Skip to main content

The Inside View

How critics become friends: Passion; patience; persistence

The secret sauce of leading change, thanks to animal scientist Temple Grandin.

My Ted Talk just got published. I am so thrilled. Its theme is how critics can be your friends; how adversaries can be your allies.

One story I tell is about collaborating with Temple Grandin. Animal rights activists recommended that McDonald’s work with her. I had never heard of her at the time (1998) but I soon found out she was world renowned, both as a preeminent animal scientist and as vocal champion for autism, as she was autistic herself. 

Grandin showed me the secret sauce of leading change. She has the remarkable ability to balance passion, patience and persistence. No matter the detours and arduous process that it took to make animal welfare a mainstream priority for the animal industry, she balanced a relentless passion with a remarkable patience backed by tenacious daily persistence.

When others don’t get on board, we can become cynical and pessimistic. That’s why we need patience.
While others, including me at that time, saw these characteristics as opposing chaotic forces, Grandin practiced them simultaneously. She inspired me to do the same, and the three "Ps" — passion, patience and persistence — became my daily mantra.

Here are some tips to get into that same mental state:

  • Let passion be the engine that runs your system at 100 mph, even though it’s as quiet as an electric car. Don’t be obvious, and don’t wear it on your sleeve. People naturally will sense your genuine commitment. And never let up on your passion. It’s the fuel that propels change.
  • Many of us are blinded and bounded by our overflowing passion, rubbing colleagues the wrong way, not relating with peers, and pushing our own agenda instead of helping others achieve theirs. When others don’t get on board, we can become cynical and pessimistic. That’s why we need patience.
  • Patience doesn’t mean passiveness. Patience helps you realize that nothing big is going to happen in your organization without the time needed to engage and connect with internal and external stakeholders, truly listening and adapting to their input.

  • Connections lead to good relationships and trust. You cannot lead unless your colleagues trust you. So, when you go to meetings, go ahead and push to get decisions made, but learn something about the other person along the way and keep building that relationship.
  • We will fail often. Don’t blame others. Figure out how you and your team could have done better, and then keep pursuing your goal with those lessons in mind.
  • "Two steps backward." That’s what I always heard from colleagues who became frustrated by setbacks. I would show them that, over the long stretch, we also had taken three steps forward. Leading change is not for those who need daily, instantaneous reinforcement.
  • Remember that integrating sustainability into the core of the business is a multiyear, culture-change process. Be happy with small wins, which eventually will add up to a big shift.
  • Persistence is essential to keep things moving. We can’t lollygag and wait forever. I once had a boss who, in an annual review, gave me demerits for doing too much internal vetting. He wanted me to get more stuff done. That’s why we need Grandin-like relentless persistence.

  • Persistence in the face of conflict is particularly challenging. We might face all types of outside attacks or internal debates. Consider the conflict an opportunity. Don’t consider conflict to be a bad force. It’s good and needed. It’s difficult to imagine anyone getting any better without facing and overcoming some conflict.
  • Persistence and patience require a positive and optimistic mindset. It’s easy to become negative. Let out frustration quickly and get back on the positive track. People want to follow committed, enthusiastic leaders. 

As you embrace the three Ps, you will experience freedom and mental relaxation that will drive your ability to influence others to the next level. The three Ps form a circular path that always comes back to the passion that drives leadership for corporate social change. Passion inspires us to go against the status quo, to be the one in the room to question a current practice and to advocate for environmental and social progress and breakthroughs.

Adapted from "The Battle To Do Good: Inside McDonald’s Sustainability Journey."

More on this topic

More by This Author