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Exploring Change, a springboard for Success in the corporate world…

Learn why what has always been an intrinsic component of leadership is now being finally acknowledged as such

by Evelyne Legaux on 15-11-2023


This article dives into the key attributes that businesses must possess to be resilient & thrive in today’s world. We also look at areas where the change imperative has become compelling for businesses & what that means for leaders.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, only the top 5% of companies in the S&P 500 index are highly performing in terms of customer experience, employee satisfaction & shareholder value. A staggering figure!

So, let’s have a look at what makes the difference between a company built for future  success in our fast-changing world and another promised to failure.


A compelling shift in the drivers of corporate success

To thrive today, companies need to see the world differently and understand how to harness data, new technology & sustainability-driven opportunities. But equally, they must rethink their overall culture, mindset & operations in order to master these key attributes:

  • Vision & purpose à this starts at leadership level. Every single leader should have a clear vision & a definite sense of purpose. They should never lose sight of ‘Why’ they show up at work every morning. In times of disruption or crisis, the ability to refocus on their purpose can be crucial for leaders. As for companies themselves, irrespective of the industry they operate in, their purpose should relate to the delivery of sustainable long-term value.
  • Resilient culture à organizations are only as strong as their internal culture. It is therefore vital for companies to ensure that all employees across the entire organization feel welcome, validated & safe to speak up. The impact of building an inclusive culture where people are trusted for their capabilities & skills and are empowered, is simply huge. Resilient teams & companies are much more powerful at weathering headwinds & overcoming challenges together.
  • Drive for innovation à companies must also encourage employees to leverage their creativity & push boundaries, while deploying adequate new technology at scale to support their business strategy, inclusive of advanced analytics & AI.
  • Dynamic operating model à agility is crucial here to respond to a fast-changing global trade environment combined with newly emerging risks, while enabling speedy business decision-making.


Has ‘business as usual’ become irrelevant?

A key question in the whirlwind of change for business leaders, is: can companies just continue to do what they do the same old ways & expect to thrive or even just survive?

Historically, after a period of disruption or crisis, businesses have been striving to recover & get back to normal conditions of operations.

In times of high uncertainty & volatility however, with new threats & risks to survival – not even growth - constantly emerging, should businesses continue to just aim for normality? Or should they look for new ways of anticipating, preparing for & adapting to change, be it through a new offering, operating model or growth strategy? In other words, is ‘business as usual’ the way to go in today’s world, or has it become a recipe for failure?

The answer to such an existential question is a resounding NO… Businesses have no option but to develop the capability to build resilience instead! Today’s complexity whereby one crisis can have wider ramifications – for example the war in Ukraine that led to a rise in energy prices & food shortages – dictates that companies shift from continuity to smart anticipation & adaptation to new business circumstances.


A blueprint for the Change agenda

Needless to say that the change dimension of the above shifts is massive & multi-faceted.

  • The first area crying for change is mindset. Clearly, having the ability to anticipate & prepare for specific risk areas that may potentially have ramifications or intersections with others, requires new ways of thinking & a multi-dimensional approach to risk. To survive & continue deliver sustainable value in a changing business environment, businesses may indeed need to adapt nothing less than their strategy, operating model & organizational structure. This also involves the need to pay close attention to evolving expectations from employees, customers & other stakeholders.
  • The second change area is innovation & the adoption of new technology. In our digital age, businesses need to focus on leveraging the power of data, not just optimizing process efficiency, and combining it with human judgement, if they are to recognise emerging risks & opportunities alike. Leveraging tools such as scenario planning or indeed risk impact simulation, is also critical for companies to evaluate & strengthen their resilience capabilities.
  • The third change area is people power & rethinking the strategic response to evolving employee expectations. Companies increasingly focus their people strategies on acquiring new technology & data-related skills. While doing so is right to support the future direction of business, the ongoing ‘great resignation’ momentum indicates that employers should also develop a deeper understanding of what TRULY drives people to stay in a role or to leave.

In actual facts, recent surveys have underlined a growing disconnect between C-Suite Executives & the people they serve, in terms of their respective priorities & perceptions of reality on the ground. Truth is the smarter technology becomes the more strategic an asset employees are, hence the imperative for leaders to know how to genuinely connect with them. But in today’s world, human minds are fundamentally distracted, thus creating an emotional distance between people. It is therefore critical for companies to foster a two-way dialogue between leaders & employees, in order to close such a damaging disconnect.

  • The last but not least change area is nurturing leadership. Corporate leaders must understand that, whenever going through a change or transformation journey, people do experience strong & varying emotions, and must create an environment where people feel safe to express those, along with their thoughts & concerns. Likewise, it is essential for leaders to acknowledge & validate those emotions, as opposed to undermining, dismissing or ignoring them. They should provide emotional support to employees who need it, and address the latter’s emotions by demonstrating empathy & building trust, through active non-judgmental listening and an honest & transparent communication strategy. Leaders are also encouraged to demystify emotions by opening up on what they are going through themselves, and showing some vulnerability.


Bottom line is the creation of a nurturing environment where employees are emotionally understood & supported is a key inherent component of leadership, whose importance is now eventually being recognised…


The Change management misconception…

So, change is everywhere these days, and mastering it has never been so trendy indeed...

Change is often presented as a specialty area of expertise requiring specific skills that leaders must tap into whenever a company is operating under unusual circumstances or else is going through a strategic transformation journey of some kind.

Such a thought-process is clearly driven by the tormented landscape of disruptions & rapid evolution that companies are currently being faced with. But, what about the saying ‘The only constant is change’ that keeps widely circulating out there? Is there not a core contradiction here?

To answer this question, one must take a step back & think about daily life in the corporate world: whether it is about increasing sales, reducing costs, implementing new policies, improving processes, etc… every single goal or target that teams keep working towards, involves some kind of change.

Therefore, yes indeed change is embedded in day-to-day corporate life, and managing it is inherent to any leader’s role. As Gary Kaplan said: Change management is management, and management is change management.’

What this means is that it is critical for companies to ensure that all leaders & managers in their organizations understand this, and make the management of change an intrinsic part of their day job. Doing so will significantly enhance their ability to successfully manage it whenever truly deep, broad & wide change is coming their way…


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