Q: I am accustomed to having a lot of control in my job, calling the shots and setting direction. It ensures that things are done correctly. However, we now have a new CEO who is changing the expectation so that we have more flexibility as a company. I'm not sure I agree with her and am really struggling to adapt. What should I do?
Gena, 48, VP of operations
A: While it may be tough, this could be your chance to stretch yourself as a leader.
Imagine that she is right. What if it will require a flexible new approach for your company to flourish? Envision the outcomes that might result if you were to make dramatic moves forward. Think big, and use your imagination to create a vision, even if you think it's unrealistic. Or, if the CEO has already outlined her vision, bring it to life in your mind.
Then consider the conditions needed for this to occur. If you were starting from scratch, what people, processes and technology would you employ to create the desired outcome?
When you contrast this to the current situation, what differences do you notice? There is likely a substantial gap, which is triggering the CEO's call for change.
In your situation, it sounds like it's not just a matter of changing what you do; it's also about your overall style as a manager. The first thing you need to do is to determine if you are willing to change. In blunt terms, if you disagree with the CEO and are not going along with her program, you are likely on your way out. In that case, take control of your own future and begin to plan your exit strategy.
If you are willing to try a new approach, adaptation is certainly possible.
First, list the leadership characteristics needed to succeed in the new environment. If you don't know, have conversations about it. It will also help you guide your direct reports as they learn to navigate in the new environment.
Then do another gap analysis, this time between the needed traits and your current state. Which characteristics will be the biggest impediments to success? That's where you should focus your first change activities.
For example, perhaps your desire for control shows up in failure to delegate and strict approval processes for all team decisions. Or perhaps it's resistance to change or difficulty accepting other people's ideas. If you start loosening your grip in any of these areas, what's the worst thing that could happen?
There could be errors, but people will learn from them. There could be high-risk decisions that don't work out. Again, the organization can learn, and risk-averse organizations seldom soar. You may also be afraid that it will seem you are not needed. In fact, the most effective leaders empower, and the strength of their teams reflects positively on them.
Now put a plan in place for your top priority item. Include specific steps you will take, a structure for reflecting on progress and ways to acknowledge success. And keep in mind that as you grow, the discomfort of stretching will ease and the benefits will start to show.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes. Submit questions or comments about this column at www.deliverchange.com/coachscorner or email her at email@example.com.