Transformation…what an oft-used phase these days. But does it mean the same thing to all companies? To truly transform an organization you need to be able to study and execute broad sweeping changes. You have to be able to challenge norms and understand the breadth and depth of the changes required. We hear a lot about companies that have "completely transformed” through incredibly expensive, long-term transformation projects, but their outcomes are often remarkably different. Some companies change very little, and not for long, and others change dramatically and embrace the new working models. In my opinion, the difference in the two results is a clear lack of leadership, and to take it even further, the inability on the leaders’ part to follow through with willpower, determination and conviction. To quote Terry Bacon from his article Five Deadly Leadership Power Drains.
"Your willpower is a meta-source of power, the desire to be powerful coupled with the courage to act. Walt Whitman called it "personal force"—the will to do something when others merely dream or talk about it. It is, in essence, the magic elixir that differentiates the world's most powerful leaders.
How willpower drains happen: Leaders become afraid of moving forward; fear of failure is a huge willpower usurper. Many people long for something but decide not to pursue it because another contender appears bigger and stronger. Others don't meet with short-term success and give up.”
When people say they have transformed their organization and yet didn’t consider the idea that transformation may mean outsourcing a non-core function, I immediately wonder if it demonstrates a weak leader. A strong leader can ask themselves the question, "can someone else do this more efficiently or effectively than we do it ourselves” without fear of diminishing their power or reputation.
I think the other issue facing many companies is the inability to "stay changed and lead”. Change may seem to happen overnight but it is not embraced easily nor does it become the new norm quickly. Studies have shown it takes an average of three years for a new way of doing business to become a natural style for an individual. Therefore, this requires three years of leadership to change the organization. We need leaders who can morph their style from being on the white horse out in front leading the charge; to the ones who come up the hill from behind and offer support to those who need it. Without this type of leadership people will revert to their old ways and the transformation will not ever be fully executed.
Are you old enough to remember the days before email? If so, you may also remember how hard it was for many leaders to embrace this as a technology that would have a huge impact on their lives. I remember working with one executive who demanded that an email system be implemented company-wide, then, rather than respond, he would print his own emails out and dictate a response to his administrative assistant, who would then type and send it for him. Which leads to another question…how many of you are old enough to remember "dictation”? While we can look back and laugh now, this example raises an important point… that how we as leaders "transform” ourselves and our own actions, will impact the very essence of whether or not a transformation project will succeed. The leaders have to lead and they must have the resiliency to survive the tests of their convictions and live in the changed state to demonstrate to their teams that it is safe to change with them. Our Fall Global Leadership Summit will be a gathering of leaders…a forum for people who have made sweeping changes in their organizations and are not afraid to share their successes and their failures. Join us in Seattle so you can share your stories too.