Leading Through Transformations

As technology and globalization put pressure in businesses to deliver better results, transformations at scale are becoming a necessary part of the executive toolkit.  I have driven my share of transformations and have to admit not all have gone as planned, yet I have drawn some lessons that may help others embarking on one – so here’s some advice on leadership during a transformation.

Transformations are generally tied to step changes in performance which in turn add pressure to succeed and achieve the benefits that support long term results.  Maximizing success requires executives to adapt their leadership style at each stage of the transformation to ensure a well understood vision, aligned objectives, coordinated implementation and ultimately transition to the envisioned operating model.

At the inception of a transformation, it is not enough to conceptualize why the change is required but rather to envision and communicate to the organization how the end state will benefit each of the stakeholders.  At this stage, leaders need to set an ambitious vision of the end state and mobilize stakeholders towards that vision – become your best version of an Authoritative leader!  However; that is not enough, leaders need to forge consensus on their envisioned end state and be willing to adapt their vision through participation which requires flexing your Democratic leader abilities.  In the most succesful transformations, I have seen leaders set a compelling vision and engage stakeholder so that the team can define the best path to achieve the outcomes.  In such scenarios, everyone has a stake in the success of the transformation, they understand how it will support their objectives and they feel it is ambitious but achievable.

With senior stakeholders bought into the vision, the leader and business owners need to bring the organization on-board and get their buy-in as well.  Communication of the vision and rationale is key and will set the organization for success as the broader team engages in developing the implementation plan.  At this stage, as before, being visionary and authoritative is paramount.

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” —John F. Kennedy

Once the organization is bought-in and owns the vision, the leader must shift focus to the creation of the implementation plan.  Many times, after significant investment in galvanizing the organization behind the vision, leaders feel that the shift will take place organically which never happens.  A deliberate effort by each of the business teams to develop a comprehensive implementation plan is a must.   At this point leaders should give teams the space and time to develop such plans and lead by coaching, so the plan remains true to the vision while also being ambitious enough and clear on the investments required.  Make sure you have constant and thorough reviews with the business owners as their plan takes shape and you coach them towards that critical implementation blueprint.  Also make sure you embed the investments and improved results into business plans and personal objectives to drive increased sense of accountability.

As the implementation begins, leaders should focus on monitoring progress and conveying high expectations that drive the teams to deliver on their plans.  Leaders should maintain their coaching style so the teams feel supported while also letting their Pacesetting leadership style shine through when plans are starting to derail.  In parallel, they must broadly celebrate the wins and showcase the early successes that depict how the transformed organization will improve.  The latter starts to shift behaviours and drives adoption as staff feel that the new normal is the path to recognition and success.  Continually celebrating progress and wins will help cement the transition as the execution takes place and reduces post transition change management efforts.

Leadership plays a pivotal role in successful transformations so be deliberate about adapting your leadership style and focus as you progress through the transformation.  Only then will your transformation succeed and take your organization to that next level of performance.


Andres Martinez

Andres Martinez is a transformation, strategy and operations leader with over 20 years professional experience. He has led growth, margin, customer experience and channel efficiency transformations in multiple industries including telecom, retail, advertising and loyalty among others.



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