During a recent four-day leadership retreat, a CEO from a large company said, “I get it! We have based our entire business strategy on the assumption that we need to take a defensive posture in our market.
During a recent four-day leadership retreat, a CEO from a large company said, “I get it! We have based our entire business strategy on the assumption that we need to take a defensive posture in our market. What would our strategy look like if we assumed instead that we could aggressively grow our market rather than have to deal with it shrinking?” That realization was the beginning of a five-year change effort that produced more than $100 million of net income.
The turning point was the CEO’s mindset shift. When he and the other executives altered the way they perceived their circumstances, they found the road to success.
Transformational change efforts often fail because the leaders do not have the mindset required to see what is necessary to succeed. Their beliefs, worldviews and assumptions about people, organizations and change keep them from accurately perceiving and understanding the dynamics they face. Consequently, they respond with strategies and tactics that do not match the transformational reality. They make poor decisions, rush headlong into the unknown, skip necessary tasks or trigger resistance in employees. When their efforts founder, they cannot figure out how to right the ship, because they do not understand the storm.
Many traditional leadership beliefs and assumptions limit change success. The belief that speed is paramount causes leaders to push change faster than employees can assimilate it, which actually slows it down. The belief that there are not enough resources causes leaders to skimp on change or overlay it on top of people’s already-overflowing plates, which impairs ROI. The assumption that change must be controlled at all costs often causes leaders to rigidly follow predetermined project plans, when success really requires frequent course correction as circumstances shift. The leaders’ belief that their primary responsibility is to ensure that their individual departments, regions or processes excel causes turf battles and competition across boundaries. This also keeps leaders from integrating their change initiatives, causing redundancies and chaos that waste enterprise resources and slow the change.