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Three key lessons when leading through change

Vincent Belliveau

Chief International Officer, Cornerstone

From the financial crisis of 2008, Brexit, COVID and this year the war in Ukraine – the business world has had its fair share of shifting moments during my tenure at Cornerstone.

I’ve learnt that as a business leader during these times, roles and responsibilities need to be navigated cautiously. It takes careful skill and preparation to communicate humbleness without glorifying or glossing over the events or disruption in question, and while no leader ever wants to experience these events first-hand, they do need to be seen as stepping up to the challenge for the sake of the workforce.

Having taken Cornerstone through some of these disruptive events in my tenure as a leader, I’ve encountered many challenges and learnt lessons along the way when it comes to leading through disruption. Here are three key lessons that I’ve learnt along the way:

Taking the high ground

Being seen and heard and keeping communication lines open so that employees and stakeholders feel an element of comfort is crucial. Virtual meetings and communication tools has made this easier than ever to be the visible leader that people want. If an event has a direct impact on your company and your people, it’s vital to keep communication as regular as possible. Depending on the circumstances, daily, weekly, monthly or ad-hoc updates or meetings clearly help to calm anxieties amongst your workforce.

Not all approaches work for all regions

As Cornerstone’s Chief International Officer, I’ve come to learn that not every approach or solution works for every region. Although you want to try and be as common as possible in your strategy and action, following disruption, you also need to be different as needed. This ‘glocal’ approach ensures global effectiveness but with local relevancy and is an effective way to deal with global disruption. But to do this, you need to get the communication pathways among countries in a solid, transparent position. The reason you hire local talent in the first place is so that they can be a part of your global journey, so making sure the decision making happens at a local level is crucial.

Identifying “probortunities”

Most leaders want to be viewed as superheroes with the ability to solve each problem in the blink of an eye, but the reality is that every disruption is unique. Identifying “probortunities” (problems that can be viewed as opportunities) can be helpful in understanding each issue in a crisis and determining the most suitable strategy to address them.

While we cannot predict the next global disruption, I believe we are better prepared as leaders to optimise agility and readiness across people and business. We are more resilient as we’ve learnt and grown from the experiences, we know it’s important to position ourselves front and centre and keep communication open and transparent, and we’ve proven that by adopting a ‘glocal’ approach in navigating disruptions we remain in touch, relevant and on strategy.

Go to our e-book, “Empowering people in the age of agility”, to find out more about how business leaders can turn change into opportunity.

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