Direct Marketing Article
Ahead of Change or Behind the Times?
Be a Chief Change Agent
By Charlyne Meinhard
As Chief Executive Officer, you are the starter of change, and the stopper of
change. Nothing significant in your organization happens that you don't
allow, including atrophy. Failure with change is easy. Leading change is
hard. Leading change that works is harder still. Smart CEOs, as Chief Change
Agent, stay ahead of change to set the path that achieves the intended
Since 2009, the U.S. has seen unprecedented releases of CEOs who were held
accountable for failures with change inside their organizations, either by
omission or commission. Why does change cause so many failures?
Easy Failures with Change
Easy Failure #1 Bad Decisions
The CEO who allows the organization to make
flawed strategic decisions destines failure from the get-go. Too easily,
CEOs get sidetracked by complacency, pet projects, executive ego, managing
for outside opinions, or following an unanalyzed industry trend.
Easy Failure #2 Poor Leadership
If half of organizational changes fail due
to bad decisions of WHAT to change, then the other half of failures are
caused by HOW the changes were executed. A bad change process or bad timing
will ruin even good decisions.
Easy Failure #3 Unclear Results
When the CEO hasn't made clear where the
organization needs to go, any path managers and employees choose will get
Easy Failure #4 Unengaged Workforce
Micro-management is the fastest way to
kill employee engagement. When a CEO or top executive over-directs the
organizational change, participation of other levels of employees is quickly
Easy Failure #5 Invisible CEO
Under-involvement of the CEO and top leaders
is equally as damaging as over-involvement. Low CEO commitment or visible
support throughout the change effort is taken as a sure sign that the change
is not important and no one is watching.
CEOs who are ahead of change know how to avoid these failures. Staying ahead
of change is the make-or-break skill for CEOs in the next decade. Here is a
proven strategy for top executives to ensure their organization gets the
desired results from their change efforts, while gaining the involvement and
commitment of their workforce talent throughout. Use these five key actions
to guide your strategy for change:
CEO Change Action #1: Determine the strategic change that's time has
come, the next big thing.
CEOs ahead of change are pushed by urgency while pulled by the future. To
make the right decisions at the right time, decisively, CEOs must consider:
• Information,get the right people in the room
• Strategic thinking,focus on the big picture at this stage
• Risks and opportunities,noodle multiple scenarios
• Unfulfilled customer needs,identify expressed and potential needs
• Leadership courage,have the hutzpah to think differently
CEO Change Action #2: Ensure excellent execution with the right leaders,
planning, resources and accountability.
If choosing the right changes is critical, "how we're going to get there"
becomes equally important. CEOs who are smart about change know the
importance of PPRA:
• People,change leaders have the right competence, connections, and
• Planning,change planning builds in actions, timing and communication
• Resources,success with the change requires adequate funding, technology,
• Accountability,all levels need collaboration, stamina for the change,
CEO Change Action #3: Define high aspirations, make clear the specific
targets and desired results.
The CEO ahead of change breaks the strategies into understandable
challenges, then clarifies the targets for results so everyone can grasp
them. Key success indicators for the change will represent a balance of
• Financial measures
• Customer satisfaction
• Operational efficiencies
• Employee satisfaction
CEO Change Action #4: Require an engaging workforce change process, use or
hire an experienced change agent/strategist.
Top CEOs know that, above all, successful organizational change is a people
process. They know too much is at stake to leave the workforce change
process to amateurs. The many variables involved require a facilitator
experienced in workforce change. If you have that experience inside,
great, assign them full-time to lead the change process. If you don't or
can't do that, you need outside experience (an independent consultant) to
lead the workforce process.
Factors to consider when hiring a change consultant to organize and coach
VPs through the change process are:
• Does your organization have a poor track record with communication?
• Is there rivalry in the mid-and senior-management level?
• Are you dealing with entrenched mindsets and temperamental employees?
• Are there some persistent performance problems in the workforce and
• Are multiple types of change being introduced at the same time?
CEO Change Action #5: Stay highly engaged, personally and visibly.
"Inspect what you expect" holds true here. The CEO's personal presence alone
makes the change not only important, but mandatory if his/her message is
consistently delivered at grassroots and all levels.
What can CEOs do to be "highly engaged" to impact successful change?
• Tell the compelling "change story" at every opportunity
• Establish clear executive sponsorship (if it's not You, then Who?)
• Recognize short-term wins and celebrate successes
• Personally role model desired changes and mobilize senior team to do so
• Provide incentives for reaching high targets of performance
• Listen to employees in focus groups to get their perspective
• Check progress with change leaders frequently
• Hold people accountable for results
CEO, Chief Change Agent
Truth is, bad leaders have given change a bad name in most organizations.
Using the five actions outlined above, you can develop your own strategy for
change as the Chief Change Agent in your organization. You will be able to
lead people to reduce the chaos, confusion, and cynicism that too often
accompany, abort, or annihilate change. Fulfill your powerful change role:
jumpstart your organization to success rather than doom it to failure. When
you set in motion a strategy for change that accelerates involvement and
commitment of the workforce, you gain the satisfaction of seeing the
organization accomplish successful results on top of producing delighted
customers and motivated employees. Isn't that what we're all here for?
About the Author:
Charlyne Meinhard is a speaker, trainer and Chief Results Officer of Next
Level Consulting, a consulting firm specializing in change leadership,
talent development and innovation. With more than 20 years of experience,
Charlyne inspires and teaches managers to lead successful changes in
organizations like Verizon and SunTrust. She is also the author of Change
Agents to the Rescue! and Ahead of Change. To find out more about Charlyne's
speaking and consulting, please visit
Charlyne@NextLevelForYou.com or call 804-382-5054.