How I Learned When to Cash-in Leadership “Change Chips”

Like Don't move Unlike

Originally posted November 4, 2011

Just before you pull the trigger on that change you want to introduce, ask yourself, “Is this worth cashing in my chips?”

Leaders know that they possess a certain number of “change chips”. These chips are made up of credibility, respect, authority, good will and other essential intangible ingredients.

cashing in my chips

Leaders carry these chips around in their pocket knowing that at the moment when they must introduce change they will have to cash-in some of these chips.

But if you cash these chips in at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons it can make introducing real, meaningful change that much more difficult.

I learned this lesson in a painful way during my first weeks on the job when I served as executive pastor of a large Canadian church.

I led a staff of about 35 people, and soon after I was hired I saw that the office configuration was not optimal. Almost before I had settled into my chair I was moving staff around the facility from one office to another. Because I was the new sheriff in town, the staff dutifully followed my edict. And within a couple of weeks most staff were in new offices which, to me, was a marginal improvement over the previous set up.

But I had cashed in several credibility chips with only a marginal “win” for the organization. I had introduced irritation, confusion and distraction, and the only upside was a slight increase in the ergonomics of the office.

In hindsight I wish I had saved those chips for later on when I needed to call for significant change that could generate meaningful, positive results.

What might this mean for you?

Take a few minutes to actually make a list of the potential changes you’re contemplating. Perhaps it looks something like this…

  • Changing the day of the weekly staff meeting,
  • Dropping a well-established, but tired, program,
  • Introducing new ways for expense reports to be submitted,
  • Launching a new product or service.

For each item on your own list, carefully consider the change chips required to be cashed in.

To make lasting, significant change, you may find that you need to keep a few more chips in your pocket!

How have you learned when to cash in your leadership change chips?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.


  1. This is a very insightful post, I recently started following your blog and am grateful I stopped by. You make valid points while encouraging leaders. Thank you for your leadership. I also believe complacency is a recipe for vulnerability and change is a catalyst for success. You are very right, that you must weigh your options and calculate your risk before bringing forth change.

    Thank you again. Keep up the great wisdom!

  2. Clint, thanks for weighing in. I love your line, “Change is a catalyst for success”. What I’ve been learning is to focus on the right kind of change, at the right time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *