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Change and Leadership --- Key Components of Succes
By Dr. Rick Johnson
Friday, 18th November 2011
More than ever before, 2012 will demand of most companies the ability to achieve measurable results that are specific to profitability, growth, cost containment and operational effectiveness; of course, none of this will be possible without leadership and change.

This challenge of leadership and change will become a common theme in 2012 that will go uncompromised by the potential market gymnastics that we are likely to continue to face. Some industries have shown great success in 2011, industries such as Weapons, Farm Equipment, HVAC, Fluid Power distributors and several others. However, without a doubt, success in 2012 will be directly dependent upon both individual and team performance.

More importantly though, leadership and change will be the driving force that creates both individual and team effectiveness. That driving force is essential at every level in the organization. It doesn’t matter what your position is or what your title is. Leadership does not restrict itself to the caste system of power positions we have come to know.

Leadership can and must be demonstrated throughout the organization. In my years of experience in industry I have met effective leaders at all levels in a company including employees that simply drive a forklift to inside sales people and of course at the CEO level.  That withstanding, I have also seen a lack of leadership at every one of those levels as well.

Are You Prepared?

You need to ask the following questions as you contemplate the future direction of your company:

  • Are your employees doing the right things – for the right reasons?
  • Are theiractions in alignment with the strategy?     
  • Are you doing the right things?
  • Are you functioning like a well-oiled machine?     
  • Do you have a shared future vision – or does it just belong to you?
  • Do you have a focused employee development plan?
  • Can you continue a success momentum?
Leaders lead, they are winners. Challenges faced in 2012 will still be subservient to real solutions developed by real leaders. But, it won’t be about theory; it will be about planning and execution. There is no doubt that 2012 will be about change. That’s a good thing. Change shouldn’t be something that happens to you. Effective leaders know this. Effective leaders create change, instigate change and manage change to their advantage to create success.

Not a Spin Zone

That sounds like a bunch of academic tripe and it would be if it stood by itself but I won’t let it. You see, leadership can only be effective if you build a culture engrained with continuous improvement. Change without process, structure and control in itself can turn into uncontrolled chaos. Effective leaders understand this and indoctrinate change as a living breathing organism and process that needs to be embraced by everyone in a positive sense because it is controlled and managed according to your own strategic initiatives.

Continuous improvement is a hands on endeavor that requires an investment of time, resources, education and training. It simply isn’t a slogan like “Kaizen” or “Do It Right & Do It Right the First Time”. All that sounds good but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t have the horses to win. It doesn’t mean anything if you haven’t built a roadmap to get from here to where you want to go.

Principles of Effective Change Creation

As a leader you must implement change to create continuous improvement. It’s a hands on process. You can’t lead from afar. A former colleague of mine used to always say; “It’s easy to be brave from a distance.”   Arguably that may be one of the truest statements made when it comes to the instigation of change. Change is hard work. It requires process tools that are sensitive to your organizational culture. Consider these principles for managing change:

  • Employees  throughout your organization generally have the talent and the ability to be successful at meeting new challenges to growth and profitability.
  • Employees  understand change that is essential to achieve goals if those goals are clearly stated.
  • Employees gain  increased respect for leaders that become the architects of change. This is especially true if the leader encourages and solicits input from the employees.
  • Leaders must  systematically manage the change they create with fearless abandon demonstrating a purposeful and disciplined approach that engages the  entire organization through active participation in the success process.
  • Employee   ownership of change, the vision – end game and the strategic initiatives is one ingredient that is absolutely essential to success.
Change Can Take on Many Forms

MACHIAVELLI wrote in the forward to “The Prince”;

There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this luke warmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have actual experience of it.”

Organizations change for many reasons. Change can be the result of a crisis like war, a natural disaster or government intervention. Innovation, technology and external market forces can create change. More importantly, change can be driven by the desire to succeed utilizing performance gap analysis, organizational assessment and the plain old motive of profit being the driving force that instigates man to create change.

Effective leaders know that creating and managing change starts with the human side of the equation. Behavioral change becomes a necessity for almost every success initiative employed. This often means more effective coaching, training, skill development, and accountability. Process improvement is often a platform that supports change in the organization. And last but not least, change becomes a meaningful part of organizational structure and culture. This often requires a realignment of reporting relationships and responsibilities.

From an organizational culture perspective, change may demand adjustments to some managerial styles, values and even belief systems to some degree. This is often the most challenging aspect of managing change. The leader may find himself facing the old cliché – “If you can’t change the manager --- change the manager.”

Creating, instigating and managing change takes passion and courage. It’s not for the weak of heart. It is not for those who embrace simple traditional expectations.Effective leaders reach beyond these expectations. They become agents of change. Most companies will thrive on the concept of change, achievement, responsibility and accountability. Make it part of your culture.

Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution’s “Leadership Strategist”, founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage.

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