As the CEO of a 14-year-old tech company that has gone through its fair share of change from an early stage start-up to a publicly traded global company, I understand that change is constant. This is particularly true for business leaders because all of us are attempting to drive disruption or protect the status quo.
Some change is “good”, for example additional investment or an acquisition, while other changes, such as people moving on unexpectedly or new regulation, can be more difficult to adapt to. But it’s this – how business leaders adapt and steer their company through uncharted waters – that will make them flourish.
Bring the right people on the journey
One of the biggest challenges for a growing company is that what “worked” yesterday barely works today and will likely fail tomorrow. Businesses must continually adapt to today’s needs, while also future-proofing themselves to meet the demands of the organisation and the industry.
In any fast-paced, high-growth workplace, some early team members will have the skills to rise to the challenge, but it’s usually smart to also hire people who have ‘been there, done that’. This doesn’t mean bringing in fortune tellers – businesses need people with real-world problem-solving experience. This is especially true for leaders who are managing any portion of business operations.
As an example, Volvo recently transformed its hiring practices to help accelerate its business. Having the right people is ultimately the most significant asset for business leaders.
In the early stages of a company’s development, the team is usually very tight-knit. As businesses expand –especially when across geographies and time zones – people can begin to feel disconnected from one another, resulting in silos. No matter how large a company becomes, it’s important to avoid allowing things to become impersonal.
For leadership teams, regular meetings are vital to ensure everyone is clear on overall priorities and issues. Second, make sure the leadership team is visible and available to the entire company. Consider implementing regular all-hands meetings (via video if across geographies) and town hall meetings. And don’t underestimate the importance of pausing to have conversations in the hallway or the kitchen.
People are inherently social and employees need to know what is going on in the company to adequately support its leaders and execute on company goals. On the flip side, leaders need to know the day-to-day challenges their colleagues are facing.
Culture is an agenda item
When a business is moving at the ‘speed of change’, culture is often hit hardest. Losing the culture a business was built on rarely occurs due to intentional action, but far more often from neglect and distraction.
Whatever change your business is facing, consider culture one of the important things that needs to stay at the top of the agenda. If company culture crumbles, businesses leaders will look up from their desks one day and see that even the most loyal employees will no longer be motivated, or worse – not there at all.
Real leaders champion culture and do not isolate themselves from frontline staff. Hosting employee lunches and open forums, encouraging teams and employees to take a break when they need it, and rewarding people for a job well done are ways to make sure culture keeps up in the race to business success.
Change is unarguably a “when, not if” in business. Yes, change can cause sleepless nights for any business leader, but it’s also incredibly important and the foundation of innovation, growth, and opportunities. As leaders, it’s up to us to celebrate change and guide our teams through it.