Why business leaders must lead change – Part 2


Last week, I posted a blog recapping the 2020 Corcentric Symposium. In that blog, I wrote about the theme of this year’s symposium: Leading Change. I discussed how good leadership has never been more essential and more necessary. This is due not only to the current global crisis we are all experiencing but also due to the fact that innovation is disrupting so many industries. Once the current crisis has passed, we will still be facing the challenges of innovating our businesses. Success depends on figuring out how to transform those challenges into opportunities.

We had so many visionary presenters at the Symposium that I could only cover a few of them in last week’s entry. Below are additional speakers who addressed how leaders can make a difference in a constantly changing world:

Verne Harnish, founder and CEO of Gazelles Inc. and author of Scaling Up addressed an issue that seems to be counterintuitive; whether a growth company grows to the point where they dread adding another customer. Organizations that are not ready for the changes they will likely experience as growth proceeds may find that increased revenues haven’t turned into more profitability. So much depends on the organization’s leader since bottlenecks, according to Verne, usually occur at the top of the bottle. If a leader is good at too many things, it can be hard to let some of those things go. Leaders need to take a sharp look at themselves to determine their strengths and weaknesses. They need to figure out what parts of the job wear them out and then find someone else to handle those tasks so that leaders can do what they should do best…lead.

Discipline and focus are needed for scaling up:

  • Priorities – Setting priorities may seem obvious but often, executives don’t know what they should be focused on or are focusing on too many things. Businesses should think Smart vs Fast, considering which tasks, ideas, and processes to handle first to reach their goals.
  • Data/Metrics – In our data-centric age, it is still true that too many companies do not have sufficient data, or have a lack of in-house talent to optimize the data that is collected. Leaders should ask themselves the questions: Do you know where your customers are in terms of response to your company? Does what you measure correlate to what you want?

Address #1 issues:

  • What is the #1 job of leaders? Rather than a single #1 issue, leaders need to do a number of things. First, they need to manage the energy of their employees. They also need to motivate, not demotivate them. Employees will not care for customers if they think the company does not care for them.
  • What is the #1 question driving strategy? Leaders need to accept that success depends on making it easy for your customers to do business with you and for your employees to do their jobs. It is also essential to prove that once you execute a plan, that execution has repeatability.
  • What is the #1 focus? Leaders need to keep an eye on the big goal and then focus on what they need to do next in order to move toward that goal. It is also necessary to practice constraint, acknowledging that every company has limited time and limited resources, so be smart in planning

Sterling Hawkins, business leader, entrepreneur, and investor explained how leaders can build an innovation culture and inspire leadership qualities in employees during a time of unprecedented technological change. Sterling acknowledges that most people are highly resistant to change. Change is uncomfortable; but it is discomfort with the way things are that leads to innovation. We must be willing to face and engage that discomfort to move forward. Sterling feels that most leaders focus on products and solutions as instruments of change, but what leaders should focus on is what Sterling calls “the innovation cycle.” That cycle has four steps:

  • Source – Leaders should source possibilities; imagine the “if,” but don’t overthink it. Ask yourself what you want to do and why. Vision, purpose, and the “why” have to be connected in your own mind or your possibilities will stall out.
  • Curate – Take all the possibilities you come up with and curate them into a single idea. Admit that you can’t be everything to everybody; identify how you want to innovate and then commit to it.
  • Act – Don’t get caught up in busy work and measuring things…not at first. Take the leap to accept that if you are doing something new and do it, you will likely not be highly successful at first. But if you commit, you will learn quickly what works and what doesn’t. You will learn how to produce results.
  • Measure – Once you’ve begun, then you can measure results and share those measures, even if at first they are not that great. Failure, even if it doesn’t feel good is fine, as long as you learn from it. Failure is where innovation occurs.

Innovation is inevitable. Leaders who face it and embrace it will pave the way for company growth. It’s not enough for leaders to accept change, they need to be the ones who are “leading change.”

Read Part 1 of this blog.