TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP IN A VUCA WORLD
How did my transformation begin?
I had a habit of writing a CV every single year during the initial stages of my career. It was a meticulous process of understanding the evolution of my career in the past 365-days and I would gift that to myself on 25th Dec, my birthday. It wasn’t because I was seeking a jobchange every year. During the years when I felt things hadn’t worked the optimal way, it gave me enough data to have some meaningful conversations with my superiors. On one occasion, when nothing worked even after the awareness and internal conversations, much like everyone else would, I also felt I needed to make some changes. And, it came in the form of a Regional Director’s job based in Nairobi, along with many challenges and opportunities too. While the internal narrative of wanting to move beyond the comfort zone made the decision easy, soon the realization dawned that it was a frightening change. I received a lot of advice, went through many analyses and my mind was telling me to retreat and go back to a ‘familiar’ place. But I took up the offer and everything wasn’t a dream run. This produced self-blame, which is an absolute no for any progress. Each day I had to remind myself of the reason and the purpose. I believed agencies needed to add new skills to lead clients, speak in common vocabulary and also offer accountability rather than just transactional solutions of creating campaigns to seduce customers to buy. I embarked on some real innovations. Though it took time, finally the sheen of the ‘transformation’ was becoming visible when we implemented initiatives like the first-of-its-kind shopper marketing joint agreement with the largest supermarket chain, Nakkumat, way back in 2003.
Did the success make ‘new thinking’ the norm?
Frankly, I felt uncomfortable and strange since this was not the norm as I was still an employee with media planning and buying at the core. Getting sucked into ‘new thinking’ meant the available job universe would be limited since companies intentionally look for non-conformist talent. I knew, I had to tame the dangerous urge of wanting to go back into the mass market, where everyone else belonged and I took on physical activities to challenge myself like running and cycling. From huffing and puffing with barely a kilometre run initially, I ran a half marathon in the first six months and also 100 kilometre of non-stop cycling. The training was rigorous, painful, unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
This mindset allowed me to stop worrying about the job market and even give up a high-profile job to become a job creator instead for non-conformist talent.
How can you sustain transformation?
As I am currently dealing with a new challenge in the personal space, it is my belief that one will never be able to automatically assume the position of ‘transformed’. Transformation is a neverending journey, which enables business leaders reinvent their organizations on a daily basis. But the experiences prepare one with an attitude to just jump with the belief that the wings will be developed on the way.
What practical solutions can be offered from my personal experiences?
Sharing a few points, from my own experiences, for the benefit of those considering any kind of change:
1) You will never easily get to a smooth path, while ups and downs will always be part of the transformation. It is okay to walk a few steps ahead and some behind. Be careful when you take a few steps back to ensure you never get back to where you started. It is like meditation where you cannot force thoughts out, but over a period reduce the number of instances and the time you spend on each.
2) People around you will never understand the flip-flops, but ensure you are never disappointed when you walk backwards. Embrace the steps backwards also as part of the process.
3) Stay committed to the purpose and ensure you never ever give up even if you just couldn’t help getting back to square one. Pick up steam and start the journey all over again.
4) Last but not the least, pick up an exercise regime. A good daily regime will flush out toxins and make you a magnet of positivity.
These insights helped Y&A Transformation create various processes to walk our clients through a transformational journey mixing the familiar and unfamiliar together, showing smaller success and even celebrating the failures. For any transformation to see the light of the day, it has to first begin with YOU.
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