5 Keys to Leading Change as a New Executive

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New leaders face tremendous opportunities as well as challenges as they work to effect positive change. nFusion CEO John Ellett offers new executives these five keys to leading positive change that attracts people and puts organizations on a path to success.

The most successful marketing leaders have the courage to disrupt the status quo and the passion to make a positive impact.

The Pope’s transition from cardinal to leader of the world’s largest church. Marissa Mayer’s first major decree on working environments. Sharon Rothstein’s new appointment as marketing leader for one of the world’s best-loved brand, Starbucks.

All three new leaders have tremendous opportunities ahead. They also have challenges. The most critical being how they are going to lead change that attracts people — customers, partners, talent, even parishioners — to their organizations.

Whether it’s a new post or a new focus, here are five critical steps to leading change.

#1 – Clarifying Expectations: Great leaders are able to get clarity about the nature of change they are being asked to lead. Is it disruptive and transformational or is it non-disruptive and incremental? Is it expected to happen in a matter of months or over a period of years? They are also able to provide clarity to others about their agendas and their visions for the future. Complex times foster a great deal of uncertainty and the best antidote for uncertainty is clarity.

#2 – Forging Relationships: Change, whether business or societal, cannot happen without the active participation of key constituents. Great executives enroll those constituency leaders early and often. They form bonds and build trust, so when the difficult job of doing things differently begins, critical teams are on board and aligned.

#3 – Defining Strategy: No successful change happens without a clear and compelling strategy that is based on actionable insights. The strategy outlines the choices made between potential alternatives and demonstrates a path for achieving the goals of the organization. It is turned into a plan of action that unifies the activities of the extended team.

#4 – Leading People: Leaders don’t accomplish anything on their own. They must engage the people who actually do the work of the organization. They must be simultaneously inspiring and demanding, creating hope as they create structure. The most critical decision a new leader makes is who will be on his core leadership team, which is why so much attention is placed on the cabinet a new president selects.

Learn how to identify the stars and misfits of your team.

#5 – Measuring Progress: It is important to get frequent measures on how the plan is progressing for two reasons. First it allows the team to celebrate small intermediate point victories and reinforces the commitment to persevere. Second it allows for the inevitable mid-course corrections. Organizations that have the agility to adapt quickly to new information are the ones most likely to win in the long run.

About John Ellett
John Ellett is an expert on how marketing change agents can have an immediate impact on their organizations. Since co-founding nFusion over a decade ago, John’s helped marketers engage customers in innovative ways, and his unique perspective has made him a trusted advisor to marketing executives both on nFusion’s client list and at organizations around the country. He also shares his insights on marketing and marketing leadership at Forbes’ CMO Network and on nFusion’s blog.

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