Are successful leaders going to excel, regardless of the times in which they lead? Some may say yes. After all, Jack Welch led General Electric through both solid and turbulent times, right? But, hold on a moment.
In the last four years, we have seen countless top executives stumped (and many of them have later failed) when trying to maneuver through this changing business environment. At the same time, some have navigated the recent rough waters and, even given a shrinking industry or seemingly impossible sales slump, have turned their companies around or even surged ahead in gazelle-like 20%+ annual growth fashion.
Check yourself against some of the characteristics embraced by leaders of fast growth companies in changing times to determine how you can win with change leadership.
Use Organizational Memory Wisely
In less turbulent times, lessons learned in the past could be called on as wisdom for decisions made in the present. These days the past cannot be counted on for the same wisdom it once offered. The playing field has changed, and you will not be able to count on those lessons to lead you through. They do have value, but are not as predictive of future success as they once were in the past. Successful CEOs and leadership teams that I work with use the past to inform decisions, but they don't count on those old lessons to show them the way.
Remain Committed to Change
Being committed to change does not necessarily mean that you are continuously changing. Consider organizations that are always bouncing from one production methodology to another, continually trying out new supply chain management systems and can't get enough of the latest management fads. I’ve seen the same trait in some leaders – a clear sign that they’ve hit their leadership ceiling. Companies hit different ceilings of complexity which can be cured with development or hiring. But a leader that cannot focus will soon discover that their company cannot grow. Even worse, they often lose the “A” player team members that could have facilitated the growth that they so badly want. Remaining committed to change means making a change and committing to it. When coaching new clients I see large difference in the success of a business whose leader is willing to be coached beyond current state versus the one that will not commit to changed behavior.
Learn at the Speed of Light
The world is changing at a faster pace than ever before. Consider the significant changes we've seen in how we use technology in our daily business, even in the last five years! Companies that set winning strategies and achieve their BHAGs are the ones that can learn fast – and, they understand what kind of knowledge matters most when pushing themselves to grow. Become a leader like this and be more prepared for making the next set of decisions that come your way.
Tap Hidden Group Genius
Change is not made alone. Let's face it; you may be the leader in your department or organization, but you need everyone involved. These days, the most powerful contributions often come from the most unexpected places. You will often find hidden genius by consulting your front line employees or your customers!
How to Improve Your Change Leadership Mindset
1. Check to see if you are initiating and encouraging change. List the ways that you personally have embraced change in the last 18 months. List the ways that your team has embraced change in the last 12 months. If you have trouble putting these lists together, ask yourself, “what am I doing to create an environment where status quo is acceptable?”
2. Check your follow through. Are most of the changes you start falling by the wayside amidst the fluctuating business climate? Make note of change initiatives that were started, yet their potential positive results were not realized. Were they forgotten, not well communicated, or was a lack of resources the issue? Be honest with yourself – what are you doing to create an environment where failure is acceptable?
3. Check your group involvement. Are you looking for "untapped genius" within your organization? Consider the human resources you have that could be harboring a great solution. Are your leaders meeting regularly to communicate on current priorities, discuss-debate-agree on necessary weekly adjustments, and in general holding one another accountable? Capture your thoughts on untapped genius now.
A healthy change leadership mindset gives you the opportunity to gather ideas from every source, providing good options for addressing the current climate of necessary change with a large dose of leaderly courage, informed risk-taking and ambition.
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