Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Inspiring Fight in Your Execs and Leading Corporate Change

LOS ANGELES – Does every executive at your company feel free to storm into your office and scream at you that you’re making a huge mistake that’s jeopardizing the future of the entire company, no matter what the circumstances?

Are you sure …?

If they don’t, then the CEOs on the 2012 Milken Global Conference panel “Leading Corporate Change” say that you’re just asking for problems down the road — problems that might blow up in your face much worse than you might possibly imagine.

“You want executives storming into your office, that’s how you know when you’ve built a great team,” said Steve Cloobeck, the CEO of Diamond Resorts International.

To get that crucial communication from the trusted members of their team, CEOs have to set the tone themselves to establish the proper feedback loop, said Todd Boehly, the President of Guggenheim Partners.

“If people don’t tell you where the weaknesses are, you can’t fix them,” Boehly said.

However, the “fight for right” culture can’t just stop with the executives – to work, it needs to extend up and down the entire company.

Setting the feedback loop isn’t even the hard part for CEOs, Bombardier CEO Pierre Beaudoin said. Instead, the real challenge is having the perception to peer deep into the ranks of the company’s managers and seeing who among them is suppressing the fight in your front-line employees.

“If a manager yells and screams and says, ‘Don’t come to me with those problems,’ then you’re not going to hear about them,” Beaudoin said.

Corporate Change and Culture: The Dissenters Will Just … Leave

The CEOs on the panel discussed the key steps they took when their company had lost its way or forgotten its mission and for every single one re-establishing the corporate culture and values and making sure the right executive team was in place were major components of an overhaul.

Knowledge Universe CEO Tom Wyatt described how, when he took over as the CEO of Old Navy, the company had forgotten who they served, what the target market was and had even taken the now-infamous fun and quirky spirit out of the stores.

They had to “just get the spirit of the company back,” Wyatt said. To help make that happen, Wyatt helped the company leadership re-define a persona of the company’s target market and establish a new company culture that put the customer first again.

And what did he do with the inevitable dissenters that were left over from the old guard before he took over?

“When the culture gets strong enough, people opt out,” Wyatt said. “That when I was really proud.”

However, Bombardier’s Beaudoin cautioned that it goes both ways – and often the CEO has to force himself to look at his own behavior and bad habits as well.

“Re-capturing your culture … not only is it communicating with your employees, but the leader needs to acknowledge they’ve taken on some bad habits and also address themselves,” Beaudoin said.

Not only that, the CEO also has to push himself to delegate and give the reigns over to the lower ranks.

Top executives have to “enable the employees … give them the tools to go beyond their responsibilities,” Beaudoin said.

Category: Leadership

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About the Author: Vistage Staff

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