CASE STUDY: 6 Steps for a Leader to Change the Culture of a Team, Remove Roadblocks, Adapt Communication and Improve Processes.
SITUATION: I was asked to consult a recently hired CFO help her team adapt to the significant changes needed to be made in how the team operated. Her team was perceived as not being as effective as they should be. Plus, the organization needed more reporting and more collaboration from her team.
She spent 6 months asking questions and evaluating feedback and was finally ready to unveil her vision and goals for the team to support the organization. Her wonderful presentation explaining her process and detailing her vision was everything you would expect from a true leader. But soon after, she didn’t see any of expected changes. So she started attending some of their meetings, and provided even more direction. Still, she had trouble getting people to engage and respond in the way that she expected. The changes weren’t happening fast enough and she wasn’t getting feedback to help her understand why.
CFO VISION: A finance “organization” that
- Has fewer boundaries and fosters alliances
- Embraces a talent development and succession planning system
- Fosters financial investment which demonstrates return on value and/or investment
- Guides and implements business plans driven by strategic plans and executed with annual budgets
EVALUATION: After meeting with everyone and having them take the Business DNA Natural Discovery personality assessment, the gaps in behavior and communication styles became clear. Addressing them, however, would not be so easy.
The CFO is much like a lot of leaders: a driven Initiator naturally inclined to be Fast-Paced and Spontaneous (see the table below.) She is good at logically focusing on and driving for results. She leads by instinct and quickly adapts in the moment. She prefers spontaneous discussions to talk about what to do in the moment.
Her team of accountants, however, are like many in their field. They’re highly Planned and Anchored (see table below.) Their natural strengths are to be very thorough, detailed, analytical, and consistent. They want specifics on what would be covered in a meeting ahead of time so they can research and properly prepare. They need more concrete information on what is expected, in order to be able to follow the specific steps to meet a goal.
You can probably see the challenge without me telling you. The leader and her team have completely different ways of operating and communicating. They don’t know each other well enough, yet, to trust one another or know how to adapt to each other’s style. And there was no time left to figure it out organically. “Forcing” the team to be like the leader simply wasn’t working, and this left everyone feeling stressed and overworked.
SOLUTION: Although this may seem obvious from a distance, when a person’s behavioral style is acutely ingrained from both a natural and a habitual /learned perspective, it can be incredibly difficult to change. It requires consistent encouragement and mental focus. It’s like being asked to write with our opposite hand. Unless we’re naturally ambidextrous, our writing will not be as good if we don’t intentionally try, and most of us will “absent-mindedly” default to our regular hand.
Key steps for this CFO / Team:
- CFO lead by example in acknowledging different behavioral strengths and styles and attempt to adapt.
– Talk openly about the obvious differences and politely help each member learn how to reciprocate.
- Leader to give more specific, concrete examples of her vision, as in an agenda with pre-set questions, well ahead of meetings and ensure safe environment where questions and follow-up, are warmly welcomed.
- CFO provides more 1:1 time/check in points, or smaller meetings, to glean better information from the team and identify roadblocks.
- Leader to lay out the step-by-step “plan” for change, rather than abruptly making decisions without a chance for the team to absorb and adapt.
- Team to resist the urge to “do nothing different until the detailed steps are clearly articulated”, by asking questions, focusing on what steps they should stop doing / what steps they should start doing. “Plan” for expected changes.
- Hire a mediator to address the gap between the big picture, and the detailed steps to get there with the focus on removing roadblocks and process improvement.
RESULT: Through individual coaching, team sessions and practical suggestions on how to build adapting into their day-to-day lives, the team turned a corner and is operating more efficiently and effectively with less stress. Many of the tangible changes were put into motion and their internal customer survey feedback improved significantly. While it’s a conscientious effort to adapt, with time and practice, it becomes the new second nature.
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