The first two parts of this blog series dealt with what went wrong when the National Speakers Association announced a name change and re-branding effort at its annual convention on July 2. Today we look at what went right.
- The 41-year old professional association believed that it needed to re-invent itself to remain relevant in a competitive marketplace. The members loyal to the association’s original name felt blindsided by the change and were furious. Likewise, there was considerable pushback from outside the association by those loyal to the work of Michael Hyatt, an author and business building guru who is known for the same brand word that the association chose to use.
- The rationale for action was not adequately conveyed. Association members argued over both the need for change and the appropriateness of the name chosen. Hyatt’s tribe became energized and flooded the social media sites with accusations that the association was attempting to hijack his brand.
- The negative perceptions and publicity quickly spun out of control, and the association went into damage control mode.
You could make the case that this change is eerily similar to the failure of launching New Coke or re-branding of JCPenney. And, you might be correct.
But, a faulty implementation doesn’t necessarily mean that everything was a failure.
Roger Von Oech said, “Truth is all around you. What matters is where you put your focus.”
Here are three important lessons you can take away as you lead transformational change:
- The leadership attempted a bold move. Have you ever noticed how few successful re-branding efforts there have been? One reason is poor implementation. The other equally important reason is that the proposed change lacks the bold vision to differentiate the organization in the marketplace. Target knew it could not win as a just another discount retailer and so it set out to totally transform itself. The same is true of Apple (moving from near bankruptcy to ruling the tech world); Burberry (moving from the preferred attire of many gangs to cool chic worn by young hipsters); and Harley Davidson (moving from unreliable relic to the dependable badge of American muscle). Most organizations make changes around the fringe of their operation and then try to sell it as transformation. The truly courageous ones lay it all one the line in pursuit of the big idea. The implementation problems aside, the National Speakers Association attempted a bold move. That takes courage and vision. Let’s hope that the negative impact of a faulty implementation doesn’t dampen the burning desire to do something special.
- The leadership hung together and showed restraint. You know a change is in danger when any of these three behaviors appear:
- Individual leaders begin to distance themselves from the decision even though they supported it in the beginning.
- The leadership team stops speaking in a united voice and begins to share their individual opinions.
- Leaders respond to criticism with defensiveness rather than honest listening.
The National Speakers Association leadership avoided all three of these potential pitfalls. As a result, the association provided a consistent message and did not fan the flames of discord by pushing back when individuals – many of whom they knew as friends – took to the social media airwaves with negativity. Their performance in this area is an example of how effective leadership teams operate.
- The leadership acted quickly and decisively. Two weeks feels like a life time in the digital world. It is operating at warp speed when a board of directors from a national association – with members across the country – can assess the facts, convene, and make a decision to all of those concerned. On Monday, July 14, less than two weeks from its announcement of the change, the association announced that it had placed its re-branding efforts on hold. It communicated directly with Michael Hyatt, and it communicated how a special advisory committee would work to ensure that the lessons learned from this change effort were not repeated in the future.
Admitting a mistake requires strength when it occurs between individuals. Doing so to a constituency of thousands in the public arena where it can be viewed by millions requires a special level of courage that enhances credibility and engenders trust.
There you have it. Even the best change efforts have some areas where improvement can be made. And in this case, even one that did not go as planned can yield positive examples for making change work.
Let me know how I can help you make change work.