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WARNING: 3 Mistakes To Avoid with High-Stakes Change

The Land Mines of Leading Change:  Understand the context of the picture – What could possibly go wrong here? Leading change is loaded with risks and potential land mines. We have watched many careers get derailed, and many organizations take a long time to recover from costly but avoidable mistakes during change initiatives that went off track.

One of the first change initiatives I was involved in occurred during the merger of two major home improvement retailers along the East Coast. The initiatives focused on a blunting strategy to compete with one of the dominant big box retailers as they entered dozens of Mid-Atlantic markets with the goal of saving $50 million.

The Executive team presented their case for change in their top four markets during town hall meetings with the hope of ‘rallying the troops’ and amass support behind the cost saving measures to successfully compete. The measures included cutting payroll dramatically corporately and at the store level, eliminating retirement contributions and profit sharing, reducing benefits while increasing employee contributions and more…insert face palm here.

I attended all four of the meetings and during one of them, an employee mustered up enough courage to ask the panel, comprised of CFO, CEO and SVP of Store Operations, “…if after making all of these sacrifices for me and my family just to be competitive, are y’all willing to give up your country club memberships and fancy cars?” The room fell deathly silent, there was no response from the leadership panel, and they awkwardly moved on. You could feel the air literally being sucked out of the room.

How well do you think the employees embraced the changes after that point?

How successful do you think they were against the competition?

How successful do you think the merger was implemented?

In less than twenty-one months, this third-generation private retailer was finally laid to rest. Examples, like this one, happen all too frequently. It’s easy to see in other organizations, but not always so apparent when you’re in the middle of it leading your own unit, division or organization.

“Leaders go first, but eat last.” – Simon Sinek

If you are launching a change initiative, you had better be prepared to cut from the top first. And, when things are going well, be quick to reward the ones who got you there – usually that’s the bottom first. Leaders go first, but eat last; meaning they set the tone. They model the change they want to see, and they reward the efforts of those on the front lines first. Only then, does the leader earn his portion.

If you are not willing to do this, then do not attempt to launch a change initiative or be faced with creating a cynical, resentful workforce. How does the military take thousands of total strangers and in less than three months evolve the group into one cohesive unit? The mentality of Brotherhood means far more than ‘watch your six.’ The same holds true in the private sector as well for the most successful companies. The leader stands up, steps up and delivers the message through their behaviors and communications and actions, “I have your back! Even though you may not have mine yet, I will still have your back first. And until such time, I have earned yours.”

Sometimes it is valuable to have an objective advisor by your side to guide you. We see things you may not be able to see, or more importantly, people within your own organization are not be willing to point out. Avoid derailing your train of momentum or avoid stepping on the land mine like our case demonstrated, as well as some of the less obvious pitfalls that exist through change.

Before you start a change initiative on your own, here are 3 reasons why it’s worth having a  conversation with us first:

1. Avoid Costly Mistakes Others Have Made. Why fall into traps other leaders have already made? You’ve had these conversations with your peers and maybe some mentors about the obvious pitfalls. The best leaders learn from the mistakes of others, and we can show you how to avoid the sometimes subtle land mines that offer nasty surprises to executives when they lead change.

2. Gain Momentum Quickly. We have seen many organizations get mired in change efforts that go nowhere. Static movement isn’t moving forward and causes employees to feel stressed, become cynical, and the best talent to head for the exits. There are proven strategies to build momentum during change, and there are also wrong ways to get change processes moving. We know the difference and will show you the most effective path to results.

3. Take a Comprehensive Approach to Change. You cannot afford the time nor the capital to be blindsided by any unanticipated consequences. In any change process, you will hear from many voices in your organization. We know already you’re distracted by the noise in the system and are fed up. Many well intended colleagues often see a piece of the puzzle, and not the whole system. If one of them dominates the conversation about change having that much influence on you, you might end up making short-sighted decisions. We help you take a more systematic approach to change ensuring sustainable change, enrolls key people throughout the organization, and leads to ongoing improvements in growth, performance and results you must have to be successful.

We bring a proven methodology for leading change that’s non-intrusive and  leverages your team to accelerate results – without making costly mistakes others tend to make. It takes just a few minutes to assess whether or not we can bring value to you and your team. All you can lose is your opportunity to learn more. Call us today +1 205-482-2177. In the meantime, feel free to download our no-cost change assessment here.

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