Based on our years of research into why companies succeed in digital transformation, I cannot stress enough that technology does not make transformations effective — people do. Technology is simply an enabler; every successful transformation begins with its leaders clearly defining what the digital transition means for the organization.
While establishing a data-driven vision, strategy, and priorities, you should gauge each team member’s attitude toward the transformation. This will reveal your team’s adaptability, enthusiasm, and ability to take risks. Conversely, it will also indicate any apprehension, cynicism, and unwillingness to change.
This is a moment of truth for most leaders, and one I have faced myself. Years of shared experiences, loyalties, and associated emotions will undoubtedly surface as you evaluate your teams. Such emotions make it difficult to set aside your feelings and evaluate their capabilities objectively.
Will all your team members make the digital leadership transition? No, but most will.
Testing Comprehension and Acceptance of Change
Formal assessments are necessary to identify potential barriers in change management. While assessments should be unique to every leadership style, in my book Crossing the Digital Faultline, I outline the following six themes that have helped me to evaluate the digital IQ of leadership teams.
How well do you understand digital changes in your industry, company, and individual role?
What changes do you feel are permanent, and what may be short-term trends? What opportunities do you see for innovation, acceleration, and taking the lead in an environment of change?
What are current challenges and gaps relative to where your industry and role are headed?
Vision and Priorities
How do you see your function evolving during the next one-to-three years, as well as its priorities? This is critical to determine whether they have adopted a data-driven approach to leadership.
What support do you need from your peers and the company in developing your vision and executing it successfully?
Allow people to identify their own management style and decision-making process. This requires a self-assessment that will reveal what they still need to learn and grow in the future.
Formally Assessing Each Team Member
You have established the need for change and received the data behind each team member’s willingness to accept that change. The formal assessments will indicate your team members falling into four categories:
Potential Leaders: These people are adaptable and eager. They will drive your success, lead by example, and become your ambassadors for change. Give these leaders more opportunities to succeed and consider their viewpoints. You should also carefully assess their traits, and they should be supported in replicating those traits in their own teams.
Borderline Cases: These team members fall between Potential Leaders and Cynics. They are leaders with great attitudes who lack either expertise or technique. Invest in them. Leaders with the right attitude want to succeed. Given the opportunity, they always learn and adapt to change.
Cynics: These team members are rigid in their thinking. They show a lack of belief and cynicism in their performance, discussions, and team working sessions. Rotate them out of your team. This is an unfortunate but necessary step to take. Rarely do cynical attitudes significantly change for people at advanced stages in their careers.
Unable or Unwilling: These team members will not adapt to change. They may have made the organization successful in the past, but unfortunately, they are now an impediment to the future. Rotate them out of your organization.
The process of calibrating, aligning, and developing your direct reports into effective leaders is a continuing process. Much like business transformation, leadership transformation is iterative.
Once your leaders go through a successful execution cycle, their confidence in their new style and in themselves evolves. From that point on, they will need minimal handholding and will grow independently.
This is what methodical leaders do. They create more leaders in their mold and transform those people into innovative thinkers who mobilize and inspire others into action.