A Tale of Two Changes
For all the grand theories and frameworks about change, at a personal level it is seldom easy for anyone to readily to accept change – leaders, employees and clients.The anger and resentment are often inevitable.
Two of my clients found themselves in the throes of significant changes.One of my clients was acquired by a private equity firm and the founder began the process of handing over the reins of day-to-day operations to a senior leader he brought from outside.The senior leader found the need to augment internal talent with significant talent from outside to achieve the growth ambitions.
With the new talent came new ideas, urgency to change what was considered “legacy”, at times criticism of all that was old perhaps out of pressure to deliver and frustration about slow results.
Tenured leaders felt hurt, unappreciated and helpless. New leaders were getting impatient.
Clients were impatient about faltering service levels which are inevitable in times of such changes.
The Founder sensed that things were not ok and something needed to be done.
Based on my discussion with the core team, I felt that appreciative conversations with “the whole system” – all the key leaders that mattered would be crucial. Through these conversations we felt we could heal and help generate positive energy to move forward.
Three of us engaged in deep conversations with the top leaders in the Organisation – old and new.
These conversations were aimed at helping the leaders articulate what brought them and kept them here, what they saw as strengths and good practices, the life-giving forces, their views on key agendas and their dreams and wishes. The process of inquiry also helped sow the seeds of change and acceptance.
We presented the report to the entire community, bringing a certain openness to talk about things that mattered in a constructive way and take shared responsibility for creating the future.
In the second case, my client, a very successful multinational engineering company merged with another engineering giant. While my client Organisation enjoyed complete operating autonomy, the cultural influence of the larger entity began to be felt. The rules of success began to be rewritten. The CEO also invited some leaders from the parent to join to augment the team and that got received in a certain way. The business environment added to the challenges. As a result, team meetings and one-on-one interactions were emotion filled, there were frayed tempers and a sense of not making big progress.
The CEO realized that there was need to intervene. After he shared the situation as he saw it with me, we agreed that it would help for me to have conversations with all members of the leadership team. I did that and shared my findings with everyone I spoke with. The team realized that there was a lot in common in terms of how they were seeing the reality and what they wished for.
One of the first things they agreed to do is meet as a team to sit down and deep conversations about a few things that mattered to them. They evolved the agenda and came into the off-site with significant preparation.
I helped facilitate this off-site and the team came away feeling a lot more connected, understood and energized. They also agreed to several important actions.
I found many things in common between these two client situations.
The pandemic had made the assimilation of new leadership talent quite onerous.
Despite intellectually knowing that change was good, there was no denying that there were anxieties around change and there was need for empathy, understanding and even articulation about it.
Knowing and acknowledging past successes and strengths helped leaders walk into the future with greater confidence.
When two organisations come together or two leaders come together, or two teams come together, we can let the differences destroy each other or help everyone accept and respect these differences and find ways to integrate the best of both worlds.
While leaders and managers and even Boards sort out issues of adjusting to changes, there can be collateral damage for the clients and that is the real danger.
Finally, the most competent leaders cannot see all of the truth because they are likely to be too close to the situation. As they say, you cannot read the label of the bottle from inside the bottle. A facilitator helps bring the much-needed clarity of distance.