When You Bring In Changemakers, Don’t Kill Their Ability to Create Change

 In Strategic Agility

An executive I work with once told me: “We’re pretty good at deciding which companies to acquire and we know how to pay the right price… but we’re not good at integrating. We want them to adopt our systems, and ways of doing things. We make them show up for too many meetings. We insist they use our shared services groups. And before you know it, they’re not moving nearly as fast as they were before. They aren’t acting on what their customers are telling them. In the end, their performance doesn’t even approach our expectations.”

If you bring in top talent—either through acquisition or recruiting—and their performance declines, take a look at whether something in your approach has prevented these individuals from performing as well as they have in the past. The problem may not be with them, but rather with how you manage them.

It seldom makes sense to say, “We want you to continue producing those impressive results, except we want you to do it the way we’ve always done things.”

“The way we have always done things” can have many different meanings. Here are a few examples:

  • You won’t have as much freedom, or authority, as you had before
  • You’ll need to use our systems and/or our vendors
  • We are going to add more levels of approvals
  • Don’t be too aggressive in internal meetings

The most successful and accomplished individuals always want to be growing; this is a big reason why they are successful. It’s a mistake to bring such professionals into your organization unless you have a plan to give them more responsibility than they had in their previous roles.

This doesn’t mean that they will always be easy to deal with, or that they will always be respectful of your existing processes. Changemakers sometimes come across as a bit rough around the edges. It is their lack of comfort with the status quo that sets them apart from other smart individuals. Expect this, and don’t be surprised when it happens.

If you’d like to discuss how to promote faster positive change in your organization, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

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