How to Lead Your Organization Through Change in 2016

How to Lead Your Organization Through Change in 2016

As we all settle in to 2016, you may be rolling out new initiatives or policies that are meant to better your organization going forward. Whether it’s a few minor changes or a total reorganization, knowing where to focus your resources to be most effective can be a daunting.

At gothamCulture, we’ve helped our clients plan, implement and measure these kinds of organizational changes for the past ten years. So, we asked our team to share some of their insights and advice for leaders looking for a change in 2016.

Kevin Schneider, Operations Manager

As your organization begins to map or roll out new initiatives for the year, it’s important to consider your role in the success of those initiatives. One method I’ve found to be helpful in doing this is to embrace a “beginner’s mind”.

To embrace a “beginner’s mind” means to be open to new perspectives and to leave your preconceptions behind. Don’t roll your eyes at this year’s strategic plan because last year’s strategic plan didn’t live up to your expectations. Let others chime in more often with suggestions. Before you know it, you’ll be learning new things about yourself and contributing to the positive energy your organization needs in the New Year.

mark-emersonMark Emerson, General Manager

Look back at your financial reporting and see what added value and what didn’t. Was there any information missing that your leadership team needed (or wanted)?

If you have your basics locked down pretty tight, start exploring the next level with forecasting – it is as much of an art as a science but it gives your leadership team even more visibility.

Are you a consultant? Spend some time and do postmortems on closed contracts. Did you underestimate task hours and work for free? Look at contracts that you didn’t win. In most cases, you can get a copy of the winning proposal. See how your competition won the contract. Was it price? Services? Experience?

Use 2016 to learn from last year, expand your brand and get to an even higher level of performance.

shawn-overcastShawn Overcast, Managing Director

Fast. Fasting is commonly known as a voluntary act of abstaining or reducing certain food, drink, or both, for a defined period of time. Let’s get creative and apply that concept to all of the other things we spend our time doing. It’s January, and I’m sure more than one of you is ‘fasting’ by starting a new diet, starting a new workout, watching less TV, imbibing less frequently. Why not apply this to your behaviors and habits that you practice within your organization?

What do you spend time and energy on that you can take a break from?

At the individual level, are there tasks that you do everyday that aren’t having the impact you’re intending? Stop. Just for a bit. Maybe a week, maybe a month. Resist the urge to fill that time with something else. Rather, reallocate toward the other things you’re already focused on. Then, see what happens.

At the team level, are there team norms in place that don’t seem to be helping move you in the direction you want to move? What standing meetings exist on the calendar? What monthly or annual events require the attention of your team? What have people been doing for so long that you just can’t recall why? Stop. Resist the urge to fill that time with other new and improved ‘team events’. Instead, let that time be reallocated to something else for a while. Then, set a date to reflect, collectively, on how that time was used and what impact it has had on the individuals, the team, and potentially the organization.

If you’re responsible for a business unit or company of your own, consider where you spend time and energy internally with your employees, and/or externally with your clients. Pick one behavior, habit, action and stop…just for a bit.

In fasting, it is important to remember that you are still in control. You still have a choice and can always make the decision to start again. But there is so much to be learned in the processes of stopping. It helps us see the other activities with more clarity and attention, because we are distracted by one less thing. It helps us to see what other behaviors or actions are dependent or driven by that one behavior we’re taking a break from. It frees us up to make a change to focus on something we didn’t have room for before.

Fasting gives us the opportunity to see our patterns, behaviors, and habits clearly. When we remove something, even for a brief period of time, our mind/body is not yet used to not having it, and so we still ‘go for it’. But, since we’re in control and telling ourselves we’re not going to this time, we can be reflective instead, and really understand what drives our behaviors. Take advantage of the calendar – the turn of a New Year – and fast.

claire-taylorClaire Taylor, Associate

With so much popular press about workplace culture and employee engagement, it can be confusing to know what to focus on to maintain or improve operations within your organization.

At the end of the day, these articles and success stories that detail what has worked for other organizations in other sectors and organizational climates can distract or obscure what needs to happen in your organization with your people. I think it’s important for us to look us to look to companies like Google, who’ve shown us how we can or take risks and be innovative to make positive changes in this space. However, I think we need to learn more from their reasoning behind changes rather than blindly adopting policies and procedures because another organization found success with them.

So, much like the advice I’d give to anyone trying to make positive change at the personal level in the coming year, to organizations I say, “You do you.” Look to others for inspiration and ideas about what can lead to success, or what might be avoided, but at the end of the day, you need to evaluate your organization, your goals, and your people.

Every organization has different strengths and different priorities, and these should drive your path in 2016 and beyond. Not passing trends in the organizational culture space.

chelsea-weberChelsea Weber, OD Intern

In 2015, Millennials (people born between 1982 and 2000) officially surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation, representing more than a quarter of the nation’s population at 83.1 million individuals (U.S. Census Bureau). Then, through countless articles, internet rants, and awkward conversations at family dinners, the world learned that the generation has a reputation for entitlement, laziness, and flippancy.

We also learned, however, that Millennials are changing the way the world looks at work. Not only are they more inclined to switch jobs often or freelance, but they are also looking for work that has meaning for them…and for the world. In fact, Millennials are the first generation to put these motives in front of making as much money as possible.

As waves of Baby Boomers retire, the Millennial generation is poised to fill in the knowledge and leadership gaps left behind. Companies will have to work to attract the best talent and adjust to work with a generation that offers crazy amounts of creativity and flexibility for a rapidly changing world.

If 2015 was the year of complaining about Millennials, then I say 2016 is the year to embrace them.

pamela-faragoPam Farago, OD Intern

The siren song of the New Year is to create a sweeping resolution aimed at overhauling a fairly large organizational practice. “Change our performance management system!” or “change our company culture!” could be examples of those January rallying cries.

Leaders may have a vision to accomplish these “New Year’s Resolutions”, but vision may not be enough. While they have the best intentions at heart, odds are, such resolutions lack the specificity of incremental steps that ultimately lead to their successful attainment.

Some advice for organizations who need a change and have that big New Year’s Resolution in mind is to balance the big picture with smaller, more specific resolutions that serve as stepping stones. Failing to fulfill a New Year’s Resolution will lead employees to distrust promises and proposed changes that you may make in the future. Through an emphasis on planning and achieving smaller goals on the road towards the bigger goal, that New Year’s Resolution will not only be more likely achieved, but will also build employees’ trust in their leader’s judgment and follow-through.

These employees will thus become more engaged and committed to helping the organization reach its ultimate New Year’s Resolution, and all those other Resolutions to come.

Culture Change is a Complex Process

Make sense of it with actionable advice from experts on the front lines.

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