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17 examples of core values in small businesses



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What’s your guiding star?

As a small business owner, I disregarded the importance of core values until we made our first hiring mistake.

At the time, we were a close-knit team of four employees. We hired a fifth employee that the team was split on as a candidate. I made the decision to proceed with hiring the candidate anyway because of a gut instinct. Three months later, I had to fire the candidate and another employee to help save and maintain our company culture.

After that experience, we formed core values to avoid future mistakes and base judgments on foundational elements. Five years later, the company experienced a successful acquisition. Establishing core values was one of the reasons why I think we were able to build a company worth acquiring.

Core values help guide the decisions, actions, and behaviors of a company. As workplaces have gone remote, hybrid, or remained in-person, a company’s core values have served as a North Star for employees and executives faced with tough decisions.

But what are some examples of small business core values, and how do they impact a company?

We asked CEOs, founders and company leaders for their best recommendations. From “sisterhood” to “dedication to customers,” these strategies may help you develop or add to your core values.

17 examples of core values in small businesses

  1. Be the human your dog thinks you are.
  2. Strength in numbers.
  3. Go the extra mile.
  4. We believe in family.
  5. Dedication to customers.
  6. Balance.
  7. Confidentiality.
  8. Team members always come first.
  9. Enjoy the ride.
  10. Sisterhood.
  11. We embrace change.
  12. Transparency.
  13. Grit is powered by love.
  14. Radical candor — care personally, challenge directly.
  15. The company wins when the team members win.
  16. Sense of adventure.
  17. Be a radical giver.

Group of CEO images

1. Be the human your dog thinks you are

“Be kind, show care for your colleagues. And even if you’re an expert, give others context, reinforce the positive and help them understand. This ideology helps us create an inclusive environment where our employees are comfortable asking questions, and productivity is heightened as a result.”

— Joe Spector, Dutch

2. Strength in numbers

“Employees wear a lot of hats when working at an early-stage startup. There are always lofty goals and never enough resources to achieve those goals alone or working independently. Strength in numbers — which we define as utilizing all available resources — inspires us to rely on those around us to accomplish our work, together. One example of this is operating in an Agile environment and using Kanban workflows, where a team member can easily jump in on a bottlenecked area to make sure things keep moving.

“There’s a good quote behind the value as well: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ By working together and relying on the creativity of our community, a strength-in-numbers approach enables us to go much further as a company.”

— Adrian James, Terkel

3. Go the extra mile

“To highlight when a team member goes the extra mile for a client or another team member, we share kudos messages in our monthly internal eNewsletter — often in the form of verbatim praise from the client or a direct quote from a colleague. This newsletter goes out to our team across Canada and at our virtual quarterly meetings.

“Since we are mostly remote, it’s important to communicate those successes to the whole team and ensure people know their work is valued. We want to recognize when someone goes out of their way to solve a problem, puts in extra effort, and sees an initiative through beyond the typical amount of work required.”

— Colton De Vos, Resolute Technology Solutions

4. We believe in family

“Since 1977, our business has been owned and operated by commercial finance brokers, who also happen to be family. While there are many challenges to having a family business, there are also many benefits. As a family of commercial finance brokers, we are real people providing real solutions for our customers for generations to come.

“Family-owned businesses have always been the backbone of our economy, and we are proud to be a part of that.”

— Carey Wilbur, Charter Capital

5. Dedication to customers

“We always act in the best interest of the client. We are a customer-centric company and we go above and beyond to make sure that our client strategies and recommendations provide the most value based on their needs. Some companies focus more on sales numbers, but our dedication to our clients has been the hallmark of our success. We take the time necessary to build a rapport and understand our clients’ needs.”

— Chris Abrams, Marcan Insurance

6. Balance

“It’s so hard to choose one core value above the rest, however, our core value of balance is integral to the framework, functioning and philosophy of Miss Details. It permeates every aspect of the work we do, from balancing data and design to create effective sensory branding, to mapping out a marketing strategy fueled by both logic and emotion. Personally and professionally my goal is to have and promote a healthy work-life balance for my team — which is a little more difficult as an entrepreneur!”

— Tanya Gagnon, Miss Details

7. Confidentiality

“When talking to clients about their finances, they want to ensure that they are in a safe space where I will not share their personal information with others. At the onset of the coaching relationship, I guarantee that clients know that their conversations with me are treated confidentially. This lets them know that they can speak freely without holding back on their struggles with their finances or their relationships. Ultimately, clients can talk comfortably and start making strides in accomplishing their future goals.”

— Annette Harris, Harris Financial Coaching

8. Team members always come first

“I run a digital online company using a team of virtual assistants. Keeping employees happy across multiple geographies can always be a challenge. But one core value I use is a quote from Richard Branson which goes: ‘Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.’ This helps keep employees motivated, and improves retention and overall productivity — thus improving the business’s sales and revenue.”

— Mogale Modisane,

9. Enjoy the ride

“I work at an IT solutions company called Electric, and although that product might not sound fun, working here certainly is. One of our core values is to enjoy the ride and I think the company does a great job of promoting it. We’ve done Drag Queen Bingo over Zoom, taken happy hour boat cruises on the Hudson and members of our team even met Dan Levy when he was a keynote speaker at our big annual event. There’s a culture of fun and excitement here and I think it energizes us to perform better and make work more enjoyable.”

— Ryan McSweeney, Electric IT Support

10. Sisterhood

“In a primarily female industry, sisterhood is a company value that keeps our culture supportive and empowering. This value helps share our passions and connects us within the company and to our clients. These deep connections are powerful in maintaining a positive employee experience and an exceptional customer experience.

— Vanessa Molica, The Lash & Sugar Company

11. We embrace change

“If the last decade has shown us anything, it’s that change is occurring faster than ever. To sustain your small business in the long run, it’s crucial that you embrace this change and learn to adapt to it. While many small companies hate change and want ‘business as usual,’ avoiding updates to their processes at every turn or having to pivot, our company embraces it. Learning to love change and embrace it makes us more nimble and flexible. This allows us to more quickly adapt to changing customer preferences and modes of doing business. To me, this core value has been especially pertinent and important during the last two years of the pandemic.”

— John Ross, Test Prep Insight

12. Transparency

“In this remote work environment, it can be easy to hide mistakes or feel the need to cover up why you weren’t at your computer. Fostering transparency as a core value ensures no one tries to cover up their mistakes or feels the need to fib. Being a 100% remote organization, this is something we make sure our team feels confident in from day one.”

— Alison French, Emerged

13. Grit is powered by love

“Being an entrepreneur takes grit. Grit is powered by love. You must love what you are doing or you’ll never ever have the strength to get through the challenges.

“This is our core value that drives everything we do. We work hard to develop recipes, engage with readers and maintain brand awareness, but it would be impossible without genuine love for cooking, interacting online, and having a vision for our brand. It is a grind, but because we love what we do and love our readers, it makes it so much easier to tackle inevitable challenges.”

— Sylvia Fountaine, Feasting at Home

14. Radical candor — care personally, challenge directly

“Radical candor is the idea that you should share opinions directly and openly with your team. With smaller, growing businesses there is not a lot of room to hide your thoughts or feelings, both in the sense of physical space but also in the sense of being able to scale and build effectively. Radical candor forces us to lay all of our cards on the table — even if it may be uncomfortable. It allows us to uncover things that need to improve, small issues that if left untreated will become larger problems at scale. By having your entire team practice radical candor you work together to build a better business and are constructively forced into looking at things from multiple perspectives and be more successful because of it.

— Sam Gallen, collystring

15. The company wins when the team members win

“At Mashman Ventures, one of our core values is to ‘Always chase after your vision.’ Everyone on the team is constantly encouraged to chase after their own goals in business and in life. When the team meets, we ask each other about recent wins at work and beyond to celebrate them. We ask each other if there’s anything we can do to help, offering our expertise to each other. We also emphasize personal growth for everyone on the team.

“Our founder, Isaac Mashman, likes to say that ‘At the center of all achievement is personal growth.’ When everyone on the team is eating well, the company must be doing well. In creating this culture, all of us on the team grow professionally and personally, have a great support system, and the company benefits as a result.”

— Eric Chow, Mashman Ventures

16. Sense of adventure

“My favorite core value is our sense of adventure. It’s what we built our company on, and we still live by it. Successful entrepreneurs don’t wake up one morning and decide to become one. They’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. Don’t be shy if you have a business idea or project; try it. ‘You’ll always miss the shots you didn’t take.’ Without my sense of adventure, I would not be where I am today.”

— Ouriel Lemmel, WinIt

17. Be a radical giver

“On January 1, 2018, I made ‘giving’ my word of the year for 2018, and that decision has had ramifications in my business and ripple effects across the people I serve. My entire team approaches business from the perspective of serving more and giving more value to everyone in our audience. Although it’s not the reason we give, we’ve found that the more we give, the more we get. Giving is no longer my word of the year; it is the essence of my business.”

— Bobby Klinck,

Creating core values for your small business

As you can see from these examples, creating core values for your company can be a fun and incredibly impactful way to shape an organization and guide employees.

A perfect core value aligns with the beliefs of a founder and the employees who work within a company. If everyone can buy-in, understand, and get inspired by a core value, then you know you’ve found a winner.

Use these core value examples to get inspired and create the guiding principles for your small business.

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Want to Succeed as an Entrepreneur? 14 Traits to Cultivate Now




If you had to choose one trait that you believed was the most necessary in order to succeed as an entrepreneur, what would it be and why? How can aspiring entrepreneurs cultivate it?

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at

1. The Ability to Problem-Solve

The one trait I would say is the most important to entrepreneurs is the ability to creatively problem-solve. Sometimes, solutions to business problems aren’t obvious and you have to find an out-of-the-box solution. That can be a real challenge because most people are taught to color within the lines.

Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure

2. Grit

You need courage, resolve and strength of character to withstand the ebbs, flows and failures that lead to successful business. The best way to get this is through experience. I’ve seen a lot of young entrepreneurs with more grit than their older counterparts, especially when they had customer service jobs and worked their way up the ladder to experience different seats in the company.

Givelle Lamano, Oakland DUI Attorneys

3. Flexibility

One of the most essential traits an entrepreneur can possess is flexibility. You need to be able to change your approach in response to market conditions, customer feedback and what any partners or investors want at any given time. Being flexible also means looking at “failure” as a signal to make changes rather than as a permanent obstacle.

Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting

4. Fearlessness

Aspiring entrepreneurs should be fearless. It’s fear that often prevents you from grabbing new opportunities, as new entrepreneurs are unable to decide what’s best for them or how a particular decision would affect them. Well, you won’t know unless you try. So, be quick with your decisions. Preparedness is great and all, but if you’re afraid to make a move, someone else will — and will likely succeed. 

Chris Klosowski, Easy Digital Downloads

Young businessman having a conversation

5. Sociability

To be successful as an entrepreneur, you need to focus on developing your social skills. When you have strong social skills, it becomes easier for you to build strong relationships with your customers, investors or anyone you think is important to your business. Good social skills make you a better communicator and help you make others feel secure so they connect with you on a deeper level.

Andrew Munro, AffiliateWP

6. Determination

One trait you need to succeed as an entrepreneur is determination. You’ll encounter people who don’t like your idea. There will be times when clients or investors reject you. Your first project idea may never see the light of day. You need to have the drive to move past these unfortunate situations if you want to find success.

Daman Jeet Singh, FunnelKit

7. Decisiveness

Decisiveness is the main trait any successful entrepreneur needs to cultivate. From making decisions about the budget or day-to-day communication, maintaining the ability to decide and decide quickly remains imperative. I use mental models like Occam’s razor to run my life. For example, when presented with two options, I choose the simplest and I get a lot of significant work done.

Libby Rothschild, Dietitian Boss

8. A Realistic Mindset

Be realistic! An entrepreneur’s career is full of ups and downs, which are part of the learning process — and that’s a fact. Keeping your feet on the ground will save you much frustration when things don’t go the way you want. Instead, learn your lessons and keep moving. This will also help you to consider and prepare for multiple scenarios while adjusting along the way.

Riccardo Conte, Virtus Flow

9. Moxie

In order to be an entrepreneur, you must have some moxie. Being outspoken, direct, resilient and having the ability to persevere is something that most entrepreneurs have in common. You have moxie if you can get up after failing. Aspiring entrepreneurs can cultivate it by focusing on confidence. Stand up for what you believe in and don’t let others’ opinions or perceptions get in your way.

Jennifer A Barnes, Optima Office, Inc.

Small business planning for growth

10. The Ability to Follow Long-Term Plans

The ability to follow and execute on a long-term plan — meaning multiple years — without being sidetracked by mirages along the way or discouraged by inevitable ups and downs is so important. This requires you to learn multiple skills, including attention to detail, deep work and strategic vision (as opposed to tunnel vision, which trips up many entrepreneurs). 

Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

11. A Willingness to Keep Learning

If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you should have an open mind toward learning. It’s important for you to realize that learning is an ongoing process. It can help you develop new skills that in turn can help you stay ahead of your competitors at all times.

Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

12. A Self-Reflective Mind

One trait that can help aspiring entrepreneurs succeed is self-reflection. Embracing your mistakes and learning from them is the only way an entrepreneur can grow and be better than ever before. However, one can’t cultivate this skill by enrolling in a particular program. You have to have an open mind, give yourself the freedom to make mistakes and foster the courage to learn from them.

Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

13. Resilience

Resilience is one of the most important traits you can develop as an entrepreneur. The journey is going to have high highs and low lows, and it will be your ability to push through and persevere during this time that will be the difference between success and failure. To develop resilience, develop a positive mindset, build a strong support system, understand your purpose and look after yourself.

Zane Stevens, Protea Financial

14. The Ability to Thrive on Ambiguity

The cornerstone of entrepreneurial success is in the ability to accept and thrive on ambiguity. I have found that navigating the unpredictable landscape of business ventures requires you to possess a flexible mindset that can accommodate constant change and capitalize on emerging opportunities. Always stay updated with the latest developments and treat every change as an opportunity to grow.

Vikas Agrawal, Infobrandz

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The Art of Risk-Taking: Lessons from Successful Entrepreneurs



Entrepreneurship is a high-risk endeavor. Starting a new business takes bravery, resilience, and a willingness to accept risks. Many successful entrepreneurs attribute their success to calculated risks and pushing themselves outside their comfort zones.

In this article, we will explore the art of risk-taking and the lessons we can learn from successful entrepreneurs.

1. Understand the Importance of Risk-Taking

Taking risks is an essential component of entrepreneurship. It is tough to develop and produce anything new without taking risks. Risk-taking is necessary for growth and progress, as successful entrepreneurs recognize. They also recognize that not every risk will pay off, but the potential rewards make the effort worthwhile.

2. Do Your Research

Before taking any risks, it is important to do your research. Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of gathering as much information as possible before making a decision. This includes researching the market, competition, and potential customers. By doing your research, you can make informed decisions and minimize your risks.

3. Network Effectively

Networking is an essential part of entrepreneurship. Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of building relationships with potential investors, customers, and other entrepreneurs. They attend events and conferences, participate in industry groups, and use social media to expand their network and create new opportunities.

4. Stay Committed

Entrepreneurship is a long and challenging journey. Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of staying committed to their goals and vision, even when faced with obstacles and setbacks. They stay focused on their end goal and are willing to put in the time and effort necessary to achieve it.

5. Collaborate with Others

Entrepreneurship is often a team effort. Successful entrepreneurs understand the value of collaborating with others and building strong partnerships. They seek out individuals who bring complementary skills and expertise to the table and work together to achieve a shared vision.

Buddy system at office

6. Surround Yourself with Supportive People

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey. It is important to surround yourself with supportive people who believe in you and your vision. Successful entrepreneurs understand the value of having a support system and seek out mentors, advisors, and other entrepreneurs who can offer guidance and encouragement.

7. Set Realistic Goals

Taking risks is essential for entrepreneurship, but it is important to set realistic goals. Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of setting achievable goals and breaking them down into smaller, more manageable steps. By setting realistic goals, entrepreneurs can reduce the risk of failure and stay motivated throughout the journey.

8. Stay Flexible

Entrepreneurship is a constantly evolving journey. Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of staying flexible and adapting to changing circumstances. They are open to new ideas and are willing to pivot when necessary to stay ahead of the curve.

9. Learn from Feedback

Feedback is a valuable tool for entrepreneurs. Successful entrepreneurs seek out feedback from customers, mentors, and advisors and use it to refine their ideas and improve their products or services. They understand that feedback is not a personal attack, but rather an opportunity to grow and improve.

10. Take Care of Yourself

Entrepreneurship can be a stressful and demanding journey. It is important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Successful entrepreneurs prioritize their health and well-being and make time for self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, and spending time with loved ones. By taking care of themselves, entrepreneurs can stay energized and focused throughout their entrepreneurial journey.

Analyzing business startup costs

11. Take Action

Successful entrepreneurs do not let fear hold them back. They take action and move forward, even when they are unsure of the outcome. They understand that taking action is the only way to achieve their goals and make their vision a reality.

12. Take Calculated Risks

While taking risks is important, successful entrepreneurs also know the importance of taking calculated risks. They carefully assess the potential risks and rewards before making a decision, and have a backup plan in case things don’t go as expected.

13. Trust Your Gut

While research is important, successful entrepreneurs also trust their gut instincts. They understand that sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and trust your intuition. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, once said, “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

14. Embrace Failure

Taking risks inevitably leads to failure at times. Successful entrepreneurs understand that failure is not the end, but rather an opportunity to learn and grow. They embrace failure and use it as a chance to improve and refine their ideas.

Entrepreneurial business people


The art of risk-taking is a critical component of entrepreneurship. Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of taking risks, doing their research, trusting their instincts, embracing failure, taking action, and surrounding themselves with supportive people.

Aspiring entrepreneurs can boost their chances of success and make their entrepreneurial aspirations a reality by adhering to these guidelines.

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Running a Business

6 Key Levers of a Successful Organizational Transformation



Disruption used to be an exceptional event that hit an unlucky few companies — think of the likes of Kodak, Polaroid, and Blackberry. But in today’s complex and uncertain world, as we face challenges ranging from climate change to digitization, geopolitics to DEI, organizations must treat transformation as a core capability to master, as opposed to a one-off event.

At the same time, leaders must recognize that transformation is fraught with risk. In 1995, John Kotter found that 70% of organizational transformations fail, and nearly three decades later, not much has changed. Our own research, in which we spoke to more than 900 C-suite managers and more than 1,100 employees who had gone through a corporate transformation, showed similar results: 67% of leaders told us they had experienced at least one underperforming transformation in the last five years.

Considering that organizations will spend billions on transformation initiatives over the next year, a 70% failure rate equates to a significant erosion of value. So, what can leaders do to tilt the odds of success in their favor? To find out, we interviewed 30 leaders of transformations and surveyed more than 2,000 senior leaders and employees in 23 countries and 16 sectors. Half of our respondents had been involved in a successful transformation, while the other half had experienced an unsuccessful transformation.

So what tactics did the leaders of successful transformations use to manage the emotional journey? To find out, we built a model to predict the likelihood that an organization will achieve its transformation KPIs based on the extent to which it exhibited 50 behaviors across 11 areas of the transformation. This model revealed that behaviors in six of these areas consistently improved the odds of transformation success. Organizations that are above average in these areas have a 73% chance of meeting or exceeding their transformation KPIs, compared to only a 28% chance for organizations that are below average. Our research suggests that any organization that can effectively implement these six levers will maximize their chances of success.

Our research also found that a key difference in successful transformations was that leaders embraced their employees’ emotional journey. Fifty-two percent of respondents involved in successful transformations said their organization provided the emotional support they needed during the transformation process “to a significant extent” (as opposed to 27% of respondents who were involved in unsuccessful transformations).

Transformations are extremely difficult on a personal level for everyone involved. In the successes we studied, leaders not only made sure their teams had the processes, resources, and technology they needed — they also built the right emotional conditions. These leaders offered a compelling rationale driving the transformation, and they ensured employees had the emotional support they needed to execute. This meant that when the going inevitably got tough, employees felt appropriately challenged and ultimately energized by the stress.

By contrast, leaders of the unsuccessful transformations didn’t make the same emotional investment. When their teams hit the inevitable challenges, negative emotions spiked, and the team entered a downward spiral. Leaders lost faith and looked to distance themselves from the project, which led employees to do the same.

The Six Key Levers of Transformations

So what tactics did the leaders of successful transformations use to manage the emotional journey? The six levers that maximize the chances of success, according to our research are:

1. Leadership’s own willingness to change

Many people believe that a leader’s job is to look outward and give others guidance, but our research suggests that to help their workforce navigate a transformation, leaders need to look inward first and examine their own relationship with change. “If you are not ready to change yourself, forget about changing your team and your organization,” as Dr. Patrick Liew, executive chairman at GEX Ventures, told us.

In our interviews, leaders spoke of working on their own development, including engaging more with their emotions and becoming accustomed to the discomfort that accompanies personal growth. Leaders needed to “look into a mirror,” as one told us, and realize that they were part of the problem before the shift to a positive trajectory could take place. They needed to remove their own fear before they could help their employees get through this change.

“As someone who was tasked to lead this [transformation], if I’m being honest with you, it was pretty unsettling at the start, because I think by nature most of us like to know the path we’re going on,” as one COO from the automative industry told us. And a senior vice president in the global business services industry described needing to become more vulnerable and honest on their path to self-discovery: “I think I became even more aware of myself, who I am.”

2. A shared vision of success

Creating a unified vision of future success is another all-important foundation point of a transformation. In our research, 50% of respondents involved in successful transformations said the vision energized and inspired them to go the extra mile to a significant extent (as compared 29% of respondents in low-performing transformations).

Employees must understand the urgent need to disrupt the status quo. A compelling “why” can help them navigate the inevitable challenges that will arise during a transformation program. Many of the workers who took our survey said that they “wanted” and “needed” the vision to be communicated clearly. When leaders share a clear vision, the workforce is more likely to get on board. But if people don’t understand the vision or need for transformation, success is hard to achieve.

“It’s not about me telling people ‘This is what’s going to happen,’” as a managing director in the medical device industry told us. “It’s about me creating this shared sense of ownership…and then [coaching] my team on what they need to achieve. We very consciously want our teams to really buy into this is how we, as a collective, want to work.”

3. A culture of trust and psychological safety

Trust and care from leaders can make a difficult transformation more emotionally manageable. At the most basic human level, we all know what it feels like to be seen, listened to, and heard by another person. It can validate our effort, motivate us to work harder, and help assuage emotions like doubt, fear, anger, and sadness. Workers in our study shared that they wanted leaders who were patient and who also had, in the words of one employee, a “calm and teachable spirit.”

In a workplace with a high degree of psychological safety, employees feel confident that they can share their honest opinions and concerns without fear of retribution. When trust and psychological safety are missing, it’s difficult to persuade your workforce to make necessary changes. For example, one senior leader told us that employees at their company were extremely fearful of the transformation and didn’t feel that they could speak up about the problems they saw. Not surprisingly, the transformation did not go well.

4. A process that balances execution and exploration

Transformations obviously need disciplined project management to drive the program forward. But our research showed that leaders of successful transformations created processes that balanced the need to execute with giving employees the freedom to explore, express creativity, and let new ideas emerge. This empowers the workforce to identify solutions or opportunities that better meet the long-term goals of the transformation.

“Innovation requires the right people and processes,” said one respondent to our anonymous survey. “Both are critical to encourage collaboration and experimentation.”

We also found that creating space for small failures can ultimately lead to big success, whereas fear of any failure can lead to missed opportunities. Forty-eight percent of our respondents involved in successful transformations said the process was designed so that failed experimentation would not negatively impact their career or compensation to a significant extent. By contrast, only 29% of respondents in unsuccessful transformations said the same.

5. A recognition that technology carries its own emotional journey

The leaders in our study ranked technology as the biggest challenge they faced in their transformation efforts. There are a lot of emotions to manage when new systems or technology are introduced, from stress over how it works to fear about whether it will cause job loss or slow down the system.

In the underperforming transformations we studied, we saw the narrative shift away from the vision to focus on the technology itself. Whereas in the successful transformations, leaders ensured that technology was seen as the means to achieve the strategic vision. Furthermore, they prioritized quick implementations of new technology — focusing on a minimum viable product rather than perfect implementation. Lastly, they invested resources into skill development to ensure the workforce was ready to create value using the new technology.

“There were kickoff sessions with our senior managers to bring them in at the beginning of the process,” a vice president of a company in the media/advertising industry explained. “These sessions aimed to show them that what was being built was something that they had helped design, rather than something that was presented to them as a fait accompli…This minimized the numbers of active detractors.”

6. A shared sense of ownership over the outcome

In the successful transformations we studied, leaders and employees worked together to co-create an environment where everyone felt a shared sense of ownership over the transformation vision and outcome.

A prime example of this is many companies’ rapid shift to virtual and remote working during the pandemic. Because of the speed and urgency of the change, leaders needed to collaborate closely with the workforce to create new ways of working and be much more responsive to their views on what was or wasn’t going well. This mass co-creation helped build a sense of pride and shared ownership across both leadership and the workforce.

“In a transformation, things pop up all the time,” as Christiane Wijsen, head of corporate strategy at Boehringer Ingelheim, told us. “When you have a movement around you, supporters will buffer it and tweak it each time. When you don’t have this movement, then you’re alone.”

. . .

To conclude, it’s worth reiterating that all transformations are tough. Even during successful programs, there will come a time where people start to feel stressed. The skill at this difficult stage is being able to energize your workforce and turn that heightened pressure into something productive, as opposed to letting the transformation spiral downward into pessimism and underperformance.

What we saw throughout our research is that leaders who are truly working with their employees are much more successful. They acknowledge and manage emotions, rather than pushing them aside or ignoring them. The best leaders create vision across the organization and a safe environment to work together and listen to each other.

“You’ve got to be very, very respectful of people at a working level,” as Thomas Sebastian, CEO of London Market Joint Venture at DXC Technology, told us. “You’ve got to understand the emotional side and consider a completely different perspective, such as how is this transformation going to make their life easier.”

Success begets success. Once a workforce has undergone a successful transformation, they will be ready to go again. And given the pace of change in the world, organizations have got to be ready to go again.


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