“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Imagine this scenario if you would, a CEO announces he/she has formulated the new operating strategy for the next three years. The senior team listens. Some intently and others not so intently. Now in this scenario, that we see played out in boardrooms and teams across the world, all have one familiar outcome and that is for many the probability of a successful implementation is somewhere between 10 to 20 per cent.

And why might this be?

Firstly, the strategy lacks genuine consumer insight, understanding of sector and category trends and issues; it misunderstands the capability of its people to implement the strategy and its own cultural DNA; or it simply lacks the capital and economic intensity to make it successful.

The CEO is embarking his or her team on a period of change management and here is where the fun starts.

Each one of these executives sitting at that strategy briefing has a different capability level, however, at a more intrinsic level, each executive also has a different personality, and each attuned to different levels of appetite and capability.

“You can’t strong arm change” – try telling that to the ‘performer’ personality, whose desire for results may well overshadow their empathy and understanding of their own people or peers.

Conversely, security, trust, and harmony in change, may well be the personality driver of another executive. They will perceive very different messages in the strategy and their role to play. (For more information on our personality drivers click here.)

At another level, the breakdown of perceptions at that meeting may well be:

  • 20 per cent of executives love the strategy and will enroll quickly;
  • 20 per cent don’t really understand the inner machinations or the moving parts of the strategy and their role to play;
  • 20 per cent will just “give it a go” because that’s what the boss wants and they want to follow orders;
  • 40 per cent will do their best although they may not believe in it.

And of course, in practice we see the damage a covert ‘blocker’ will do to strategy implementation, the head nodding, smiling assassin, whose own internal response to his or her world being changed triggers off many responses, most of which are not helpful and in some cases influential and entirely corrupting the implementation and culture.

What people do and how they feel are not always consistent, up the ante and and more than likely a person’s true colours will be revealed, sometimes after the damage is done

In looking at the topic of change management I started to read more closely the work of others.

Speaking at the CIO Summit in Perth last year, Diane Dromgold, MD of RNC Global, told attendees that over time, change management had become about acceptance, adoption, and adaption.

“We’ve been doing change management now since the 1980s and frankly, it doesn’t work,” she said.

Dromgold added that when it comes to change management organisations have invented a system based on several assumptions. These include that life is static and organisations can rest when goals are achieved, tools can be developed to manipulate behaviours among groups, and people know how to do their jobs.

I would add that a person’s personality profile can also inhibit their desire for and capacity to change. And of course, flexibility, adaptation, and communication is also key to changing people’s lives and yet the launch and leave syndrome of change is also too common.

Capacity to embrace leadership is a consequence of many factors, not least of all is good leadership, however, to really understand your people’s capacity to change is to really understand your people.

Happy Fit Retailing

Brian Walker

Retail Doctor Group

P.S Our next Fit for Business breakfast, featuring Myer CEO Bernie Brookes, will be held on June 17 and 18. For more information, click here

First published by Inside Retail, April 2014