up with Euro leaders, recently had Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, tell him, “Mr. Farage, if you had an ounce of decency in you, you would apologize today to the British. Shame on you.” Angela Merkel followed this by stating “If you want to exist and leave this family, then you cannot expect all the obligations to drop away but privileges to continue to exist.”

Large-scale change is always messy. And this will be no exception.

Those of us who facilitate complex change at the team, organizational, and societal levels have witnessed the same patterns of success and failure over the years. In reality, losing weight successful and improving the performance of your company successfully are based upon timeless and common principles of change and transformation.

BREXIT implementers would do well to instill several success factors as they launch into one of the most comprehensive changes the world has ever seen:

Preserve and Maintain Healthy Dissatisfaction Levels: Major change rarely happens when there is not a strong sense of dissatisfaction in place. There must be a powerful internal felt need for change within all involved. If current British dissatisfaction for BREXIT begins to morph into apathy, fear, and confusion, BREXIT will be a non-starter. BREXIT implementers must continually remind constituents on why the choice for BREXIT was supported and why it still has exciting possibilities. They must also continue to sell the positives of independence to the 48% that didn’t directly support the vote outcome.

Engage Key Influencers in New Changes: The principle of no involvement, no commitment has been true for eons. BREXIT leaders and facilitators must identify and involve key influencers from different demographics, geographies, institutions, and throughout society. The strategy should be to get as many British hearts, hands, and minds engaged in creating, making, and implementing the new changes possible. These influences will then naturally pass on their support to others in sincere and genuine ways.

Proactively Manage the Perceived Costs of Change: Disrupting the status quo and challenging inertia can be uncomfortable, even painful. When institutions and societies undergo major systemic and cultural change, costs can be large economically, culturally, psychologically, and materially. If the cost of implementing BREXIT is perceived to be too huge and colossal, then maintaining a multi-year societal, national, and culture change effort will be next to impossible. As of this week it is estimated that trillions of dollars of wealth has evaporated around the globe.

Leverage the Speed of Trust: Author Stephen MR Covey notes that when trust is low among people, organizations, and cultures, costs go up, and speed goes down. When trust is high, then the opposite occurs. Trust between current EU leaders, Cameron’s regime, and the leaders of BREXIT are low and sinking lower. Trust among these three must improve. But high trust is essential between the United Kingdom’s new leaders, its citizens, and its institutions. The speed of BREXIT implementation will come down mostly to an issue of trust.

Use Common Processes, Frameworks, and Principles: Using common processes, frameworks, and principles for implementing BREXIT – especially those that are visual – will provide everyone with a common language and process for change. It unites. Otherwise, individual saber rattling begins and gunslingers appear. Those selfish changes strategies rarely work.

In the end, the single most important factor behind BREXIT’s success or failure will hinge upon the quality and legitimacy of new Leadership that emerges.

In almost any endeavor, leadership is the true Force Multiplier behind both good and bad results. Without force-multiplying leadership, proposed BREXIT changes will go down in history as simply interesting dreams on paper and little else.

John F. Kennedy once said, “Things just don’t happen. Things are made to happen.” It is time for BREXIT and U.K. leaders to make things happen using, and relying upon, proven principles of successful large-scale change as they move forward.

Here’s hoping BREXIT leadership is up to the task.

Shane Cragun and Kate Sweetman are Founding Principle at SweetmanCragun, the world’s leader in providing leadership and hi-performance solutions specifically tailored for today’s Age of Disruption. They are also co-authors of the upcoming book, Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption. Learn more at