Written by: Adam Lloyd
It’s human nature to be uncomfortable with uncertainty, in fact it’s a major cause of unhappiness and dissatisfaction in life. Unfortunately, change is inevitable for business survival, but it actually makes us stronger as individuals once we learn how to cope with change.
Great leaders know how to not only get employees out of their comfort zones, but genuinely motivated to push limits, gut-check themselves and thrive towards tackling the new cause. Here are five examples of how executives reach innovation and transformation through creating a cultural shift, not forcing it.
CHALLENGE EXISTING EMPLOYEES
When you put your existing top-performers to the test, you learn who’s in it and who’s not. It also usually brings talent together and leverages strengths. I recently had the chance to interview the former VP and Global Head of Communications for AECOM, Jennifer Williams, who put it well.
“To capture the heart, a vision needs to be bold. But it also must be credible – employees need to be inspired by the vision but also believe that it’s achievable.”
Jennifer was right on. From working directly with CEO’s as a communications executive, she knows the importance of credible and constant communication. It’s what led to a successful employee buy-in following AECOM’s acquisition of URS.
Great CEO’s craft a strategy, implement it and drive the excitement behind it. They know that by testing employees, there will be rising stars that emerge that often become future key players and leaders within the organization. All committed to the new direction.
HIRE OFFSETTING TALENT
During times of transition, growth or consolidation; it often requires a collective set of skills to tap from that is different from the one that exists today, hence change. One example may be recruiting fresh, young talent that is motivated by being part of a cause or movement.
President of China’s biggest ride sharing company Didi Chuxing, Jean Liu, recently mentioned her strategy of acquiring fresh talent to reach 5,000 employees with an average age of 26.
Simply hiring young employees is not a suitable or sustainable strategy for every company, but the idea is to offset what does not exist. Great leaders know this can create a culture-spark to ignite the change and look for different sets of people to add to the growth culture. Hopefully, one day soon we’ll get diversity right and hire for opposing viewpoints, thoughts and ideas, rather than physical distinctions and it will result in innovation.
KNOW YOUR DIFFERENTIATORS
During times of rapid growth and industry movement, executives that succeed are the ones that act like seasoned chess players. The have mastered the ability to see 10 moves ahead and it comes through truly being engaged within the industry.
Before mass use of telephones, Western Union’s primary business was in sending telegrams, but as customers adapted away to new communication their model evolved to the niche’ of money transfer.
Whether it’s knowledge from employees, conferences, competitors, research or vendors; CEO’s know their unique value proposition, and more importantly, what consumers and customers want that isn’t available today. Sometimes it’s out of necessity, sometimes it’s identifying a trend, but great leaders see the future impact that change will make.
REFUEL THE MOTIVATION
Positive reinforcement and persistent dedication to the cause must be evident from the top of the organization. Again, referencing Jennifer Williams, she mentioned - Karen Hughes, counselor to George Bush, believing that a true leader successfully communicates three things:
If it’s real and authentic optimism, it creates a culture of positivity, which results in energy, which translates to productivity and ultimately results.
THINK LONG TERM, WITH SHORT TERM GOALS
If you start racing too fast, the team will lose sight of the vision and the goals will appear unattainable. By setting realistic long-term expectations, leaders can then incorporate more near-term milestones. These more immediate “wins” boost morale. BUT – make sure you are including the interpretation of success and victories from the team on the front-end.
If goals are not aligned, they can be communicated all day but the result will still be a major disconnect. It’s important that employees have some skin in the game in terms of what they see as goals being recognized and implemented by leadership. Create a vision that everyone can grasp and is onboard with and the short-term victories will follow.