Leadership that Excelerates Performance
LEADERSHIP THAT EXCELERATES PERFORMANCE focuses on the critical relationship between leadership, employee engagement and delivering an exceptional customer experience as a competitive advantage.
Bill is recognized as the Performance Excelerator™ because of
his uncanny ability to create profound change and deliver extraordinary results
with the most demanding organizations.
As a senior executive with over 25 years experience, he works with senior leaders to navigate change and influence and inspire higher performing, customer-focused cultures that create long-term, profitable relationships with your customers and excelerate performance and productivity with leaders and employees.
This is the fourth article in our leadership consulting series of articles that looks at creating transformative change in your organization. The full series will be available for download as a white paper once it is completed.
In our last article, we discussed How to alter your approach as a leader to create change. Now let’s discuss some of the critical moments of change that allow for transformation.
Critical Moments in the Change Process That Have a Major Impact on Adoption
In my experience working as a business consultant and a leadership expert, understanding when you can affect change is one of the keys to making change stick and creating real, impactful change. There are critical moments in the change process that have a major impact on adoption, and you can make the biggest difference by understanding how and when to communicate change to your team members.
Change is directly related to what is currently happening on a daily basis within your organization, and leaders need to communicate change at the right time and in a way that will make it clear how change will impact team members. Communicating change to your team members at the right moment with the right messages will help to create transformation, stimulate buy-in and inspire employee engagement.
Moments When You Can Implement Impactful Change
Change is not going to happen all at once. Real change takes place over time during critical moments, and it is these critical moments that will make change stick. It is these moments where leaders can affect change and change organizational culture:
- Communication: Once changes are made, leaders need to continue to reinforce the mission, values and core messages about the importance of change to keep team members engaged. How often and what channels are used for this communication are critical for impactful change.
- Leading by example: Leaders must first model the changes they desire for others to follow. Your team will respond and make change when you prove you are practicing what you preach.
- Leadership change realization: As discussed in Transformative Leadership and Change Realization a critical moment of change is when leaders realize that they first need to change before the organization will be ready to accept change. Transformative leadership and transformational change occur when leaders self-assess and come to the realization that they need to change the way they do things if they want others to follow suit.
- Implementing strategic goals and objectives: Implementing changes in strategy is an opportune time to address change by actually changing the way things are done. New strategies should embody your vision and mission for change. Communicate the need for team members to commit to changes in culture and strategy in order for new initiatives to be successful and meet their objectives.
- Make it real: Too often change remains theoretical too long and is not seen in real tangible change in process or behaviours. Look for some real initiatives that are underway and use these as mini tests to demonstrate how the proposed change can have a positive impact on the outcomes. Nothing inspires buy-in better that real experience with the proposed changes that works.
- Accountability: Leaders also need to hold people accountable if they are not aligned with the changes in organizational culture. Accountability needs to be built into any change initiative. There must be recognition of people who are getting on-board and those who are not. Consequences follow accountability.
- Training and Coaching: Every training and coaching session is an opportunity to create change. You can use these sessions to change polices, strategies, processes, protocols and culture. Small changes during these moments can lead to the overall transformative change you want to achieve over time. Use training and coaching as a method to influence change and communicate its importance. Anything to do with change needs to be incorporated into all training/coaching by reinforcing critical elements of the new vision and values of the organization.
- Hiring: Hiring is an opportunity to find the right person who not only has the qualifications, but is also aligned with your beliefs, values and is the right fit for organizational culture. Hiring people who embody the values and outlook that you want to create through change will help you achieve your objectives quicker once they are on board. They can serve as an internal advocate, champion your initiatives, and be part of the change in their role within the organization. For more information about hiring see Three Critical Elements for Finding the Right People to Work in High Performance Environments.
When change is implemented during these critical moments, leaders significantly improve the chances of change being adopted, have team members embrace the change, and see positive transformation in organizational culture.
The next article in our leadership consulting series will examine strategies to lead transformational change in your organization.
Helping leaders navigate organizational change is one of my favourite activities as a leadership consultant. There is no doubt that forward thinking organizations understand that change will always be part of doing business, especially as new technologies and ways to do business emerge in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
As I have discussed in previous posts such as How To Get Your Team To Buy Into Organizational Change and How Transformative Leaders Make Organizational Change Stick, leaders themselves need to be transformative in order to inspire higher performance that create customer-focused cultures and create long-term, profitable relationships with customers. However, the process of getting to this point is often a difficult one.
6 Ways to Create Transformative Organizational Change
Here are 6 ways you can create organizational change that will stick for the long term and be the transformational leader that you envision yourself being;
- Create clarity by linking change to business strategies: The question “why” is perhaps one of the most powerful questions when it comes to organizational change. Expect to be asked why change is necessary, and be ready with an answer. Your team will be more open to change when it is tied directly to current business strategies and their personal success. Providing this type of clarity will put your team at ease, aid understanding, and help get them on board with the changes to come. From a business strategy perspective, it is also important to clarify the team responsible for leading change, and to define roles, structures, and decision making protocols.
- Be realistic and give time for change to take place: Change will not happen overnight. It takes time for people to internalize change, accept it and then get onboard from a personal and professional perspective. It is also important to account for current projects and strategies and address how change will impact these initiatives.
- Address current organizational culture: Any change made internally has a direct impact on organizational culture. How new directives impact culture needs to be part of the change conversation you have with your team. Organizational culture has a lot of power and impact on change, and you cannot afford to overlook this or you will have difficulty with employee engagement and getting people to buy into your new vision.
- Be willing to change yourself: Real transformative change is possible when leaders are onboard. You can’t fake it — your team will see right through you, risking disengagement from the change process. You need to be open and be willing to change your mindset, behaviour and style to model change for the organization. Actions speak louder than words.
- Understand the human dynamics of the situation: It is natural for people to have an emotional reaction to change, especially if it impacts their role in your organization. They need to know how any changes will affect them personally. This is why leaders need to be in tune with the emotional dynamics that come with proposed change. It is important that you craft your message and design your actions in a manner that minimizes negative emotional reactions, and have a plan in place to address issues when they arise — and they will arise.
- Open and engaging communication: If you keep things close to the vest, people may question your motives and reasons for change. Be transparent and communicate why change is necessary, addressing how it will positively impact your team and their ability to achieve their objectives. Open dialogues helps put people at ease, especially when change is on the horizon. Remember, even positive change is a threat to the status quo and can make people feel uneasy with their job and role in the organization.
How you approach change is just as important as what you want to change in your organization. If you want to be a transformative leader and create long lasting organizational change, you need to approach it in a way which minimizes negative reactions, is aligned with business strategies and corporate cultures, and is inclusive in nature.
This is the third article in our leadership consulting series of articles that looks at creating transformative change in your organization. The full series will be available for download as a white paper once it is completed.
In our last article, we discussed the importance of leaders understanding the need to change first before an organization can experience transformative change. Now let’s discuss the how to alter your approach as a leader to create organizational change.
Altering your Approach as a Leader is the First Step Toward Organizational Change
In my experience as a leadership expert, it is clear that advocating for change internally and communicating the need for your team to alter the way they do things is extremely difficult if leaders first do not make noticeable changes themselves. Actions speak louder than words, and this is particularly the case when it comes to organizational change.
You first need to change how you lead before the organization will follow your call for change. For example, communicating a need to cut spending and reel in budgets is difficult to argue if leaders make no observable change to cut spending at the executive level. However, when leaders frame change in the right way and take actions to support change, it will be embraced by management and team members at all levels in the organization, allowing transformative change to take place.
Building Your Leadership Team
An important component in your ability to change and how successful changes will be adopted internally is the strength of your leadership team. When assessing the need for a leadership team, you need to ask yourself questions about the role and responsibilities of the team:
- What kind of team do you want to put together?
- What are the team members’ individual strengths and how do they complement each other?
- How many people? What is the role of the team?
- How will this team help you address personal and organizational change?
- Which individuals internally do you see as a good fit for the team?
Leaders first need to understand the concept, role, and scope of their leadership team before adding members.
Strategies to Build the Leadership Team
It is not uncommon for the search for a leadership team to expand outside the organization. Adding someone from outside the organization brings new insights, perspectives, and opinions without the bias of being part of the organization or being tied to previous strategies.
Most leaders already have a good idea of which internal people would be good choices to add to a team. Some are people that you consult regularly while others are people that deliver results consistently and are looking for new challenges.
Words of caution—avoid the trap of making your leadership team a group of “yes men”. This inhibits your ability to make real change to the organization culture and how things are done. A leadership team is ineffective if you do not give each member of the team a voice and they are unwilling to challenge each other in a positive manner. Healthy disagreement and discussion is essential to developing innovative solutions to long standing issues. Surrounding yourself with people who are willing to offer new ideas and examine things from a unique perspective will help you achieve real change.
You can work around this potential issue by assessing each potential leadership member’s fit within the new culture you are looking to develop.
How to Assess Leadership Team Members for the Right Cultural Fit
Finding the right people internally who are the right cultural fit is just as important as finding someone who has the qualifications you are looking for. When building your team, it is important that you assess potential members similarly to how you would for hiring a new team member. Assess them based on:
- Cultural Fit
- Work style and track record
- Vision, values and beliefs
You need people who also have a desire and willingness to grow, are self-aware of their need to change, and realize the need for change within the organization.
Leadership Team Buy-in and Engagement Strategies
Engaging your people is an essential part of creating a successful and effective team. Team members will be more willing to buy-in when leaders:
- Have a clear vision of the leadership team goals and objectives. Team members need to understand their purpose
- Open up communication and have full disclosure with team members
- Develop a team identity that is aligned with the goals and objectives of organizational change and the role the leadership team will plan in creating change
- Delegate and assign responsibilities to individual team members
- Take a team approach to decision making
- Demonstrate behaviours aligned with the new direction of the organization
- Demonstrate their personal commitment in language and actions
A strong leadership team has a significant impact on your own ability to change as a leader and implement real change within your organization. Don’t overlook the importance of having a strong leadership team to support your desire for organizational change.
The next article in our leadership consulting series will examine the key moments of change that allow for transformative change to occur.
In my experience as a leadership consultant, I have had the privilege to work with a wide variety of organizations of all sizes and from different industries. However, one thing I have observed that has gotten many organizations in trouble and has caused issues within the leadership ranks is relaxing too quickly when things are going well. Even though strong performance is a positive thing, it does not mean that performance will remain this way into the future.
The truth is strong performance can actually mask issues if you are not careful, which can come back and bite you in the future. This is why leaders need to stay sharp and keep their foot on the gas to ensure that today’s good performance leads to tomorrow’s exceptional performance.
Good Performance does not always Equate to Good Business Practices <Click to Tweet>
Having a great product or service does not always mean that your business has effective business practices in place. When you rely too heavily on positive performance as a measure of success, without having the proper structure in place, you could be setting your organization up for failure down the road.
What happens when performance slumps and the competitive edge of a new or unique product is lost? Million dollar companies have been built on a great concept but run aground because they lacked the best practices to support strong business operations and sustain growth and development over time.
Good performance can hide sustainability issues and leaders need to ensure that proper protocols and business practices are in place. This means having the foresight to see the need for new and improved processes and getting to the root of potential issues. It is vital that leaders identify potential issues today before they hamper company performance in the future.
Warning Signs that Indicate Issues could be Developing
There are many warning signs to indicate that a dip in corporate performance could be on the way, and it doesn’t just have to do with sales. Here are some of the telltale signs that suggest issues may be present:
- Lower employee engagement: Disengaged employees can lead to a variety of internal issues, each of which can negatively impact performance going forward.
- People leaving: An increase in people leaving could signify that there are issues with organizational culture that need to be addressed.
- Reduction in performance: If your teams are consistently missing targets, it could be a sign that internal protocols need to be revised or revamped. Adding training and coaching may also be required.
- A rise in customer service complaints: An increase in complaints could mean there is a disconnect between your customers expectations and the customer experience being created. There may be a need for customer service training and a review of the customer experience map – check out Customer Service That Rocks for some tips.
Leaders need to have a plan for each of these issues before they arise. The quicker these issues are identified and addressed, the less impact they will have on future performance.
Don’t be Lulled into Complacency
Relying on current sales and performance can mask potential issues that put your organization’s future in jeopardy. A proactive approach is a must. Don’t wait for an issue to develop before you take action. Address potential issues now, before they become real issues in the future. This will help your organization sustain strong performance for the long term.
Often when speaking about delivering exceptional customer experiences, I, like most speakers, tell stories. Often our signature story is about some remarkable customer experience where someone has gone above and beyond to create a memorable experience and everyone is left feeling like that is the pinnacle of success.
This of course makes for an interesting speech but doesn’t convey the full story.
When discussing the art of creating exceptional customer experiences we often focus on the feelings and relationship we create with our customer. Did we smile, were our answers helpful, did we show genuine concern and empathy for their situation? Did we create a personal connection and adjust our interaction to meet their needs? Did we go above and beyond to create a memorable moment? These are all examples of the language that is often heard in speeches, seminars and workshops.
These are also all characteristics often referred to as being right brain functions; creative, imaginative, emotions, empathy, feelings. And they are certainly essential to the successful delivery of an exceptional customer experience. They are the sexy bits that make for great stories.
They are also elements of the customer experience that are very dependent on the person and the situation. In other words, they are not consistent for all customers and therefore less likely to be repeatable and scalable.
However, there is another side of customer service that is less often the focus of discussions — yet equally important. That is the behind the scenes, left brain function activities; analytical, logical, precise, organized, repetitive, detailed, sequential. The elements that are part of the customer experience mapping we often do.
In truth, these are the foundation of any successful customer experience. Without a well thought through, repeatable, efficient customer experience process — the person delivering it will have to deal with a poor customer experience baseline and will constantly have to go above and beyond to make up for the inevitable disappointment that customers have.
It is like bailing out a boat with holes in it. Lots of work, but no prospects of long term success until the holes are patched.
My Perspective: Don’t focus your efforts on the people, emotional side of the equation, without also investing equally to ensure that your processes are as efficient, reliable and repeatable as possible. Use both sides of the brain and look for opportunities to build processes that build a positive experience of every customer, every time.
Then you have the opportunity to create one of those sexy, signature stories speakers love to use — because you are building on a strong foundation of a customer experience that works — and your people then have the opportunity to take that experience to the next level.