Blog: The Change Room

Performance Management

The Change Room

Switching a profession in a senior role needs careful introspection on whether one is really prepared for the big change
The Change Room

So you have been offered a new role where you will be responsible for creating change and turning around a business. The board has assured you of their full support, and the promoters have repeatedly told you how much they appreciate and value your experience. You feel that this is an opportunity to show your previous employer what you are made of. You can already see the fame and glory that will be yours once the business turns around. And then you will have earned your moment in time. Correct? Not so fast.

Before you rush off to hand in your papers, just pause and consider the following:

1. Check out the history of the role.

If there have been several past incumbents who have tried and failed, pause and notice the red flag waving for all to see. This doesn’t necessarily mean the role is a no-go, but it does mean you need to investigate deeper.

Ask yourself if you have truly understood the dynamics of the role. Why did the previous incumbents fail? Is the work atmosphere stifling? Are there too few smart people in the company? Can you build a good team here? What support will you get in cleaning up the balance sheet? What about the financial depth of the organization?

See if you can speak with some of these previous incumbents to understand the challenges they faced. Perhaps you do have skills they did not possess. Which would be great. Or is it possible that the expectations from the role are impossible to fulfil? Are you possibly expected to bring about a complete business turnaround in just a few months, with minimal resources?

2. You be the judge: of the promoters and the board.

The promoters/ board have hired you for your abilities. Now it’s your turn to judge theirs. Of course they sound sincere, warm, and helpful. They are wooing you. But it is up to you to find out the truth. Do they abandon people when the going gets tough? Do they have a clear vision for the company? Do they have any idea about the resources this transformation will need? Do their positions flip flop with every change in season? Most importantly- do they truly understand the business?

Do a good reference check on them, just as the head hunter did on you. Speak to anyone you can who has worked with them. Here you have to go beyond peoples words. People at senior levels take great care not to burn bridges, Don’t just focus on what they are saying. Listen to what they are not saying. You are smart. Read between the lines.

3. Do you really know anything about leading big Change?

Sure you have been very successful in your career, why else would they offer you the big job. However have you ever really managed large scale change?

Often overlooked by recruiters, but perhaps most critical is your experience with managing change. It is not enough to know what needs to be done, figuring out how is the tougher question. Have you had previous experience of transforming organizations? Managing change is an art that gets perfected through practice. Match your skills with the needs of the situation. If you are a novice at leading change, think carefully before taking on the responsibility of a major transformation.

If on the other hand you have already had strong experience with leading change, you will understand how to begin this complex process. You will know how to create an agenda, how to enlist supporters, how to deal with resistance, and evenspot signals of trouble or success early on.You will know what to focus on and what to ignore. Your past experience with change will be your life-line.

4. How stubborn are you? Really?

Creating big change requires persistence well beyond most what most people’s temperament will allow. It requires staying motivated day after day when all you see are problems. It means repeating the same message till you (and everyone around you) can say it in your sleep. It means knowing how to create a compelling story and knowing how to re-tell it slightly differently each time- depending on your audience. It means getting up and having faith even when those who recruited you seem worried and your spouse suggests you start looking for a change.

Perhaps many of you will decide that leading big change is not for you. And that is fine. It can be a deeply frustrating experience -unless the situation and you are ready.

For those of you who do decide that the situation is perfect and that you have what it takes- Bravo! All human progress is because of people like you. People who are shrewd enough to know how to work a difficult situation, and stubborn enough to believe that they will succeed where everyone else has failed.

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Topics: Performance Management

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