Do What You’re Best At
From an early conversation with Myles:
- As I see it, there are two internal ‘audiences’ for my leadership, if I can put it like that. The company at large and then to the top one hundred or so leaders. They require different things from me.
- Right. And in order to ensure the change program delivers the results, which audience do you need to engage the most?
- Hmm. The top hundred. Yes. It would then be their job, largely, to get the whole company on-board
- What do they require from you?
- Right now, two things. To be heard and to have a clear game plan.
- What stand out ability do you have that would change it for the top 100?
- Getting people engaged
- How do you do that?
- It’s starts with relationship. Maybe I’ve not invested enough time in that. And, as I’ve just said, clarity.
John is the CEO at a UK based retail business with outlets in Europe. He took the job because of the challenge: the job was to turn-around a traditional high street retail operation, stuck in its past, into a competitive player, fully embracing the digital economy. The challenge was that two previous attempts had failed, mostly due to resistance to change within the organisation. As things stood, the company no longer had a clear identity – for the employees and the dwindling customer base. He had executed a similar change in a much smaller operation as the COO. This was the first time he was in charge.
Six months in, they were headed in the right direction but not moving anywhere near fast enough. David felt he was losing the Chair’s confidence. It was then he contacted Myles.
A later conversation:
- What’s different this time around?
- The scale for one, the organisation is about five times as big, operating in ten countries. Then there’s the scrutiny from the stock market, the press, the Board.
- How does that change things
- In the past it was small enough, so that I could engage with most people. I’m beginning to see I can’t do that here. Another thing, I’m spending so much time with all the stakeholders, that I haven’t really got the clarity I need for myself, let alone others
- What might you do?
- It needs to be different this time. I need to think for myself, but I don’t need to do that alone, if I can make that distinction. This requires deeper conversations with my direct team, particularly about our corporate identity.
- What about pleasing the stakeholders?
- Ah! Get engagement first, I should focus on that. Then manage the stakeholders…
The conversations ran out over a year. With his trade mark clarity John brought his direct team on board, then the top hundred. Focusing on engagement with a smaller group and subsequently attending to the stakeholders had the unexpected consequence that John thought more clearly about how to manage them, with progressively great effectiveness and influence.
- The challenge for me was how I could be true to myself in a new situation, to lead in genuinely authentic way. It took me a while to see it, but it made all the difference