These Are the Top Skills You Need to Lead in Times of Continuous Change
In times of digital transformation, change has become a constant. Guiding companies through their business transformation journey, not only requires creating more agile organizational structures and processes, it also demands instilling a cultural change. Business leaders need to transform their organization into an intelligent enterprise, rooted in a corporate culture that thrives on continuous change.
The transformation has to start from the heart of the organization. One of the most striking results in the 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey by PwC was that organizations started turning inward to drive revenue growth in an unpredictable international socio-economic environment. They focus on strengthening the organization’s digital core, closing capabilities gaps and improving organizational efficiencies.
Embracing constant change at work does not happen overnight. It requires shifting mind sets and behavioral patterns. Based on the cultural transformation we implemented at SAP Labs in India to drive innovation global for SAP customers and become the best place to work in India, here are the key leadership skills that helped us succeed.
Practice Active Listening
The number one priority in transformation processes is active listening. Organizational change can be unsettling. A work routine offers predictability. Changing job requirements demand leaving a familiar comfort zone. Listening can help to calm fears, recognize opportunities and embrace a new style of work. While comfort zones can be reassuring, they are also confining and the nemesis of professional growth. I dedicate s time to meet with individual teams to listen to their challenges, insights, goals and ideas. Active listening helps to identify the gaps between where we are and where we want to go as a team. These gaps are opportunities for growth for team members. Active listening helps the team to become comfortable with being uncomfortable as a driver of change and renewal.
Create a Networked Organization
One of top priorities for business transformation is to accelerate the speed of innovation and create a new dynamic within the organization that allows every employee to participate in the innovation process. Similar to the way daily work routines can confine growth opportunities, keeping collaboration within defined organizational structures can also curb innovation capabilities. Approaches like Design Thinking help business leaders create a network organization with the potential to engage employees across the organization for the development of new product and services. A networked organization opens ups opportunities for teams to collaborate beyond the traditional mindsets and organizational boundaries.
According to Prof. Uli Weinberg and Dr. Claudia Nicolai who teach design thinking at the Hasso-Plattner-Institute, “design thinking is creating innovation opportunities (within and across the organization) and is a leading principle of change of transformation. The organizational structure of a network offers new dynamic ways of acting and reacting timely and efficiently — on an intra-organizational as well as on an inter-organizational level.”
Provide a North Star
Leading in an interconnected work environment with flexible processes and fluid teams requires striking a delicate balance between encouraging creativity and maintaining focus. Steering organizations through change is most successful when providing a clear purpose as the north star. It serves as an inspiration and compass for the team. Not having a purpose as the guiding north star can be dire. The Global Leadership Forecast 2018 published by EY, The Conference Board and DDI, concluded that organizations that operated without a purpose-driven culture, or even a purpose statement, financially underperformed the average by 42 percent.
Last but not least, leading through change requires having the trust from the team to take the leap together with you, or as Seth Godin recommends, “earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.”