Strategy changes at global consumer products company had a big impact on not only the organization’s direction, but also its people. Leadership struggled to retain key talent and maintain engagement, as hundreds of positions were eliminated and hundreds of other jobs changed. While the leaders focused on how the changes would affect their team members, they also grappled with questions and confusion about what that the changes meant for them personally.
With a large sales conference coming up, the leaders recognized an opportunity to directly address the change to the entire organization. It felt risky, but the leaders believed it was crucial to start an authentic dialogue in the organization to acknowledge the feelings of loss that came with the change. They also wanted to build engagement and inspire trust in a new, shared vision.
The Boda approach
The Boda Group met with the sales leadership team to understand what they would want from a keynote as team members themselves. What were their own concerns? What questions did they have, and where did they see opportunities? The leader shared that it was essential that the keynote acknowledge the loss, while looking forward with inspiration. Authenticity and transparency were also important to engage the audience and set their sights on the future.
The Boda team then interviewed a dozen people in the organization—from a newly hired salesperson to a seasoned veteran, to a longstanding advisor to the company—to get a broad range of perspectives on the sentiments that were likely to be present in the audience at the conference. The interviews revealed emotions that ranged from excitement about new opportunities and uncertainty about the implications of the change, to anger about friends who had been let go and frustration about how decisions had been made. It was clear that there was a lot of energy and tension in the organization at every level.
The keynote included a customized framework for coping with change designed to help people make sense of their emotions and normalize the process of adapting to change, through the lens of the organization’s specific, real-life situation. The Boda team worked closely with the sales leadership team to fully understand the organizational context, weigh possible approaches, and develop a keynote tailored to the rapidly unfolding situation the organization was facing. The keynote was also coordinated to make sure the content dovetailed with the messages of the other presenters at the conference. The keynote delivered a message that was aligned with what the leaders conveyed to their teams and adapted to reflect changing circumstances right up until the moment that Boda’s presenter took the stage.
The keynote explained how change and transition unfold, and helped people understand and accept their own responses. Attendees heard directly from their leaders how the changes were impacting them. This openness helped team members at all levels identify more strongly with their leaders, connect on a personal level, and recognize that they were not alone in their feelings of loss and confusion. Members of the organization took away a framework and actionable tools they could use to manage their own transition process productively.
Immediate feedback was extremely positive, not just for the Boda presenter, but also for the sales leadership team. The authentic, transparent approach to starting an open dialogue about how the change was impacting everyone at every level of the organization reflected the leaders’ desire to engage, retain, and connect with their people. Months after the conference, many in the sales organization continue to talk about the change model they learned and are using it to navigate the change that continues to unfold.