UK CEO of SYZYGY, Ita Murphy, shares her valuable insight into making effective change happen
What are your key principles for making effective change happen as the CEO?
To create change, any CEO worth their salt will identify and create a purpose and stretching ambition for the company; an ambition which avoids trite clichés such as ‘being number 1 in the market’, and focusses instead on creating an emotional resonance, which inspires both clients and people within the organisation. Our purpose at SYZYGY is to future-proof our client’s business whilst becoming a centre of excellence for data.
Having identified the future direction of the company, effective change requires creating high performing teams; which entails building the confidence of each team member. Empowering individuals to make their own decisions, both good and bad, requires providing total clarity around roles and responsibilities; without which there is chaos and misunderstanding. The hardest part of all, is often not interfering in the devolved decision-making process; sometimes one has to step back and allow people to fail and learn from the experience, both for your own growth as CEO and for the growth of your people.
Change requires bravery, confidence and vulnerability. It takes guts to give honest, straight forward feedback (us Brits tend to avoid confrontation and are much more comfortable being passive/aggressive!). Confidence requires being comfortable not knowing all the answers and asking for help when needed. Demonstrating vulnerability and admitting when you are wrong are very powerful …when used appropriately.
What steps have you taken to build and maintain trust with your employees?
The main tool I use is to speak openly and honestly regarding how I’m feeling about a situation or a person’s performance. I do this in a way where the individual hears the feedback as guidance rather than criticism. I am also quick to admit my own failings. No-one trusts someone who doesn’t take responsibility for the impact they have on others. Trust takes a very long time to build, once you’ve lost someone’s trust, it’s very difficult to re-build.
I work hard at being calm; doing so enables me to think through options and find alternative opportunities which help move the situation forward. I don’t blame people when things go wrong; rather I ask, “what’s the learning here?” …because it’s always there, you just might have to look hard to find it.
Within your career to date, have you experienced any major obstacles to making change happen? If so, how did you overcome these?
Many years back I led a big team, most of whom were TUPED over from the incumbent agency. To say there were significant cultural and behavioural differences didn’t come close! For months I battled on alone tackling bullying and misogynist’s behaviour; fearing asking for help was a sign of weakness; of not coping. Until finally I flopped down in front of my then CEO and yelled, “HELLLP”. What I needed was my boss’s perspective and different approach to cut through and get it sorted. Key learning: know when to ask for help. It’s a sign of confidence, not weakness.
What would your key advice be to other senior leaders wanting to implement change in their business operations today?
Let go of the ego. Accept you don’t have to know all the answers. It’s actually incredibly liberating and empowering for you as CEO and for your team too when you do!
Ask people what they think and then listen; really listen. Your team generally know more than you and will appreciate the opportunity to mentor you.
Want to talk through a change you are currently experiencing? Drop me a line.