Accelerating Change: Leveraging Leadership Presence

meetingYou’ve seen it happen again and again, companies needing to change direction to respond to the changing world around them. And along with an updated or new business model comes the need for different leadership capabilities and organizational culture. Even though the required shift may be clear, engaging people to support, adopt and even advocate for the ‘new way’ is challenging.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been working with leaders in two organizations undergoing significant change. As they move forward on their new strategy, they are attempting to make changes across multiple fronts. Market priorities are shifting, sales methods are being adjusted and customer relationships are in transition based on new measures of performance and profitability.

Internally, to support all these external changes, there’s a big push to align leadership behaviour and organizational culture with the overall strategic shift. All sorts of approaches – including town hall sessions, peer coaching and real-time learning — help to accelerate the shift.

The real challenge, however, is getting leaders to show up with the desired behaviours on a consistent day-to-day basis. Here are some suggestions, based on experience, that will help your leaders successfully demonstrate a different presence:

1.) Clarify Background Context

  • Provide leaders who are relatively new to your organization with a good understanding of your company’s history and previous culture. This will help them understand the current and potential constraints to moving your strategy forward and creating a supportive culture.
  • Discuss the scope and scale of change from the past and the pivotal leadership behaviours that will support the way ahead. Be sure to focus this conversation on impact across key functions within your business, from marketing and sales through to finance and human resources.
  • Help your leaders identify and confirm the one or two development priorities that will enhance their own leadership presence within the new context.

2.) Leverage Experience and Reputation

  • Acknowledge the accomplishments of your longer-serving and highly-regarded leaders, emphasizing the contributions they’ve made to get your organization to where it is today.
  • Emphasize, to those leaders, how influential their behaviour change can be for other experienced employees. It sends a clear, strong message – personal change is not only essential but entirely possible within the new business context.
  • Ensure your long-time credible leaders are actively seeking feedback from, and providing feedback to, newer leaders. Encouraging ongoing dialogue between these two cohorts is a powerful way to enhance progress and foster mutual accountability.

3.) Ensure Profile and Visibility

  • Communicate the behavioural commitments that your executive leaders are undertaking in their quest to better support the new strategy and culture.
  • Don’t just make this about generic executive team interactions, be more specific – share the primary behaviour change that each member has decided to cultivate.
  • Your most senior leader has an added role to play here, and one that takes boldness and courage, a declaration of his or her own meaningful behavioural change to support and advance the change agenda.

4.) Gauge Progressgauge progress target

  • Put in place both short- and long-term measures that enable the monitoring and evaluation of the progress that your leaders are making.
  • Be sure to engage your reputable longer-term leaders in setting the measures that determine progress. They have a unique perspective on what was, what is, and what could be in terms of the business, leadership and culture.
  • Provide regular updates regarding progress at both the individual and team levels, remembering to acknowledge and celebrate milestone achievements.

Navigating business and cultural change is challenging at the best of times. Ensuring that your leaders consistently ‘show up’ in new ways requires focused effort that starts with some basics – providing clarity regarding your company’s evolution, leveraging existing experience, sharing development commitments and gauging progress.

To find out more about how best to track and evaluate your leaders’ progress through your change agenda, contact me: scott@cygnusconsultants.com or 250-882-8830.

About The Author

Scott Borland, Founder & President of CYGNUS Management Consultants Inc, , is a recognized expert in helping executives host strategic conversations and obtain high impact feedback. He brings insightful perspective and proven strategies to strengthen the alignment between strategy and leadership behaviour. Scott has presented frequently at regional/national conferences and is a regular contributor to online journals/blogs. Follow Scott on Twitter or add him as a connection on LinkedIn.

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