Adaptive Leadership: What Happens When Priorities Change

Adaptive Leadership: When Priorities Change

As part of our Insights for Change Leaders we invite our readers to shape change management discussions.

Managers and Executives leading people and organisations through change need to know how to adapt to evolving or rapidly changed expectations.

This month, we’re talking about how to adjust to the CEO’s agenda (as in, right now), which has been heavily influenced by the first half of 2019’s focus on data, privacy and trust (or lack thereof).

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Adaptive Leadership: When Priorities Change

Rapidly evolving agendas

Influenced by failures at the highest levels of (formerly) trusted institutions, including banks, airlines, social media platforms, and Government bodies, customers and shareholders have publicly demonstrated their disappointment - toppling Boards, rejecting bonuses and are demanding better regulation and transparency. CEOs are responding, and rapidly have adopted new priorities for 2019 - or added more expectations to already their already full plates of business transformation, CX and data handling agendas.

Our reviews of Forrester, McKinsey & Co and HBR highlight that these challenges are topping the priority list of CEOs at the moment: 

  • ensuring or regaining customer trust

  • data collection/processing and cybersecurity

  • creating a future-fit, resilient workforce

  • enabling decentralised decision making to improve transformation and innovation - without creating a mess.

Is this what you’re experiencing?

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NB: Results from the CEO Priorities survey will be shared via our Twitter, LinkedIn accounts and next month’s Insights for Change Leaders email.

How to Adapt, Quickly

Adjusting to your CEO’s new priorities can be crucial to the success of projects underway or in planning - as well as your perceived success in meeting KPIs.

Schedule time with the CEO to have open conversations about what’s changed and confirm how his/her expectations flow on to you and your role, and what new timelines now apply.

Communicate these expectations and insights from the CEO with Senior Leaders and team members. Find agile staff and early adopters - people who are able to adapt to change more easily. To respond in an effective timeframe, you’ll need to marshal and mobilise people. Keeping new expectations to yourself only makes it more difficult to expect new behaviours of employees.

“In the face of new priorities, communicate widely and clearly,” says Joanna Nelson, Transformation Lead at Leading Edge Global.

“Use a variety of means to ensure your message not only travels - but sinks in. Post a Leadership update to your intranet, follow up emails to teams or departments with short video messages: flag to staff what’s changed, why it’s important to adapt and that change is happening now. Help managers help staff by encouraging them to host discussion forums that allow employees to ask questions - then ensure you take the time to respond to questions that help move the dial”.

Stuck for ideas? Brainstorm and apply creative problem solving techniques to bring fresh eyes to the new challenge. If you’re adapting to new customer and shareholder expectations, be sure to include a representative sample of them in your problem solving, design and testing phases. operations Inspiration can also be found across industries - so look to leaders in their field to see how they’re tackling these priorities.

Collaborate! Changes to brand promises and customer-experience need to be married with corresponding changes across operations. If the CEO’s new agenda stretches your team and current skills, partner with People & Culture on how to rapidly upskill key employees and roll out programs longer term.

Demonstrate iterative progress, widely. This shows your commitment to the new agenda and helps to motivate late adopters who often ‘wait and see’ what’s expected of them, and learn from others before they can support new priorities. Communicate progress alongside any challenges and roadblocks your team is experiencing back to the CEO/ Executive team - providing this feedback loop and adjusting strategies as required is a critical factor in maintaining employee motivation.

Adapting to changed priorities mid way through the year?

Connect with on Twitter or LinkedIn and tell us how you and your organisation are mastering this change. We love to feature and celebrate outstanding efforts.