- Making the transition to a Good Growth Company requires significant change. Yet people often fear and resist change when it is driven by other people.
- However, there are 3 core steps that will help you make an effective transition. They work because they recognize the importance of involving people in the change.
- The steps are: create a clear need for change, share a compelling vision of the future, and create opportunities for involvement in the transition.
Introduction: what to do first?
So, you have decided to transition your organization to becoming a Good Growth Company (GGC) by focussing on delivering sustainable profits through sustainable and ethical growth. But this type of change is never easy. We all fear the unknown and especially change which is controlled by other people. We also have to push ourselves to break our old practices and embed new and more helpful ones.
How can you achieve a transition to good growth through good sensible leadership practices, in a way that values your people and their contribution to your company?
Three common change leadership mistakes to avoid
There are 3 mistakes which many leaders make when driving change in their companies:
- They do not explain why the change is necessary. They are obviously familiar with the reasons for the change and might even think that the explanation will demotivate people (and this is a danger) but more commonly, demotivation comes because people feel alienated from what is being proposed.
- They explain what will change but not what the change will deliver. This means that the members of staff in the company do not understand how the company or they themselves will benefit from what is happening.
- They drive change at pace because they know what needs to happen and this makes them feel comfortable. Sadly, the staff feels uninformed, uninvolved, and untrusted.
However, there are three change leadership steps that good leaders can use to create direction and momentum in major change initiatives:
Step 1: Create a clear ’need for change’ picture.
Step 2: Share a compelling vision of the future.
Step 3: Create widespread opportunities for involvement
Step 1: Create a ‘need for change’ picture
In thinking about the transition to a GGC, you as the leader of the organization will have thought a lot about the destination you want to reach. However, if this is the starting point of your engagement with your employees or colleagues, there is a danger of this seeming to be a personal crusade. If you have ever heard anyone describe a change as “change for change’s sake” then the leader has not answered the vital question of why the change is necessary.
The starting point for communicating the change needs to be why change? The more your staff can understand and feel the need, the more they will be driven to make the journey.
The ‘need for change’ might already be clear for your organization. There might be a clear outcome if you do not change - you might lose customers, costs might escalate, or you might become an also-ran in your market. This will make a need for change picture easy to create and easy to communicate to your teams. The only danger will be if you oversell it and make people feel as though you are threatening them.
On the other hand, your wish to become a GGC might be driven by a conviction that there must be a better way rather than the “writing being on the wall”. In this situation, it might be that your organization could successfully continue as it is, but you all agree that it would not be the place of which you are proud, allowing you to adhere to your values and convictions and stand out from the mediocre crowd.
You should not miss good opportunities to involve your team in developing the need for change. You might share your observations and some of your conclusions and ask them what they make of your observations, how they read them, whether they see indicators which say the same thing or even show a contrasting picture. Avoid asking ‘closed questions’ to which the answer is yes or no, for example, “Do you agree with me?” These questions are unlikely to promote openness.
You will know that it is time to move onto the vision when the questions and comments begin to ask, “What is to be done about it?” Be prepared to explain the next steps clearly.
Step 2: Share a compelling vision of the future
Having convinced your team that change is necessary, it is important to describe to them what you intend the future organization to be like. This vision should link to the need for change by showing that if the vision is achieved, the issues raised in the need for change will have been addressed.
It is also important to note that the vision might be a stretch in both imagination and practice for those who see it. Therefore, it needs to be clear to everyone that it is consistent with the past successes and capabilities of the organization.
The best visions are the ones that show the proposed future is a logical next step in the organization fulfilling its original purpose and values.
Above all else, the vision of the future should excite those who hear it. The vision should describe an organization in which they can see their values, that is, those of which they are proud. It should propose a challenge but also it should be achievable even if success is some way down the line.
The vision should be tangible and not an unrealistic pipe dream.
As discussed in the previous step, encourage discussion about the vision of the future. You may present a developed vision and ask for structured feedback using questions like, “How do you see the organization in the future? How does the vision make you feel about the future?” As before, avoid asking closed questions and “leading the witness.”
It might be that having shared the need for change in Step 1, you can then, in this step, involve your team in co-creating the vision of the future. My experience is that this is best done in small groups rather than one large group.
It is also essential that you discuss how the organization of the future might serve its external audiences like its customers, partners, and investors. It is always tempting to devote much time to talk about “our values” and what we can expect for ourselves, but introspective organizations can easily become self-absorbed and in the end, they can lack a driving purpose.
Once you have shared the vision be prepared to explain what will come next and what opportunities there will be for your team to be involved in the transition.
Step 3: Create widespread opportunities for involvement
We all know that when someone else makes a change that impacts us, it frequently induces fear because of the loss of control and the unknown future. However, when we make changes for ourselves or when we are involved in a change in our company, the involvement creates more of a sense of control and an understanding of the future. Both of these reduce the feelings of fear.
Great leadership is not achieved by pushing your ideas about the future onto your fellow leaders and all your team members. This will make you feel better, but it will make everyone else’s change more challenging. It may also lead others to question your espoused values.
One way to manage this dilemma is to “give up control to gain control”.
By creating opportunities for your team members to be involved in shaping the decisions and the implementation of change, you will support their change journey. After all, if they can see what you see about the world and the organization, will they not be able to draw the same conclusions?
In any discussion of change leadership, most practitioners place a high emphasis on the criticality of communication. It is true that communication is a vital component - our teams have to know what is happening. However, communication can be quite passive. The speaker does not have to relate to the audience or engage personally with the listeners, and the listeners in turn do not have to engage with the speaker or the content.
As leaders, we cannot (and would not) want to compel involvement, but most people will accept the opportunity to contribute provided they believe the opportunity to be a real one. The most important groups to involve are those who already have leadership responsibility in the organisation, and these are often the hardest to involve.
Any wise leader will involve the leadership team in shaping decisions. Merely consigning them to a role of making a Go / No-Go decision on a fully developed proposal wastes an opportunity to include their experience at best - and at worst it will alienate them.
Other groups should also be involved, both for the good of the program and for the good of them as individuals.
Examples of involvement opportunities include:
- Educational workshops at the start of the programme to share the principles to be used.
- Programme launch.
- Proposal / solution development.
- Implementation planning.
- Specific implementation issues and tasks.
Any involvement opportunity should be well facilitated as this will ensure that the involvement opportunity is seen as genuine. A time of open questions is always essential at these events as it reinforces the value you place on involvement.
As a leader wanting to transition your organization to become a GGC, you have already decided that you want to build your organization around the value you place on your people. By following these 3 vital steps you will demonstrate this value in your transition process.