In many SME businesses we regularly witness a change management culture that is toxic towards the CEO/business owner. The ramifications for the organisation can be the difference between success and failure of your business, particularly when you need a big staff effort at challenging times. Being honest with yourself, “Is this a problem you are facing today?” Are you that CEO?

When it comes to business communications and change management, it is critical that you need buy-in from your workforce and must begin with the CEO and Board (if you have one) of your company. If the CEO lacks the ability to lead their team through the change management program then the Board has a real problem.

In a world where businesses are regularly being disrupted by new competitors or changes in government legislation much of the change program required has not come about because the CEO has been at fault. Unfortunately, however, if your CEO/business owner has grown up in a work environment of “command and control” management the modern workforce will react badly to this style of leader implementing a change program, particularly if there are many staff from the millennial generation in the team. Regardless of what you as the CEO needs to achieve, it’s simply easier if you have the workforce in your corner.

Indeed, given the power your workforce holds as a result of their responsibilities to deliver great results for your customers, you are not going to achieve any effective change management or improve business communication if your staff opposes it from the outset.

With our business advisory assignments we regularly see well-intentioned strategy workshops where the team is provided with the rationale and preferred outcomes only to see the execution of the change plan fail. Your workforce, if they are smart, will sign off but is this enough?

So let’s look at what it takes to deliver a change management project successfully?

As the CEO you will be judged harshly if you do not walk your own talk. Your staff will take their lead from you and take on the behaviour you exhibit and only pay lip service when it comes to improving employee engagement.  It comes down to walking the talk if you really want your change management project to be deployed successfully.

It is common sense really. Look at the people who are working successfully in the eyes of their peers. These people are productive because they did the right things at the right time and were rewarded for it. As the CEO your people are watching you all the time. So, any staff member wanting to get ahead, will watch what you do and emulate it. If you work late, perhaps, your staff will put in more hours. If you ask for ideas without ridicule, your staff may volunteer some of their thoughts. If you take the blame for a mistake, perhaps they will be more willing to speak up about their own mistakes.

On the other hand, you will cause great damage to the team morale if the staff members are asked to cut back on small expenses whilst you as the CEO take off with your senior team for a team building exercise with spouses to Hawaii for a week. That’s not how you improve employee engagement, business communication, or change management in the business.

Based on our experience working with many SME clients in both private and not for profit organisations the key to successful change management projects starts with an effective CEO leading by example. Your business is a collaborative effort where all members have to believe in the change management project, and indeed will encourage their peers to buy into the success of the project.

No Substitute for Good Communication Skills

As the CEO you need to communicate effectively every day what is working, where the project is up to and to remember to thank the staff regularly for their efforts. You should be a role model of effectiveness and efficiency that your team can emulate. By doing this you will achieve much more effective employee engagement. If you are this CEO, when it’s time for change management, your team will be ready for that transition.

To summarise, as the CEO if you have a genuine and engaging leadership style this will be the most useful tool you have in communicating what kinds of behaviours you want in your team and getting everyone to walk the talk for your next change management project.

If this blog has inspired you to consider using an experienced business advisor to help you build a better workplace culture and to drive successful change projects in your business we would love to talk with you about the steps involved. Let us help you build on your objectives for a more successful and sustainable organisation. Call me on 0401767639 or send an email to Good luck with your next change management project.

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