As a successful leader, when the Board turns to you to lead a business-critical change initiative your first emotion should definitely be pride. The responsibility given is clear, highly visible recognition of the respect for you and your leadership capabilities.

Ironically, it’s actually good news if the feeling of pride is quickly followed by a feeling of mild, to severe apprehension, caused by your recognition that more than two thirds of business critical change initiatives fail, or certainly fall well short of their goals. More personal to you, this time you’re at the helm and it’s your reputation on the line!

So back to the good news. The fact that the Board has turned to you as a successful business leader to spearhead the change is a well-documented step in the right direction, but it’s certainly not a guarantee of success.

Success going forward now depends on how you respond as a leader.


Prioritising time for business change leadership

First there is the relatively simple process of assessing what percentage of your time you will realistically have to dedicate to the change leadership role. Frequently change leaders retain some aspect of their prior business responsibilities; sometimes this is a significant proportion; almost always it ends up being more than expected. The ’double whammy’ is that major business change initiatives chew-up time, add strain given the unfamiliar, expansive leadership demands and typically burn emotional energy at a heightened rate.

The fact that you need help should be obvious. Equally obvious, the suggestion is “play to your strengths and like all truly great leaders, get great people around you”.


Choosing your change delivery partner

Unless you have been hired into the leadership team to bring 15-20 years of change delivery and change leadership experience earned elsewhere, your personal leadership strengths will lie most significantly inside your business: the relationships that you have; the respect that you are given; the trust you have earned; your proven ability to win hearts and minds across the firm: your ability to communicate a vision, what the vision will mean to people in their roles, in their terms, including what the journey will be like to get there.

If this is the case, then you now need the right type of “running partner”. Someone at your level, on your side of the table, but with over 20 years of change delivery and change leadership experience and the scars to prove it! Here are some suggestions:

  1. Seek the deep experience and wherewithal to help you manage both the internal stakeholders AND external delivery partners – acting as one with you.
  2. Look for an approach that manages all dimensions of successful transformation (not just delivery), knowing how these need to be managed from the outset to set the transformation up for success.
  3. Ensure there is delivery know-how (and resilience) to tenaciously drive delivery, despite the inevitable humps and bumps along the way.
  4. Demand the necessary independence and collaborative ethic to co-ordinate all the delivery partners involved – setting them up for success, holding them to account, keeping them in their sweet spots.
  5. Make sure that you are very comfortable that they will stand alongside you, giving you the best advice and placing your business interests first, rather than influenced by some other external motive.

The final tip. Reflect on 70% failure-rate and the cumulative cost to the business of that failure. You are on point and your career is on the line. Is this really the time to cut corners? Your leadership skills to the fore again… yes take up the challenge, BUT as part of the deal, make sure that you win the battle with the Board to get the quality of support that you need. This is certainly not a time for compromise and risk taking.

For more on this topic, please read our article about orchestrating an effective transformation programme or just get in touch with me.

POSTED BY: John Howarth - Consulting Director


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