The CEO Magazine
Organizations and executives crave predictability and consistency. Bearing the burden of accountability to stockholders and stakeholders, CEOs seek complete visibility to their companies’ operation, performance, and results. This obsession with consistency and predictability is what often keeps organizations from adapting more quickly to the changing environments in the market and to evolving customers’ tastes. In search of the perfect, well-planned strategy, CEOs delay execution and arrive at the finish line (if there ever is one) with a less than relevant performance at best.
As change becomes the new norm in organizations, transformation is no longer an event, it is a new state of being. Transformation is no longer something we do but who we are. And with that realization comes the biggest wake-up call to all CEOs: experimentation and adaptation will replace the tools of consistency and predictability. We live in a brand-new world in which your strategy will not end up where you planned. And it’s not because you failed in execution but because, by the time you get there, market conditions, new technologies, and customer empowerment will require you to move in a different direction.
It is the dawn of a new era of leadership. Fear of failure was always an integral part of the CEO’s management model. Today’s fear is a result of the full acceptance that leaders will not be able to control everything from the top and expect consistency. CEOs will need to incorporate a sense of trust in their employees that they have never had before. In the brave new world where, according to Gartner, 89% of companies will compete and differentiate based on customer experience, you need to accept the fact that your value to customers is no longer the outcome of optimized processes and higher quality products. While those are critical, they are merely table stakes. Your complete value to your customer, the one that will justify higher profits and greater loyalty, will be packaged at the moment of truth by one of your employees. They are the ones who will add the value of a personalized human touch that will elevate your product’s status from a commodity to highly desirable. And here is the harsh reality: there is no amount of money you can pay your employees to smile sincerely. You can pay them to smile but sincerity is their choice, which means your transformation and ability to reach your goals are more dependent on your employees’ choices today than ever before.
Your transformation is simply the outcome of the millions of decisions that your employees make every day. Unlike in days gone by, you can’t control or demand consistency—you need to take the lead and earn it. It is time to shift your culture from one of adherence and blaming processes to a culture of empowerment and choosing to find a creative solution. Yes, you are now dependent on those creative solutions your employees will craft at every interaction with customers. Together, they will form the colorful collage which you will call your value to customers. Different but unified, they will be the foundation for you to achieve your financial goals.
For many, this might be the scariest thought. But a culture of adherence is not suited for today’s customers. It allows employees to hide behind processes, policies, and programs that were not designed to add value to customers. The upside of a culture of empowerment is that when your employees are unified by purpose and change resilience, they can create value and loyalty far beyond any that can be created by traditional consistency.
The secret to transformation is simply letting go and shifting your leadership style from “command and control” to “chief cheerleader.” Your new leadership goal is to communicate and set the North Star. Stop telling them how to get there, and start inspiring them to find their personal way to reach for the stars. It is very tempting to try to control everything. The most successful transformations, however, were the ones led by employees, not CEOs.