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Time to Transform: Part 4

Leading Cultural Transformation

Transformation leadership transcends strategic plans and execution. It is a human journey inspiring scores of individuals.

The individual behaviours and capabilities of leaders act as a symphony resonating through your organisation’s cultural landscape.

Influencing the behaviours that spread through your organisation – these echoes and ripples shape the success of your transformation journey.

Creating the Conditions for Successful Change

As transformation leaders, we are tasked with leading from the front, shaping the ambition and purpose for our people and organisations. Research suggests that more than 60% of organisational transformation efforts fail to deliver their desired results and generate true organisation value.

We know leadership demands adaptation through multiple roles, from being an ambassador to a strategist and a steward. Success in these roles requires leveraging the strengths inherent in our natural leadership style.

Transformation efforts often give rise to conditions of ambiguity, time pressures, competing demands and priorities, lack of talent, resources and capabilities that instigate derailing behaviours under periods of heightened stress and pressure.

If unaddressed, the resulting culture and behaviours can derail long-term transformation efforts. 

All transformations – whether implementing systems, redesigning processes, or restructuring – are ultimately about changing culture and behaviours.

Therefore, the task facing transformation leaders is to recognise and pull on the organisational levers that strengthen positive tendencies while combatting negative influences to deliver sustainable change.

We invite you to consider the behaviours inherent across your leadership team and evaluate avenues to shaping and shifting your organisational culture. Helping you to understand and recognise derailing triggers, know your team and how you best work together to remain in harmony. 

Controlling the derailing side of leadership

Insights derived from our work using Hogan assessments with over 12,000 leaders have indicated that more than 40% of leaders score highly across three scales: Bold, Mischievous, and Colourful. The behaviours measured within these scales undoubtedly aid leaders in achieving success. However, under pressure, negative behavioural aspects may begin to emerge. This can result in behaviours with the potential to disenfranchise their people and derail transformation efforts.

To work in harmony, leaders must be acutely aware of both the positive and negative sides of these scales. If unmindful of their negative behaviours, especially when under pressure, they may inadvertently cast a negative shadow over their people – derailing positive behaviours, ways of working, and ultimately, transformation efforts. The following sections of this paper explore some of the questions that leaders should be asking themselves, and the behaviours they should be focusing on to avoid slipping into derailing tendencies. 

From Overbearing to Collaborative Ideation

The tendency to be opinionated and energetic can be inspiring in good times, but during, but during times of pressure, these behaviours have the potential to be overbearing for teams with feedback disregarded and diverse views ignored.

By channelling this energy into fostering an environment of psychological safety, team members will be empowered to share their ideas openly and drive creativity, creating a culture of openness.

  • How can these behaviours be harnessed to encourage active listening and constructive dialogue?
  • How can leaders’ role model collaborative ideation and set examples of open discourse?
  • Do networks within the organisation facilitate a psychologically safe culture?

From Ignoring Criticism to Inclusive Leadership

Unconscious biases that discourage alternative views or challenges in times of stress creates toxic work environments, stifling collaboration and creativity.

Creating an environment of trust and respect, encouraging diverse perspectives and challenges from any level is critical in creating an environment of inclusive leadership.

  • What stories and symbols of inclusivity exist across your organisation?
  • How do leaders across your organisation react when they’re challenged?
  • How do your decision-making processes foster inclusivity?

From Overconfidence to Continuous Improvement

Leader’s confidence is invaluable but can also creep dangerously close to overconfidence during critical periods, leading to ignored evaluations and repetition of avoidable mistakes. 

Data from our risk culture survey in financial services underscores a significant concern, with over 65%4 of staff indicating a perceived lack of accountability. This reflects a culture where feedback, agility and a commitment to improvement are overlooked.

  • Do your existing processes and systems enable reflection and accountability at all levels?
  • How do you champion a culture that views mistakes as opportunities to learn?
  • Do your performance measures capture abilities to improve and grow?

From Impulsive to Inspired

Leaders’ vibrant energy creates an ability to captivate audiences. However, an innate desire for attention and impulsivity can result in a lack of care and disconnect with teams.Notably, our data indicates that leaders in financial services score low (5 out of 9) on social flexibility – suggesting that teams are likely to disengage and disassociate themselves from leadership, particularly in times of challenge.

  • Are you inspiring your teams towards a shared vision and values or dominating the experience?
  • How are you using storytelling abilities to build relationships and a mutual connection?
  • Can the ‘Social’ aspect of ESG, or DEI, be leveraged as a leadership imperative?

From Impatience to Mindful

The pressure to deliver can often result in impatience and anger being projected onto responsible teams, in doing so reducing their autonomy and psychological safety and ultimately hindering productivity and creativity.By cultivating mindfulness, leaders can learn to be present in the moment, listen actively, and respond thoughtfully. This approach fosters a culture of patience and empathy, which not only improves team dynamics but also promotes better decision-making and problem-solving.

  • What tools are offered to your employees to help them develop the skills that support mindfulness?
  • How is mindfulness talked about and recognised throughout your organisation?
  • How do you make sure that you are present in the moment with your teams?

From Indifference to Shared Responsibility

Misplaced apathy and complacency can quickly turn into an attitude of indifference, driving a culture of stagnation and disinterest that stifles creativity and progress. Driving opportunities for collective ownership and accountability will create a sense of shared responsibility, where everyone is invested in the outcomes of the team and organisation, fostering a sense of purpose, and belonging.

  • How often do your leaders actively recognise and celebrate team successes?
  • Do you create opportunities for your team to get involved in projects or work that matters to them?
  • In what ways do you embed and connect purpose and values into your team’s work?

From Undisciplined to Strategic

The ability to mobilise and energise teams is a clear mark of leadership, but momentum doesn’t always ensure success, as teams need to be guided and able to prioritise across competing and evolving corporate initiatives

.High energy leaders may struggle to maintain strategic focus and discipline in their teams, ensuring they stay aligned with transformation efforts. This can have a knock-on effect on resource utilisation, time management while risking over- (or under-) commitment to tasks.

  • How can leaders identify and drive high-impact initiatives that optimise resource allocation?
  • How do individual efforts align with transformation objectives through performance management?
  • Are your leadership development programmes providing the skills needed to help your teams strategically prioritise competing priorities?

From Dominance to Collective Intelligence

The captivating personalities and high energy amongst leaders create confidence in the transformation but this also has the danger of causing leadership to inadvertently dominate thought processes and decision making. This dominance has the potential for creating unintended hierarchal constructs that prevent the integration of diverse perspectives and unlocking the wealth of knowledge held across the team – including that of more knowledgeable members. 

  • Are incentive structures designed to discourage dominating decision making?
  • How can you encourage more challenge and knowledge sharing?
  • How can you remove barriers to collective intelligence across fragmented networks?

From Disengaged to Empowered

Disengagement can be infectious – leaders who are disengaged create demotivating work environments that leads to low productivity and high turnover.

Empowering leadership, on the other hand, involves delegating responsibilities, providing autonomy, and offering support, resources and learning opportunities. This approach fosters a sense of ownership and accountability among team members.

  • How are you maintaining a motivated work environment?
  • How are you advocating empowerment amongst your teams?
  • What learning opportunities exist for growth and development among team members?

Exploring derailers as a lived experience

Having spoken and worked with Financial Services transformational leaders, several derailers resonated with their lived experiences:

  • Acting in self-interest, which bred similar poor behaviours from the team.
  • Having an always on game face, which limits personal connections being formed.
  • Fear of not wanting to hold the mirror up and accept weaknesses / feedback.
  • Fluctuating egos of colleagues, especially when new to role / to an organisation.

Strategies employed to overcome these derailers included:

  • Bringing their team and the organisation on the journey and showing vulnerability along the way.
  • Investing in personal relationships with their teams and critical stakeholders to earn credibility and build trust. It’s broken when the human factor is removed. 
  • Being grounded in the reality we live in and not overpromising / selling unrealistic ambitions.
  • Educating colleagues on the derailers that exist in everyday life and how they are heightened at times of high stress.

A means to overcoming derailers ultimately lends itself to showing vulnerability, investing in personal relationships, and being grounded in the everyday – telling a compelling transformation story that is consistently told and understood across the organisation.Sometimes as leaders, we forget that others are looking up to us, and that we are empowered. We can be decisive, act and drive forward transformational change.

How will you address your derailers? What will you do differently?

 Appendix 1: What do Hogan profiles suggest?

The Mischievous scale concerns seeming bright, impulsive, adventurous, risk seeking, and limit-testing.

The Colourful scale concerns seeming gregarious, fun, entertaining, and enjoying being in the spotlight.

The Bold scale concerns seeming fearless, confident, and self-assured; always expecting to succeed and unable to admit mistakes or learn from experience.

The Reserved scale concerns seeming tough, aloof, remote, and unconcerned with the feelings of others.

The Imaginative scale concerns seeming innovative, creative, possibly eccentric, and sometimes self-absorbed.

The Leisurely scale concerns appearing to be friendly and cooperative, but actually following one’s own agenda and quietly, but stubbornly resisting those of others.

The Dutiful scale concerns being compliant, conforming, and eager to please others.

The Sceptical scale concerns being alert for signs of deceptive behaviour in others and taking action when it is detected.

The Diligent scale concerns being hardworking, detail-oriented, and having high standards of performance for self and others.

The Excitable scale concerns working with passion and enthusiasm, but also being easily frustrated, moody, irritable, and inclined to give up on projects and people.T

he Excitable scale concerns working with passion and enthusiasm, but also being easily frustrated, moody, irritable, and inclined to give up on projects and people.