• 29th May 2008 - By proteman

    I know…white water rafting analogies (like sports analogies) are a bit overused in leadership and teamwork training. But I’ve got my own new twist and it’s a personal example: river-boarding (body surfing) down the Class 2 to 4 rapids of the Zambezi River in Africa.

    This is something I did during a pre-midlife crisis in my early 30s. Picture this…ten of us in wetsuits with crash helmets and flippers, on our bellies fighting the rapids on little body boards strapped to our wrists. (I have no idea why I did this.)

    At one turn, we were warned about sunbathing crocodiles watching us from the rocks above the water. At another turn, we were warned to “keep to the left” because of dangerous sharp rocks and an undertow to the right. Did I mention that I’m an awful swimmer?

    It was a great learning experience. I was attempting something that others had done before (I knew it was humanly possible). Yet I was terrified, lacking the proper skill, and unsure of what was in store. I was with a group of strangers and being led by guides I’d just met…but was trusting with my life.

    Sound familiar? Isn’t this how many employees and managers feel during times of change?

    Here’s an example. A client of ours acquired several former competitors in a short period of time. As you can imagine, this was a huge shake-up for the sales organization. Territories were restructured, salesforces were combined and the organization was flattened. Some managers went back into sales – and some managers found themselves leading groups of strangers who used to be their competitors. The acquisitions added product lines, giving the new company a bigger industry footprint and more opportunities. But it significantly changed the sales process, from a simple sale of a few products to a much more strategic, complex sale of integrated solutions.

    Suddenly, leaders and salespeople who’d been successful in the “old” environment found themselves on unfamiliar ground. Many skills that were rewarded and made them successful in the past were less relevant. Potential obstacles lurked like crocodiles around each corner as the organization struggled through the transition stage of change. Everyone plowed ahead, as we did on the rapids, while worrying about what might be around the corner or if success would ever come.

    My next blog posting will deal with the practical elements of managing change, based on a great article I just read from Knowledge.Wharton on why business strategies fail. Not surprisingly, the reason is often poor execution. It was this article that got me thinking about my riverboarding trip and the importance of balancing strategy and execution during turbulent times.

    Copyright 2008. Phyllis Roteman. The Loyalty Group. Sherman Oaks, CA.

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