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Factor Eight: Only 13% of Managers Are Leading Change

by Kevin D. Crone

December 14, 2015

There is no better time to be in the service business in Canada. You should feel that way. Do you?

As a Dale Carnegie business coach, who for many years engaged in helping service firms grow in Canada, I have concluded that organizations don’t change until they perceive they have to change. Usually they don’t know how they really are stacking up because, as long as they are making some money, they rarely want to examine the truth about the above.

Lately, I’ve noticed that managers/partners seem to know how things have changed. For example, clients demand: value, speed, visibility on costs, lower costs and price pressures, measurements on outcomes, aligning the appropriate skills with clients, employing contractors, competition from unique sources. Other changes include: difficulty keeping up with technical changes, young talent leaving, a disengaged employee team, fewer teams, etc. All of these are pain points. Managing and leading effectively can turn pain into gain, but few managers pay enough serious attention to trends and aren’t doing enough to lead the necessary change. This ho-hum, conservative attitude is the norm and it’s glorified internally. Can we really think that we’re in stable times?

Our team has been studying, researching, applying change principles with clients and working through change projects in the real world and we find that about 13% of managers are early adopters. All of this explains why so many companies continue to go to the occasional industry workshop, read the occasional magazine article and apply little, and, without realizing it, are structured to be mediocre. 13%! Can you believe it? One of the biggest factors in preventing a service company from maximizing its potential and reaping the terrific opportunities available in Canada today is only 13% of managers are willing to lead change. Wow. How does that sound?
How about you? Where does your management team fit in? You know that Leadership is required to change the way any organization does things that will ultimately create the revenue, margins, profits and shareholder dividends you want. Are you willing to let important information in and to do something about it?

One of our recent research projects was based on finding out how to grow a business in these unstable times, and it revealed that a new kind of leader is required. And believe me, managers need to be nudged, sometimes startled awake and developed if they are to lead the required changes. If you really want to grow, you need to show that you’re willing to lead and mean it, or staff and customers can tell if you don’t and will give up on you. No wonder talent is so hard to attract and retain. No wonder employee and customer engagement is ridiculously low.

The great news is that the growth opportunity is right there looking at you, and you have strategic strengths, probably a reasonably good willing team but they need a leader. Here is some more research.

We found that there were 7 trends that leaders today must address:

  1. Change Readiness. Leaders need to create the environment where disruptive, productive change is possible. Service firms need to plan for and embrace ongoing people succession and foster an emotional connection in their people that leads to willing co-operation, engagement and change readiness.
  2. Partnering in a Matrix. This requires teams able to collaborate effectively between functional boundaries. Leaders need to form consultative relationships between their team and other teams. Strategic action and quicker response to clients will result.
  3. Virtual Teaming. While more teams are increasingly operating across geographic areas, a leader must lead ways to foster execution and engagement across a virtual environment while assuring that people feel important and part of the team even though they are not physically present.
  4. Non-traditional Selling. With an increase in competition through the decline in barriers to entry into markets, many service firms who previously have not had to “sell” or even use the word, are seeing a need to follow a new go-to market sales strategy and sales process. Client work, sales, and marketing are all going steady. It’s a big change.
  5. Mid-level Leading. Mid-level managers have been forgotten, not many resources have been put into developing them, succession career paths aren’t being utilized and they are taken for granted. Today, there’s a trend to helping mid managers/partners meet the changing expectations and demands of the business. It’s a great untapped and willing resource.
  6. Salesforce Transformation. Since information is so readily available, most firms have less of a need for sales people to provide problem-solving and are instead relying on salespeople who can disrupt client thinking through challenging insights, questions and observations. Making a shift from selling products to providing a serious collaborative partnership is a significant cultural revolution for many companies and leadership is required to make the transformation.
  7. Dealer/Distributor Effectiveness. Leveraging relationships with independent distributors to maximize access to markets has become a norm. These relationships need to be viewed as true partnerships who plan together, and challenge each other appropriately with strategic conversations and genuinely make them feel valued. Those who can do that rather than beat on them find that they have a chaotic, but robust, market opportunity.

So, what is occurring to you? What is possible for you and your team? Are you in the 13%? If not, maybe you are in a slower but still action oriented leader category and at least are willing to do something more than read our research. What are you going to do?

Maybe get a team together to discuss the market and organization and/or take some challenging, comfort zone expanding leadership development program this year. Wake up your opportunity senses and develop your skills.

Next week…. I’ll reveal factor number nine – price pressure (we all hate this one).

Have a great week!

Kevin D. Crone
Dale Carnegie Business Group
(905) 826-7300 / 1-800-361-2032

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