Spring 2009
kate and stacyIf we've said it once, we've said it a thousand times... leaders are the most important element of successful change.  In times like these, leaders are tested to be their very best.  Organizations under stress need to make sure that the leadership group works as a finely tuned team focused on how to make it through tough economic times.  One of the best ways to encourage a leadership group to act as a team is to look at how the individuals in that group are incented.  People do what they are recognized and rewarded to do.  Make sure to check out the articles in this edition focused on leadership.  
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All the best,
Kate and Stacy
A Leadership Team, not just a Leadership Group

Leaders play a crucial role in making organizational change happen. They craft and share the direction of an organization, model what is expected, and guide people as they go about doing the work of the organization. What they do and say makes all of the difference in the world in how an organization performs. Numerous studies on the topic share one consistent theme - Leadership is the most important contributor to successful organizational change.


Leaders that act as a team are much more likely to effectively drive change. Leaders in a group that is disjointed or incented to look after their own business first are often not aligned about direction and tactics and consequently have a hard time driving change.


Members of an effective team act in concert and are usually in agreement about what the organization should be doing and how it should be done. They share common goals, watch each other's backs, and view the success of their teammate as their own success. A truly aligned leadership team has a strong foundation of trust that allows them to have healthy debate and conflict about positions and ideas. They make honest commitments and they are accountable to each other. They aren't afraid to call each other on it when things are not getting done.


If leaders are not thinking and acting as a team, then whatever they are trying to do for the organization at large is in trouble. A leadership group that is not a team has trouble tackling tough issues and making decisions because they can't easily have unfiltered conflict. Their goals and incentives may be different. The trust built in a team is what greases the gears for tough conversations and the free flow of honest dialogue and debate about ideas. Without that trust, making hard decisions can be painful.


We are working with a large organization that wants to start processing all of their orders across a dozen companies in one system. The move could save this organization millions of dollars. But the leaders are not so sure they agree with the notion of consolidation - let alone what the selected system would be, how that system would be managed, and so on. They cite all kinds of reasons for why they should each have the discretion to manage their own customer orders independently. Some of those reasons probably have a lot of merit, but some are a bit of a stretch.


This group of leaders is not a team. They are individuals who look out for their own organizations first. They are incented to focus on their division P&L, and they do a great job of doing that. But they certainly are not playing for the organization as a whole.


In the absence of an effective leadership team, an idea like consolidating to one system that will undoubtedly throw groups into contentious debates about which direction is best and why can easily be put off indefinitely.


Many great ideas have gone down in flames because leaders could not agree on what to do and how to do it. It is not that these leaders were trying to sabotage the organization or being lazy. In fact, most often leaders are trying their very hardest to do the very best they can. But the absence of a strong team environment holds them back.


If your organization is currently undergoing or contemplating a change, the focus should be on building a strong leadership team that is cohesive and aligned about what the organization should be doing and how. Leaders are generally a small group of people compared to the organization as a whole. If this small group of leaders can not align and act as a team, how on earth is the organization at large expected to work together?

Incentives Matter

Motivation is a key consideration when trying to get a group, team or individual to change. What motivates one person may not motivate another. There's many ways to motivate. One way is to offer an incentive. The challenge is to match the changing situation to an incentive that will drive the desired actions. An experience at one of my clients demonstrates how incentives matter.


This client was a distributor with seven independently run warehouses. The company did not act like a cohesive unit which the CEO of the company was trying to change. He knew that some warehouses were more effective and efficient than others. He needed the manager of each warehouse to work with his peers to drive consistent, efficient and effective processes across all the warehouses. Two months into the project, it was clear that the managers were not inclined to work together towards company wide goals.


They were still solely focused on their warehouse's individual performance. We met with the head of HR to talk about the challenge of getting the managers motivated to work together and to change some of their focus to the company wide objectives. We asked a lot of questions, trying to understand the current evaluation and reward system, trying to figure out how we might change it. After an hour, the HR VP said, "Well, there is this discretionary bonus pool that the company CEO uses each year."


Our heads snapped up. Did he just say what we thought he said? It was like uncovering unknown treasure. Unbelievably, there were no clear expectations related to this discretionary bonus money. In fact, the HR VP said the impression was that the CEO gave it to whichever managers he seemed to like most that year, parceling it out unevenly amongst the group. And the managers acted accordingly. They spent their effort trying to play golf with the CEO. They invited the CEO and his wife to dinner. They behaved in accordance with the tacit expectations related to the discretionary bonus.


"Do you think we can link achieving the company business objectives to the bonus pool?" we asked hopefully. "I'll look into it", said the HR VP and that was the end of the meeting.


Fast forward six months later. The bonus pool had been linked to meeting company wide objectives such as creating consistent processes. The changes and expectations had been communicated early to the managers and the managers changed their behavior accordingly. Consistent processes were being created and championed.


Money is great but incentives aren't just about the money. It's also about the message the incentive sends. In this case, linking the bonus to company wide goals did two things 1) managers now had some personal motivation to make the company initiatives work 2) the CEO was sending a clear signal that the company wide objectives were a high priority that shouldn't be ignored.


Since you may not have some hidden pile of money (but don't forget to ask just in case!), spend time brainstorming about how to motivate people toward your change. You may be able to piggy back onto a current program or create something new. Find out what people care about.


People can be motivated by public recognition, extra days off, being able to wear jeans, contests, food, special assignments and promotions, just to name a few. When you have limited resources, you may need to be creative but the right motivational tactics help drive attitudes and behaviors in the right direction. Not only can incentives help drive the business towards success, they can be fun too.


The right incentives grab people's attention. Incentives are increasingly important with the information overload and constant change that is happening daily in the workplace. Don't forget to think about how to motivate people when you are trying to drive change.

Q&A: In Your Shoes
Karen L. Barnes
Director Operations
Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc. -
a Johnson & Johnson Company
What advice do you have for others trying to drive change?
There are several things that are important to do when driving change in organizations: 
  • Align leaders
  • Engage the organization
  • Communicate the what and why (making sure the organization understands what you are trying to accomplish and why)
  • Have a forum to understand others perspectives
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate!
  • Highlight other's successes and contributions
  • Find a way for people to make a connection - a way to feel inspired
  • Don't assume or expect it to be easy
  • Make sure the organization understands specific changes to their individual roles and that they are ready, willing and able to make the transition
  • And, did I say communicate? 
What one thing has helped you the most in driving change in your organization?
The one thing that has helped me drive change has been having a specific focus of change management within projects.
In This Issue
A Leadership Team, not just a Leadership Group
Incentives Matter
Q&A: In Your Shoes
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