Ron Ashkenas wrote a fine post titled You Can’t Delegate Change for Bloomberg on the importance of senior leaders during organizational change. It’s worth reading. I don’t agree with his title, since I have seen leaders delegate well. But, I certainly agree with the spirit of the article – and the story he uses is clear and concise.
I love the example Ron uses. I’ve seen those things play out with the similar results.
A couple of years ago, I was part of a number of planning meetings with several clients, and I noticed something. When the most senior leader was present and actively engaged, the quality of the meeting was significantly better. I got interested in what might be unique about what the senior leader brings to the table. So, I conducted a study. Two areas in the study stand out with regard to Ron's point.
One is that leaders of successful changes tended to visibly demonstrate their support for the change from beginning to end. Some did delegate, but that was never seen as them abandoning the project. Obviously, a big difference between that and the leader Ron writes about who continually sent signals that he wasn’t engaged.
Another key thing stood out. The leaders of successful change trusted the people they delegated to. And those lower-level leaders never seemed to feel abandoned or left on their own “to work it out.” They knew their leader had their backs.
The feedback from participants was quite interesting. I compiled the results of the report into a short eBook. If you're interested in reading about it, here is a link:
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