Does a change in leadership during change really matter?

By July 23, 2018 October 15th, 2018 No Comments

It’s a little over two weeks after the two big resignations from the UK Government. The media storm has died down on this story, as it always does, but it left everyone wondering at the time what will that mean for Brexit and who will be their replacements. More men in suits filled their shoes the very next day and walked into Downing Street with a renewed bounce in their step but is a change in leadership at such a crucial moment beneficial?

Yesterday’s BBC news article quoted Dominic Raab as saying:

Any responsible government would be putting plans in place if the negotiations failed… and …we ought to be trying to reassure citizens on the continent and also here

What was refreshing about the article was that Dominic Raab spoke like a normal human being; perhaps the sign of things to come. Or we certainly have to hope.

I got the impression that he really has taken the bull by the horns and has the determination to get the job done properly. Organisations and businesses may not go through change on the same scale as Brexit, but it’s an ever-present feature of modern business: how to make improvements to processes; how to make things more efficient to save money; how to improve the customer experience.

This is a widely-used figure when quoting the success rate of transformation projects:

According to McKinsey 70% of transformation projects fail

Change naturally brings with it instability. Leadership changes also bring instability: there will be new ideas, new ways of working, a new personality to learn and understand. But is a change in leadership during the change process always such a bad thing? Perhaps not if it means the outcome will be achieved. Maybe the new leader will bring motivation and inspire others that the new world really is possible.

Major factors leading to the failure of strategic change initiatives include:

Lack of planning
Poor management
Running out of time
Loss of motivation
Lack of skills to see it through to the end
Poor communication

Alignment and commitment at the top are essential to deliver a coherent vision. Everyone needs to sing from the same hymn sheet and show behaviours that inspire others. What we’ve seen over the last few months is that in-party (and cross-party) fighting is not bringing a nation together.

We know politicians love to heckle from the back rows but in times of change, people can notice the cracks even more. It takes a strong character to keep it all together, to portray a sense of calm despite turbulent waters. But most importantly, that person needs to be a good communicator.

Just like the Brexit situation, turmoil and uncertainty at the top can quickly filter down in an organisation. Before you know it, projects are stopped (or at least slowed down), people are afraid to make long-term commitments (both in terms of business deals but also in hiring staff) and valued employees start to look for positions elsewhere.

The crux of leadership is good communication

Many individuals called for Theresa May’s resignation, but what good will a snap decision like this do to an already-turbulent situation? Probably make it ten times worse. I don’t find Theresa May a particularly inspiring speaker, which is a challenge when one of the best qualities in leadership is communication.

In times of change the person everybody wants to hear from is the leader – the one in the driving seat. But we don’t want to hear empty words; many employees can see through words that mask the reality. In the absence of words, people fill in the blanks and this is when rumours begin, people’s grievances become known and it starts a spiral of mistrust because the one thing people/employees are craving is the one thing they’re not getting – open, honest and regular communication.

Theresa May repeatedly states she is “getting on with the job at hand” but fails to communicate effectively what that involves or the implications of the decisions taken. The result? Nobody really knows with any degree of certainty what is happening and people are left feeling at sea, not knowing which way to go.

Build a solid foundation on which to communicate

All good communication starts with a clear vision and a solid plan or strategy. The same can be said for change management. When you know which direction you are heading in, and passionately believe it, then you have a solid foundation on which to build your communications that will inspire others to support you along the way.

Perhaps you’re not naturally a great communicator, but there are sure to be others in your leadership team who are. If they share the vision and have the passion to make change a success then they need to feel empowered to speak out.

I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing the developments on Brexit from Dominic Raab in the coming months because, whether you voted for Brexit or not, he’s the first person from Government to offer a glimmer of hope in what has looked like a shipwreck for some time.

Maybe a leadership change wasn’t such a bad thing after all – but time will tell whether he has the skills to see it through to the end.

Would you like to stand out from the crowd with content that will get you noticed? Perhaps you’re an expert in your field but don’t have the time to write regularly. Drop me a line