Leadership and Change

During my time in the Pharma industry there was a saying that we heard a lot—no doubt you’ve hear it, or one of its variations, as well: “The only constant is change.”

It sounds a bit like Minnesota weather!

Change is a normal part of any business.

In its positive aspects—growth and development, for example—it is a good thing. Too much change, and/or change for the sake of change, however, can produce negative consequences, such as damaging a company’s bottom line and disconnecting workers from the organization’s vision and mission.

One memorable year, my sales team changed four times.

Yep, that’s not a typo—four times in one year!! We front line managers would shake our heads at senior management as they tried justifying the “maximization” of personnel. We would be pulled into meetings explaining how the changes made good business sense and then six weeks later, we’d hear it all over again. Needless to say, performance and employee morale that year suffered.

teamPeriods of change present challenges and opportunities to leaders.

Important among them is maintaining continuity, that is, capturing and preserving important business information in a way that allows it to survive organizational change. Preparing proper and consistent documentation is an ongoing requirement of leadership that is especially important during periods of change. For example, without a good paper trail, it is difficult to effectively evaluate an employee’s yearly performance. This premise is true whether the company is being restructured or if an employee is simply being moved from one department/team to another.

I cannot tell you how many times I “inherited” an employee from another manager who would warn me, “Look out for this person. He/ she really doesn’t know his or her products well, or this person doesn’t work hard, or run his/her territory well” etc., etc. The worst of these kinds of advisories goes something like this: “they really need to be let go but I just haven’t gotten around to it.” SAY WHAT!!! Talk about passing the buck.

In such situations my next questions are typically, “Where are you in the process of managing this person out of the company? Do you have documentation I can continue to build on?” Do they know where they stand?” If the answer is “no” to these last two questions, there has been a significant failure of leadership.

My father called this approach of doing nothing “gutless management.”

Leadership is difficult at times, especially during times of turmoil and change. Simply passing on a problem employee for someone else to handle is unfortunately common in many companies. Many leaders do not have the training or wherewithal to have that difficult conversation. Such leaders may complain about how busy they are and how much they hate paperwork but the fact remains that judicious documentation is good for the employee, the company and ultimately for them.

The unwillingness or inability to master this face-to-face, emotionally challenging part of leadership permeates many companies.

It may be due to lack of training, lack of accountability, or worse yet the perception that there’s just isn’t time. Yet, as much as many leader/managers hate and avoid them, being able to conduct and document direct honest conversations with employees is absolutely critical to a company’s success.

Teaching leaders to communicate the needs of the business to employees directly, honestly and compassionately builds loyalty, strengthens teams and promotes organizational openness and productivity.

A candid, objective conversation helps to remove ambiguity, and create consistency. It motivates a team to succeed by creating clear expectations. The need for this type of leadership does not stop because one is too busy. It’s amazing how many companies don’t take the time to train their leaders in this important skill.

This is the niche that I’m working to fill with my Connected Life Leadership services.

My years of participation in the corporate world together with my detailed training as a therapist have given me the capacity to teach leaders how to have those difficult conversations without diminishing motivation and sense of purpose for the employee, how to improve their interpersonal communications skills, to connect their emotional intelligence to their professional intelligence, and to approach working relationships with enhanced self-awareness and authenticity.

I help team leaders develop strategies to defuse tension and break logjams of silence and miscommunication whose negative consequences can extend to poor personnel choices and a diminished bottom line.

In a complex organization, everyone benefits when they know where they stand, particularly during periods of upheaval and change.

Training leaders to seek and deliver that clarity, to be proficient at evaluating their teams and having frank conversations regularly throughout the year, is time very well spent indeed.

Interested in Connected Life Leadership? Click here. I look forward to hearing from you!

Mark Glover

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