November 12, 2018
Lead, Motivate, Inspire
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Have you heard that old piece of advice: "Hire the right people and get out of their way"? My guess is that advice is coming from people who have experience at leading when everything is already set up, running, and working like a well-oiled machine. I’ve seen that advice work successfully in a fully operational and mature company.
If you are managing an organization through growth or change, your effort requires a different strategy than "getting out of the way"!
In this article, I outline the best practices from my experiences at managing two corporate spin-off projects to help you can create a strategy that will work well for your transformational efforts and your spin-off.
I can’t claim to have the perfect answer for every situation because every situation requires a different type of leadership. The strategy I’ve found that worked for my efforts was to first start with a compelling vision.
Many of your employees are going to be afraid of what the new organization will be like, and most will feel like their future is uncertain. To create a calming force for your organization, you must create a compelling future vision of what it will be like when you are the standalone company. You need to embody a level of energy and excitement that is infectious. Establish key messages about how exciting it will be when you all are the leaders of your own organization, creating your own policies, and establishing your own processes and procedures. Frame it as everyone's chance to finally implement all the lessons learned from your collective years of experience at how things can improve! You and your team are going to create an environment where all of you are in charge of your own destiny!
It will help if you do believe this. It is such an exciting time. Building a standalone company and having an opportunity to lead the organization through the effort is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You need to rise to the calling! If you haven't yet caught the independence fever, get an executive coach to work with and get excited. Your energy around this will be apparent to everyone.
Technology people hate meetings. They hate getting out from their desks and going to meetings in person. A lot of them think it’s a waste of time and takes them away from their assignments. There are a few outliers, but this is the consistent culture I’ve seen at every company I have ever worked for.
To effectively lead, inspire, and motivate, you will need to spend a lot of time in front of the entire organization, with mandatory meetings. Yes, mandatory and face-to-face, if possible. If they are not mandatory, people won’t come, and they won’t hear your message. You need everyone on the same page.
I held these types of meetings every week. Sometimes the mandatory meetings were ad-hoc with only a two-hour notice. Don’t be afraid to do this if something significant is going on that you need to communicate. In the initial meeting, talk openly to the organization about its structure and the number of positions you need to add.
Talk about how there is a significant drain when adding so many people to an organization. It’s possible that you will be adding as much as fifty percent growth to the team for almost a year. That level of growth and then the subsequent contraction that occurs at the end of the project is a lot of change. Get in front of your team, talk with them every step of the way, and openly empathize about the drain it takes when bringing on new teammates. This is critical.
Your level of honesty and transparency is so important to getting the organization bought into the vision. I’ve already mentioned that many of them will be having anxiety. They are sitting there waiting to see. To see what the culture is, what you will do, and how this change is going to impact them. The quicker you can give them a vision of what the future is like, instead of letting them create their own visions in their heads, the faster everyone will be working towards that shared vision that you’ve created. I recommend that you include everyone in the organization in these sessions, whether they are an employee, contractor, or service provider. Everyone needs to see where the team is heading and how they fit into that future state.
As you get everyone acquainted with your vision of the future state of the organization, also educate them on the program and the separation plan needed to get there. If you have already identified the leaders of each of the workstreams, then introduce them and let them give updates and share the strategy, key deliverables, timelines, risks, and even issues, in the spirit of ultimate transparency.
I recommend sharing information about the total budget, strategic drivers, and success factors. There might be a reaction here because you do have your partners in the room if you are following my advice about including everyone. I have received feedback at times that you shouldn't share information about the budget with your partners, but I feel this is important to make everyone feel part of the team. They want to be successful too. Giving them transparency is the best way to get everyone vested in the outcome.
You might be a little worried about over-sharing. Obviously, don’t share confidential information, but by showing your people that you trust them, they end up both motivated and inspired.
If we build on this thought of creating trust and inspiring the team, then I want to suggest that you share more than transparency on your vision, the strategy, and your thought process on why you want things done in a certain way. You should consider expressing your insecurities and vulnerabilities. Are there parts of the effort that you are more worried about than others? Why are you concerned?
Ask the team in a collaborative nature for ideas. Let them know that you understand that bringing up ideas in such a large group can be intimidating. Ask them to send you an email or come by your office if they are not comfortable speaking up in a large group. You are not expressing a weakness if you share your concerns with everyone. You are being human in front of your team, and this builds a strong following.
The concept of weekly mandatory meetings is for one purpose only: to consistently reinforce and repeat the strategy, vision, and execution plan. You need to keep everyone focused on where you are going and remind them of the timelines, risks, issues, etc.
There are three critical leadership books that have had an influence on me that reinforce this message. The first is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This book is about much more than getting rich. It is the result of Napoleon Hill interviewing hundreds of the most successful businessmen of the early 20th century over a twenty-year period. From this work, he summarized his findings into a set of principles. You may or may not agree with all of them, but the one message that stuck with me through the years is the power of your mind. You need the desire to succeed, a vision of where you are going, a belief that you will get there, and positive self-talk to convince and motivate yourself when you have moments of doubt. You need a strategy and a plan of how to get there, and you need persistence, constant focus, and the ability to overcome fear or negative beliefs.
The second book is Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins. The message that stuck with me from Tony is that you have to have a vision or a goal in mind. You need to know where you are going. Second, you need a plan. Then you just start taking massive action and see if you are getting the results you want. If yes, great; if not, course correct and try something else. His advice on fast-tracking is to get a model and coach, someone who has done this before, so you can learn from their mistakes.
The more recent book is The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, which is based on the law of attraction. Its overall message is that what you think and feel is what you attract to yourself in your life. Think and believe you can do it, and you will manifest what you are trying to accomplish.
I personally use these approaches to be driven and to lead others. My success strategy calls me to use these same principles to lead organizations and to keep large groups of people consistently focusing their attention on and rallied around the common goal.
Okay, I know this is the same advice as in all the other leadership books, so let this be a reminder. Celebrate successes publicly in front of everyone, praise people when they do an excellent job and when they bring up questions or have the courage to ask questions in front of the group. Have parties, buy ice cream, thank them, appreciate the team, and tell them they are awesome.
his one is more difficult, but if things don’t go well, share that with them too. You want everyone to learn and move on to the next win!
Don’t just celebrate the end. Celebrate all the little steps along the way. This is a marathon. Everyone on the team needs the encouragement. Everyone needs to feel the progress.
The biggest advice is to watch out for the potential of leaders on your team who start to behave as “nervous
You need to create a culture of “What will it Take?”, “What if it were possible?”, and “What could we do?” Create an environment where “There is always a way”!
I hope you see how these lessons can be leveraged for leading any kind of change and I wish you tremendous luck on your journey.
This article is an excerpt from my new book, How to Lead a Corporate Spin-off: The Tech Leaders Survival Guide to a Strategic Divestiture. A valuable topic for all leaders needing to lead, motivate and inspire their organizations and manage them through tremendous organizational change.
Available on Amazon: How to Lead...
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