Today’s post is by Maureen Metcalf – a thoughtLEADERS instructor and author of The Innovative Leadership Fieldbook. and the newly-released Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations (CLICK HERE to get your copy). Here’s Maureen:
Sarah was the Vice President of Marketing for a Fortune 100 company when we met several years ago. She was known throughout her division for the bright colors that she wore and for her equally bright disposition. Her ability to help people she feel almost instantly comfortable was a well-crafted skill.
Sarah rose through the ranks in the company starting out as a sales assistant and then slowly earning her way to progressively more responsibility. As an executive she was centered, focused, and highly successful. Her office was an interesting mix of beautifully crafted cherry furniture, professional certifications and awards, and personal memorabilia highlighting both work and family relationships. Entering a conversation with Sarah in this setting had the instantaneous feeling that something of importance was about to transpire.
When we last met, she told a story of a Senior Director “He was a top salesman when he came to us and was quickly moved into our high achievers program. His numbers were always solid and his group was very productive when he was a manager.” At that, she looked down reflectively and then back to me. “But even then” she remarked, “I would hear about incidents where people left meetings feeling demoralized. He has such strong people skills and is so bright; I thought that these incidents must have been attempts to help his staff stretch. Now, in retrospect, I think I missed some warning signs. We are at the point where he has stepped on so many toes that nobody wants to work with him.”
Problems like this senior director’s are as complex as they are common. He had all of the technical skills, intelligence, and motivation to be a very effective leader. However, staff turnover, poor collaboration, and a reputation of being difficult to work with find him doing as much harm to his company as good.
Part of the challenge in building innovative leadership is learning to use the clarity of your introspection. Looking inside yourself and examining the make-up of your inner being enables you to function in a highly grounded way, rather than operating from the innate biases of more uninformed decision-making. This ability to reflect and consider how you as a leader need to change as part of the larger change initiative is critical to leading successful organizational transformation efforts.
Accelerating change continues to impact every facet of business. To thrive long term, business leaders must make implementing change a core competency enabling them to capitalize on their changing world instead of merely attempting to adapt to it.
Organizations clearly need innovation to successfully navigate the new economic landscape—and they are not getting it. It’s relatively rare for transformation programs to deliver the results that were projected in the original business case. Simply put, companies attempting to traverse the new economic landscape with incomplete tactics will not succeed. In addition to looking at tactics used to implement change, we also need to look at the impact leadership has on the organization’s ability to successfully implement change. An exclusive focus on systems’ performance and analytics can prove costly. Enhancing organizational capacity must extend beyond increasing system functionality.
If, in addition to developing better functional processes, you also begin to clarify strategic vision, grow leadership capacity, and build a cohesive company culture—you will achieve much greater and more sustainable success.
Complex challenges illuminate deeply held beliefs and force not only a change in how work is done but also in the leaders themselves and an organization’s values. What results is more than a process change or innovation translation. A complex solution will create changes in processes, but also in personal values and beliefs, behaviors, and interactions. The most effective solutions to complex challenges are those that change the leader and the organization’s relationship to processes, values, behaviors, and interactions. In other words, the change process works on the leader at the same time the leader works on the change.
The concept of leading change starts with leadership and yet in many organizations the process often omits the idea that transforming leaders is part of the overall transformation process.
Innovative leadership is based on the recognition that four dimensions (intention, behavior, culture, and systems) exist in all experiences, and already influence every interactive experience we have. To deny the interplay of any one of the four dimensions is missing the full picture. You can only build innovative leadership by simultaneously addressing all four dimensions.
Because innovative leadership influences by engaging the four dimensions equally, these leaders are uniquely qualified to implement complex change with a much higher success rate. A primary reason for transformation failure is that leaders focus primarily on the systems, rather than the larger context that includes themselves as leader and the organizational culture.
By combining innovative leadership with a comprehensive change model to solve complex problems will have a higher success rate. This success rate is possible because this new model accomplishes the following:
– Addresses complex problems by analyzing them and developing comprehensive solutions beyond those found in traditional problem-solving approaches;
– Addresses the four dimensions: a leader’s intention and behavior along with the organization’s culture and systems in a systematic manner that creates alignment between them;
– Includes the innovative leader in the change process: expecting the leader to innovate how they lead to keep pace with the challenges they are solving.
During this era of increased complexity, an accelerated need for change, and failed change initiatives, it is critical for organizations to identify new models which address these challenges while concurrently maintaining efficient and effective operations and have a higher likelihood of yielding successful and sustained change.
To learn more about innovative leadership and the process of implementing transformative change, we recommend the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations.
Maureen is the President of Metcalf & Associates, Inc., bringing 26 years of business experience to the table as she helps professionals grow well beyond their own expectations. She is recognized as a thought leader who demonstrates strategic vision coupled with the ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth and sustainability. Her work is focused on helping leaders innovate how they lead while transforming their organizations. She’s also a member of the thoughtLEADERS team. Read more of her work on her blog.