Friday, July 3, 2015

An Insider's View: You Say You Want A Revolution

I've been in the unique position to see first-hand how--via two organizations in two days--drastic changes in leadership can positively and negatively affect employees, faculty & students, members, volunteers, local businesses, and other stakeholders.

From this vantage point, I have witnessed four leadership precursors to success:
  1. Start with a Bang!
  2. Show the world that you are ready to lead.  This is especially important in cases of stakeholder unrest, when tensions are high and trust is low.  The new President of Sweet Briar College, Phillip C. Stone, sent a powerful message to all parties the moment he took office, closing his letter with a mic-dropping new slogan:

    At Sweet Briar College, the Impossible is Just Another Problem to Solve


  3. Clear Communications are Crucial*
  4. People are afraid of change.  The moment you move someone's cheese, you make him step out of his comfort zone.  Plan your media (pssst...young'uns use social media) strategy in advance, be as transparent as possible, and (for the love of GOT) don't begin the transition period by hoarding your power and ignoring others' viewpoints.

    Communication is a two-way street: you must listen to any and all of your stakeholders when they share their concerns.  Take Virginia Commonwealth's Attorney General Mark Herring, for example: his careless attitude toward his constituents may cost him the Governorship he so desires.

    Ignore your stakeholders at your own peril.**

  5. Don't Reinvent the Wheel***
  6. Why are you leading the business?  To gain personal glory, or to serve your customers?  The former will tank the group; the latter will encourage growth.

    Making drastic changes can negatively impact your company: laying off staff decreases morale and increases the workload for remaining employees; moving to a new website may puzzle paying members; or, worst of all, lead customers to shop elsewhere.

    Don't change that "something" just for change's sake.

  7. Understand Your (and Others') Emotional Intelligence
  8. A few years ago, awareness of oneself replaced the old Nothing Personal; Just Business rhetoric.  (Thank goodness; it was waaaaay past time.)  Stakeholders have emotional skin in the game; don't be surprised when hurt feelings surface from the individuals who have dedicated themselves to the organization.

    As a leader, you are responsible for ensuring that any stakeholders who feel thrust to the side are heard, respected, and equipped to forge ahead.  An employee, a customer, or a student who receives acknowledgement of her concerns will engage with the business sooner than one who does not.
    A stakeholder's perception is always right. 
Transitions, especially those wherein all top leadership positions change hands, are hard.  You will effectively manage hardships by taking charge, keeping open the lines of communication, preserving what works, and perceptively empowering the organization's stakeholders.

Four keys to success.  Three days in.  Two organizations in flux.  And a cartridge for my printer, please.****

* I like alliteration.  So sue me.
** I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it!
*** I also like clich├ęs.
**** Seriously.  They're hella expensive.

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