Keeping managers inspired when they feel overwhelmed and fostering a culture of collaboration are traits of great business leaders. It’s been my observation that during times of rapid growth and during acquisition integration these ‘softer’ skills being present in all of the senior management team are what sets apart the best companies.
I am a fan of the McKinsey Quarterly publication. The following is an extract from their recent article called, “Developing Better Change Leaders”. The full article can be read here: https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Organization/Talent/Developing_better_change_leaders_2959
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While every change program is unique, the experiences of the industrial company’s managers offer insights into many of the factors that, we find, make it possible to sustain a profound transformation. Far too often, leaders ask everyone else to change, but in reality this usually isn’t possible until they first change themselves.
Tie training to business goals. Leadership training can seem vaporous when not applied to actual problems in the workplace. The industrial company’s focus on teaching Pierre to have courageous conversations just as the ability to do so would be useful, for instance, was crucial as Pierre made arrangements to close his plant. In the words of another senior executive we spoke with, “If this were just a social experiment, it would be a waste of time. People need a ‘big, hairy goal’ and a context to apply these ideas.”
Build on strengths. The company chose to train managers who were influential in areas crucial to the overall transformation and already had some of the desired behavior—in essence, “positive deviants.” The training itself focused on personal mastery, such as learning to recognize and shift limiting mind-sets, turning difficult conversations into learning opportunities, and building on existing interpersonal strengths and managerial optimism to help broadly engage the organization.
Ensure sponsorship. Giving training participants access to formal senior-executive sponsors who can tell them hard truths is vital in helping participants to change how they lead. Moreover, the relationship often benefits the sponsor too. The operations vice president who encouraged Annie, for example, later asked her to teach him and his executive team some of the skills she had learned during her training.
Create networks of change leaders. Change programs falter when early successes remain isolated in organizational silos. To combat this problem, the industrial company deployed its leadership-development program globally to create a critical mass of leaders who shared the same vocabulary and could collaborate across geographic and organizational boundaries more effectively.