As my clients share the same challenges, over the years I have become able to differentiate pie-in-the-sky approaches from grounded, time-tested systems that work. I'm excited to share with you the first of a new series of articles that aims to help you create a results-focused leadership framework for developing yourself, your teams and your organization.
Whether your organization is merging with another one, you are engaged in a strategic digital transformation, or you are reorganizing, here are 5 key mistakes to avoid as you lead the transformation.
1. Underestimate the fundamental importance of aligning people on values.
Although the organization may have put in place clear processes such as agile procedures and operational plans for change, the needed changes in behaviors or engagement of people may be mysteriously minimal. Conflicts in collaboration, missed deadlines, project teams' frustration, and/or burnout may become daunting. As people fear for their job, they may not give any credibility to supposedly positive messages about the future. People may not care about the business urgencies either. However, people tend to follow a leader they trust. Consider how a military leader gets their troops to follow them despite great risk to their lives. Why? Values. Discussing values may take time but I consider it primary.
2. Solely rely on training solutions to transform managers.
You do not learn anything in leadership by simply putting in place a training and associating short-term assignments. Get serious and think of developing leadership skills as practicing an art form. You humbly start at a low level of skills and get better as you practice. Welcome to the leadership "Dojo." It takes years of practice to get better at the basics: giving feedback, empathic listening, coaching subordinates, becoming emotionally intelligent, reducing office stress, creating time, aligning people on priorities, creating real customer (internal or external) relationships, and so on. A client of mine contacted me after they realized that the manager-coach trainings they deployed to over 100 sales managers actually made things worse. Another client contacted me after they realized to their dismay that their latest "manager's proximity" 2-year program produced no results and certainly no observable changes in behaviors. The stories go on. Do you know of any other failed leadership development initiatives?
3. Call operational thinking strategic.
Many managers are blamed for not putting solid business cases on the table. Their proposals are repeatedly turned down for simple and almost predictable reasons: Their critical analysis of the context is too shallow to convince the top executive team. Having a great intuition and gut sense of what needs to be done does not get budgeted. The real questions are: How well thought out is the business plan? How have those managers learned to think critically and take the time to gather a team to do that? How would they know how to create a good business case? What framework do these managers need to follow to begin this critical work? Who will mentor them as they become more skilled over the years?
4. Approach change top-down or bottom-up.
Some problems are too complex to be analyzed in a linear fashion. Top-to-bottom directives fail. Bottom-up initiatives fail too. Have you managed to reduce the time spent reading email in your organization yet? Have you changed the meeting frequency as well? Are your employee engagement surveys surprisingly alarming? These are deceptively hard systemic challenges. Shifting to an ecosystem mindset may be the beginning in making progress. Instead of focusing on changing the entire company, consider focusing on creating "zones of excellence," quick wins in specific smaller zones of the organization. Instead of making one single major change, consider effecting many significantly smaller changes and creating a coalition of early adopters. You may create an autonomous entity to pilot a drastic change. This is what Nestlé did with Nespresso, for instance.
5. Underestimate the need to focus on creating human connection and managing team dynamics.
I recently attended a training on positive leadership at ENGAGE University in Paris to gain some fresh insight on global change. A key wording emerged from our discussions: Leaders need to become architects of social engineering. This alone was worth the two days we spent together. I consistently ask key managers and contributors to focus on "building bridges of collaboration between people." The concept is illustrated in the video below where I facilitate a troubleshooting session with a digital transformation team in Singapore. For the past 15 years, I have also consistently required teams to learn the concepts of team situational leadership in order to manage the evolution toward high performance. This model is one of the best coaching frameworks I have found.
Leadership challenges in a digital transformation
I invite you to view this recent troubleshooting session made with key managers in Singapore to identify the root causes of the missed deadlines in their digital transformation initiative - rewarding work!
If you would like to gain access to my toolkit for transformation, or you face transformational challenges in your company that you would like to discuss with me, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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(Picture created by Onlyyouqj - Freepik.com)