Archive for August, 2012

Leadership Communication Is Key to Successful Change

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Insufficient communication is second only to fear of change or failure as a major stumbling block to successful change in organizations. According to a global survey of nearly 1,100 managers conducted by New Catalyst, LLC, it’s essential for leaders to “constantly communicate” before, during and after attempting to implement a significant change.

Constant communication is the way to gain “employee support and trust,” which is essential for a change “to stand any chance of success,” say the authors of the survey, Kelly Nwosu and Nick Anderson. I totally agree. As I emphasize to clients during my speaking and consulting engagements, it’s more important than ever to communicate regularly–even daily–during times of change and any other period that might be described as a crisis.

New Catalyst found that there are three primary messages for leaders to focus on in order to gain employee support for upcoming change. Those three messages must be clear explanations of the why, the how and the benefits of the change.

As a participant in one of my storytelling workshops for sales managers observed, “People aren’t afraid of change per se; they’re afraid that they aren’t prepared for change.” When a leadership repeatedly reassures everyone by explaining 1) the reasons for the change; 2) how it will be accomplished (including the specific role for each division, and cascading down, each person); and 3) the benefits of the change for the organization and everyone affected by it, the odds of success skyrocket.

Top Leadership Traits Tell the Story

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Trust, empathy, and “mentorship” are the top three traits of successful leaders, according to Vineet Nayar, vice chairman and CEO of HCL Technologies, Ltd., in a recent Harvard Business Review article. Citing his own childhood experience of a natural-born leader in the neighborhood whom all the kids followed without question, Nayar says, “None of the leadership lessons that I have learned, unlearned, or relearned ever since have left as indelible an impact as the ones I learnt as a child.”

Trust, for example, is essential in order for your employees to feel empowered, to take risks, and to “push themselves beyond their comfort zones to find success.” (Credibility, reliability, intimacy and self-orientation are measures of a person’s trust quotient, according to The Trust Advisor, a book by David Maister, Charles Green and  Robert Galford.)

Empathy is exhibited by treating your employers as individual human beings rather than a generic group of “workers”.  Do your employees feel free to let you know what’s going on in their lives, both the joys and the sorrows? Do you allow them to see you as a human with a full range of emotion?

Mentorship is needed by everyone, Nayar says, no matter how successful they are. He references famed basketball coach Pat Riley, who once said that there was no great player who didn’t want to be coached. High achievers know that they need to continue learning, and they look to their leaders to teach them.

How are you doing in these three areas? How about your leaders?


A Personal Tale about a Top CEO

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

When my husband and I recently made one of our frequent shopping at our local Costco warehouse, I glanced down an aisle and commented that the man walking away from us looked like Jim Sinegal, the company’s co-founder and retired CEO. The man strolling down the aisle was wearing casual slacks, a dress shirt, and tennis shoes, and he was surveying all the shelves. When I saw him bend down to pick up something that had fallen into the aisle, I knew it was Sinegal!

He’s a model for any study on what makes an exceptional leader; that’s why Barron’s included him several years ago on its list of the top 30 CEOs in the world. Sinegal loves the business, he’s indefatigable, personable, a tough negotiator, a great communicator and storyteller, and very demanding about taking meticulous care of stores and parking lots. Of course he’d pick up clutter on a warehouse floor!

He also believes in taking good care of employees, insisting that above-industry pay and benefits were essential to running a successful business. He stuck to his position despite the fact that a number of investors were raising a fuss several years ago, pushing for lower employee compensation to increase profits. In discussions with a number of Costco employees and visits to corporate headquarters, I had learned first-hand that employees appreciate Sinegal’s approach–and that view was underscored the day my husband and I saw him in the Kirkland, WA warehouse.

We were checking out at the same time, separated  by only a couple of check-stands. As we watched him check out and wait his turn in line to have his receipt reviewed at the exit, we noticed that he chatted or waved to all the employees along the way–all the way out into the parking lot.  And they all greeted him with a big smile and a “Hi, Jim!” Wouldn’t you love to work for someone like that? How would you rate your CEO against that standard?