Heading up a business that is going through constant change is exciting. Stressful? Sure. And tiring. When weekends become days to get more stuff done you know you’re in a business that, for good or bad, is a dynamic business. Here, Jon Stubley, VP ANZ, GumGum dives deep into the topic.
I must be addicted to the buzz. I’ve only ever headed up organisations that are going through periods of rapid change.
I’ve headed sales teams for media properties going through periods of extreme innovation; then led the commercial operations at an Internet Radio station, participating in a period of healthy disruption that has completely changed how we consume music.
And now I’m leading the Australian and New Zealand business of GumGum – a company that invented an entirely new form of advertising; in-image advertising.
I took the lead with these organisations because I like building things, and being responsible for something new. I derive genuine intellectual satisfaction from the idea of disruption and innovation.
It is exciting running at 1000 miles per hour in a nascent space, where every day requires the agility to pivot and riposte as new opportunities emerge. At the same time, keeping the team focused, committed, and energised through periods of rapid change requires a different kind of leader.
There are three traits that I believe executives need in particular in order to thrive in these kinds of businesses;
1) Constant and open communication
In a dynamic environment, not every employee is going to be comfortable with every pivot. Communication is important. On the most simple of levels, it is important because it ensures that everyone is aware of what’s going on, and in a dynamic environment, that can change daily.
More importantly, open two-way communication allows employees to voice concerns and get the answers they’re looking for without it becoming a matter for the grape vine which, depending on how concerned employees are, can become a critical drain on morale.
It’s important to be transparent, listen, and show a little vulnerability when it is authentic. Executives at dynamic companies can’t afford to be seen as untrustworthy if they want to align the organisation behind the core vision.
2) Cultural overload
Getting the entire team to feel like a valued member of a team (that they care about) is critical for the success of dynamic organisations. Highly engaged employees that have an emotional investment in the organisation are the ones that will stick with the business through short term challenges, and have faith in the direction that the organisation is moving in the longer term.
Executives in dynamic organisations need to remember that they are asking their staff to sacrifice the security of a job in a safe corporation to try to achieve something wild and special, so they need to make the time to show appreciation for that.
Ramping up team building and cultural activities to make sure staff get to know one another helps as well, as it builds a sense of camaraderie and cohesion within the group.
3) Encourage innovation
A dynamic business is by nature an innovative one, but encouraging individual staff to be innovative is not as easy as it sounds. For employees to feel empowered in being innovative, it’s important that they feel like they have permission to fail, and this is a mindset that businesses in general are not good at.
To shift the attitudes within the business away from one of blame and accountability, it’s important that the consequences of an idea falling flat are not tied to the analysis of the performance of the employee that had the idea. No one in a business will be innovative if they feel that their career development is in jeopardy if the idea falls flat.
Many businesses set aside time for the entire company to have casual brainstorming sessions. Often there’s beer and/or wine involved. Often it’s a Friday afternoon and it’s presented more as a way to unwind from the week than as a venue from which actionable outcomes are expected.
Allowing people to think aloud without expectation often generates the most creative thinking. As an executive, the most difficult task of all is to be open to these ideas when they’re good, even if they’re not something that you’re initially on board with.
Give the team a chance to develop those ideas, and be prepared to adopt them if they turn out to be better than what you had in mind.
A dynamic business environment looks (and can feel) chaotic, and the greatest challenge that any business leader faces in turning these environments into an advantage to the business is not to give in to the chaos.
The executives that thrive in dynamic business environments are the ones that are focused through the flux; they need to have the strength to focus on both the day-to-day challenges and opportunities, as well as the end game for the business.