I have been working with a senior leadership team of a small growing company on making some changes to their leadership styles so that they can lead more effectively and have a more motivated and productive workforce.
Recently the CEO and COO of this company decided that they wanted me to gather some feedback from the senior staff to see how they, as the top leaders of this organization, were doing. They specifically wanted to know how their own leadership styles could be improved. When I set out to gather this feedback from their direct reports, I was consistently met with the same reaction: “We’ve done this before, several years ago, with another consultant”, and “We’ve given feedback before. They won’t do anything with it.”
I was actually a bit surprised because in my dealings with this team and with the CEO and COO, they all seemed very committed to doing whatever was possible to improve the workforce, yet, in the one-on-one conversations with the direct reports to the CEO and COO, the story was a bit different. The perception of the direct reports was that these very seasoned senior leaders were set in their ways, had been successful in their leadership styles and had very distinguished careers. So, why would they want to change? Although I was able to dig down and get to the heart of some of the specific leadership traits that could use improvement, it still begged they question: If feedback has been gathered before and nothing has happened as a result, what would make this time any different?
When I met with the CEO and COO to provide them with the feedback, I shared the perception of their team with them; that this has been done before and nothing seems to change. I asked them about it and they agreed with their team. Feedback had been gathered in the past and no changes had been made because, before there was not any real reason to. And, now there is. Why? Because this company is growing and if they are going to succeed, everyone needs to shift their behaviors to deal with the changing market and the growing organization. Hearing this response made me believe that yes, this time might be different and that perhaps this feedback would be utilized productively. They now have more of a burning platform from which to make the change. However, it did reinforce the notion that there needs to be a commitment to change and to utilizing feedback. Simply gathering it with the idea of using it for “improvement” yet, not ever being fully committed to making any changes can really just be a waste of time.