Leading Through Change

 

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Barack Obama

The world of business is one dominated by changes: restructures lead to reshuffles coming from redeployment to redevelopment; stocks fall and stakeholders wax and wane; the market is disrupted and then the CEO leaves in a hurry and you’re all the headless snake not knowing which way to turn. As a leader it is your job to navigate these turbulent waters with a keen eye and a sure foot; to guide your team through it unscathed, to venture into uncertainty with certainty.

But how do we actually do this? All the available reading on the subject agrees upon one thing, one main point, and that is: Communication. Agree upon a plan and communicate it as clearly and as early as possible; keep everyone in the loop at all times and be transparent about the reasons for your decisions. In turbulent times, the transparency of the leadership is more important than ever.

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic”

Peter Drucker

Entrepreneur Online writes extensively on this subject; our favourite articles come from Matt Mayberry; who talks about communication, and the importance of persistence and staying purpose driven; and Abigail Phillips, who talks about communication, taking risks, delegation and managing your expectations. She starts her article with a quote from Mark Zuckerberg, which we liked and wanted to put here:

“In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Mark Zuckerberg

For a more heavyweight article, we can turn, as usual, to the fantastic Ivey Business Journal, where Mark DesJardine fills us in on a story of when he was CEO of Sanofi Canada. He describes the situation of drastic change the organisation went through, and talks us through the lessons he learned through leading it. These lessons include: Communication; converting employees into ‘change agents’; deploying effective training; and surrounding yourself with the right people.

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”

John F. Kennedy

In times like these, change isn’t always the opportunity that the philosophers suggest. Sometimes it is simply hard; in situations like this it’s lucky we can rely on the advice of those experts whose job it is to understand the going when the going gets tough. McKinsey Quarterly wrote an in-depth analysis of this at the height of the recession. The article gave us Leadership lessons for hard times; and it spoke about the necessity to confront reality, focus on strategy; and, again, the importance of transparent communication.

So in times of organisational stress or change, you must be the rudder; but use the expertise and advice that is available to you. Delegate where you have to; choose the supporters that you will need and, above all, be transparent, and express yourself.

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change”

Charles Darwin