My article in BUSINESS INSIDER published 24th of September 2018.
Trainers tell us that a key to successfully transforming organizations is to clearly define business goals, ensure that leaders maintain good relationships with people across the organization and choose the right communication tools. Although I agree with this approach, I propose another prerequisite: personal experience.
The literature abounds with advice on how to successfully change organizations. Authors speak at length on how critically important it is in transformation to clearly define business goals, ensure that leaders maintain good relationships with people across the organization and choose the right communication tools. Although I agree with this approach, I propose another prerequisite: personal experience.
I am convinced that any change within my organization that I, as a leader, wish or plan to achieve, should rest on a personal foundation. The process of change should be “anchored” firmly in my own value system and resonate with my emotional self and every part of my psyche that I consider to be genuine, mature and vital. In other words: the potential, extent and direction of the change that I, as the leader, plan to propose to my business organization depends largely on my beliefs and psychological abilities (even if not developed through formal education but instead based on my intuitions). I therefore agree with the leaders who stress the importance of individual experience in tackling the most complex business challenges.
Look for role models where you can’t see them
I am neither the first nor the last business leader to set out on changing an organization. I am not inventing the wheel, I do not have monopoly on knowledge, I am not irreplaceable. By intervening in an organization at key moments, I subconsciously or consciously draw on the achievements of others in global business. It is crucial to choose the right role models and learn lessons from other people’s experience. For me as a leader, it is vital not to confine myself to my own specific thinking and logic. On the contrary, in preparing to stage a revolution, no matter how big or small, I always try to draw on the expertise and experience of recognized leaders even if I disagree with them on the surface. If effective leadership is indeed about being flexible, thinking out of the box, being bold, taking risks, being creative, the implications for where one searches for knowledge are truly enormous. My approach at this stage is to follow my own cognitive habits while challenging them as needed. It is to spot noteworthy advice that has previously been hidden from me. Hidden, because it was unpopular, incompatible with my own value system, or formulated by the people I was distant from my own spirituality or overly controversial. However, once I open myself to inspiration “from any source”, the results could be amazing.
Stories that engage
While searching for examples of leaders who have changed their organizations in remarkable ways, I came across a funny but powerful story of John Hammergren, the CEO of the pharmaceutical firm McKesson. Asked how to effectively run a company, he described how he realized he too would someday be a patient and a customer of the healthcare system. This realization strongly influenced his management style and business behavior. Can you imagine a more compelling story on management taken to a personal level? I admit that, were I a mid-level manager listening to John Hammergren’s lecture, I would be deeply inspired by his example. I would quickly picture myself as a future “patient” and see what I needed to do as an employee of the pharmaceutical company. All in all, I am convinced that leaders capable of personally relating to transformation achieve greater impact than those who limit themselves to PowerPoint presentations, no matter how meticulously prepared. The idea is to show how change in an organization can be of personal relevance to the leader. The leader must find a key example that will illustrate the importance of the transformation to himself and to the people who are close to him. Once the leader gives his workers a story they will recognize as his deeply personal insight, they are likely to double their efforts.
Read more in the full article.