Social Impact Authors: How & Why Dr Dawn-Marie Turner Is Helping To Change Our World

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My favorite definition of leadership comes from Margaret Wheatley: “A leader is anyone willing to help, anyone who sees something that needs to change and takes the first steps to influence that situation.”

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Dawn-Marie Turner.

Take change from a liability to an asset. Dr. Dawn-Marie Turner, author of “Launch, Lead, Live: The Executive’s Guide to Preventing Resistance and Succeeding With Organizational Change” teaches stories, techniques, and the science to take your team from change-resistant to change-ready, from stressed-out to resilient. You can reach her at her website, Think Transition.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up the eldest of three children on the east coast of Canada. My Dad was in the Navy, so I moved a lot as a kid. I didn’t know it then, but looking back, all those moves set me up for the work I do today.

When I was ten, I met Sandy. She was a nurse at the naval base. Almost instantly after meeting her, I announced I wanted to be a nurse. After graduating with a Bachelor of Nursing I took a job at the local hospital. But the desire to experience new things had me exploring other options.

So, I moved to a city in northern Manitoba and took a job coordinating a brand-new Adolescent Health Education Centre.

I was helping teenage mothers from various economic and cultural backgrounds, navigate the demands of being a parent with the challenges of still being a teenager. Some of the young mothers seemed to thrive while others struggled to make healthy decisions and follow through. That’s when my desire to help people get and stay healthy sparked my interest in human behaviour change. I needed to know more.

I went back to school and completed a Master’s in Health Education. Following graduation, I worked for several years developing health education and behaviour change programs to help people adopt healthier lifestyles and prevent or reduce their risk of heart disease.

I started helping leaders navigate organizational changes when I was hired by a large multi-national consulting firm. There I saw organizations spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on changes that weren’t sticking. Worse, the changes they were implementing were creating cynical, disengaged employees. I knew there was a better way.

After a few years, I went back to school, completed a PhD, and started my own company. Now I focus on showing leaders how a readiness approach and a readiness mindset breaks the toxic cycle of change and how that can create healthier and stronger organizations.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

It’s difficult to say if there was one book that inspired me to act or changed my life. I have always been an avid reader.

William Bridges wrote two books, “Transitions” and “Managing Transitions,” that were instrumental in shaping my understanding and approach to organizational change. When I realized change has two dimensions, I understood why I and so many people struggle with it. I saw a way of helping people navigate through change without feeling badly when they didn’t make the progress they thought they should.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I was hired by a large multinational firm and was just a week or so on the job when the company sent out a security notice. Employees were instructed that if you saw someone you didn’t know, you should ask who they were. I was in the coffee room when a man walked in dressed very casually. Because I didn’t recognize him, I introduced myself. When he didn’t introduce himself, I asked who he was. Something about the look on his face told me I should know.

But he just smiled, told me his name, which I recognized right away, because he was the president of the company.

I was embarrassed and apologized for not recognizing him. (This was before social media and googling existed). He was gracious and we talked about the company, his children, and about my goals. He was genuinely interested in why I had joined the company. The conversation was one of the highlights of my day.

The encounter reminded me of the importance of:

  1. Never judging people by their appearance.
  2. The value of introducing yourself to someone you don’t know — you never know who you will meet.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

Most organizations and people feel like they are drowning under the weight of constant and rapid change. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

I want to introduce leaders and people to a different approach to engaging with change. My approach is grounded in a readiness mindset™. A readiness approach is affirmative, proactive and starts from a belief that everyone wants a better world.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

One of the stories I like the best in my book is in Chapter 4 — Change Leadership. In the chapter I talk about the importance of leaders walking their talk — demonstrating behavioral integrity. The story is of a young manager in a financial services company.

We were discussing actions to develop new leaders in the organization. She and the other managers talked about how they regularly take on an employee’s role, so the employee can act as supervisor. On this occasion, one of the employees was scheduled to act as supervisor for the day, but another employee had called in sick.

The easy thing for the manager would have been to tell the employee who was scheduled to act as supervisor that it would not be possible due to the other employee’s absence. She would need to fill the spot of the sick employee. That’s not what this manager did.

Instead, the manager filled the spot for the sick employee. When I asked her why she made that decision she said, “It gave me a chance to work on the floor and stay in touch with that work.” And then as if it were obvious, she added, “Why would I rob my employee of the chance to take a leadership role?”

To me it was such an example of trust in herself and the employee.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

I can’t say there was one “aha moment.” I always wanted to write a book. The decision to write and what to write about came after I finished my PhD. That’s when I knew I needed to get the message out that managing resistance to change was making organizational change harder and creating change cynical employees who were learning to fear change.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

He was the CEO of a large professional services firm that was undertaking a culture change. I was working with him and his team to help them with the changes. One change would radically shift the way a group of employees did their work, and they were upset. He identified the employees as resistant to change and was concerned the meeting to introduce it would be confrontational.

First, I helped him to stop labeling the employees as resistant. Then we planned for the meeting using a readiness approach. At the end of the initial meeting the employees were engaged, identified ways they could help and agreed to move toward the change.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership to me is about service and a willingness to help people uncover their potential and contribute. To inspire growth and curiosity.

My favorite definition of leadership comes from Margaret Wheatley: “A leader is anyone willing to help, anyone who sees something that needs to change and takes the first steps to influence that situation.”

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Almost every situation can be better managed when you pause and take a breath before acting.
  2. Not everything has to be done by you — leverage the power of the people around you and see what can happen.
  3. Seek out expert counsel about things you don’t know but trust yourself. Not all advice that is given needs or should be taken.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” — Dr. Wayne Dyer.

There are always multiple ways of looking at every situation, and many times because we (humans) have a built-in negativity bias we see what’s wrong, the loss, or “the bad” in a situation first. This quote reminds me to shift perspective. And when I do, I always find new possibilities, create a more compassionate response, and can reduce a high-stress situation. This one quote and always looking for the pearls in every situation has enabled me to never have a “bad day” in over 25 years.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are two people I would like to have a private conversation for very different reasons. One is Daniel Pink. I enjoy his writing and his topics. I am also curious about his transition from lawyer to writer.

Another person is Tom Hanks because of the way he talks about acting as a job. I have heard him in interviews talking about acting as how he earns his living. It doesn’t define him. I believe that’s so important in a world of constant change. Things are constantly changing around us, and the ability to tap into, and feel secure in who we are allows us to move through change instead of being blocked by it.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I publish a regular blog post which they can subscribe to at They can also connect with me on LinkedIn at

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Dr Dawn-Marie Turner Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.