Leading Change: How Successful CEOs Prioritise Employee Wellbeing, Communication, and Vision


November 21, 2023

Successful organisations can adapt, innovate, and evolve to meet the challenges of a constantly changing world. According to Forbes, 31% of CEOs lose their jobs due to poor management of organisational change. This statistic highlights the crucial role played by CEOs in driving organisational change, and those who do it effectively tend to include these three key elements:

· A clear and inspiring vision

· Effective communication

· Taking care of employee wellbeing

At Quirk, we have worked with some of the most accomplished CEOs across industries. We have witnessed firsthand how these leaders have successfully guided their organisations through transformation.

In this article, we will delve into the top tips from CEOs on managing organisational change, highlighting the crucial factors that contribute to their achievements.

Top Tips from Successful CEOs

Set a Clear and Inspiring Vision

A well-defined vision is the North Star that guides an organisation through change. Successful CEOs are masterful at articulating this vision and instilling it in the hearts and minds of their employees. A clear, actionable, and motivating vision for change is critical in effective change management.

In any organisation, change can be a disruptive and even unsettling process. Employees may feel uncertain, anxious, or resistant to change, so a well-defined vision is pivotal in the change management process. The vision provides a framework for decision-making during the change process. When employees understand the overarching goal, they can make decisions that align with the vision, reducing the need for constant oversight and micromanagement.

CEOs, senior leadership, and management must ensure the vision is clear to everyone. Ambiguity breeds confusion, which can lead to resistance. For example, Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe Systems, transformed from a license sales model to a cloud-based subscription model in 2013. Although revenue shrank 8% in the first year and flatlined in the second, sticking to the clear vision and long-term strategy, Adobe’s recurring revenue reached $6 billion in 2016 and $18 billion today.

Effective Communication

Clear and consistent communication is the linchpin of successful change management. CEOs who excel in this area are adept at keeping their teams informed and engaged. At Quirk, we encourage the team to think in stories, making storytelling a powerful tool for workplace communication. When we share stories, it’s like weaving a web that connects people and ideas. Storytelling is versatile because it allows people to interpret things in their own way. This means it can cater to different learning styles, making it perfect for fostering alignment and making information more accessible to remember. So, it’s not just about words; it’s about creating a meaningful engagement and connection with the story.

In times of change, storytelling is a powerful tool to explore the abstract of the change and put it into a concrete context to explore integration and help people process the change in their own way.

Clear communication and transparency are also essential to managing employee wellbeing. Openness fosters trust and reduces uncertainty. In a survey by Slack, 80% of workers want to know more about how decisions are made in their organisation, and 87% want their future company to be transparent. A more transparent organisation encourages employee feedback, creates a space for dialogue, and addresses concerns. Two-way communication empowers employees and builds ownership of the change.

Involve Your Employees

At Quirk, we use the “Change Teams Concept” to bring together people from different parts of the business, and from all levels of the organisation, affected by a change. They discuss how to tackle the change and form a plan that allows for:

Increased Ownership and Commitment

Employees feel a sense of ownership when actively shaping how to execute the change. This ownership, in turn, leads to higher levels of commitment. Employees are more likely to support and engage in the change when they’ve been part of defining how it will be executed.

Valuable Insights and Expertise

Employees often have valuable insights, expertise, and on-the-ground knowledge about their roles and departments. They can provide practical input on adapting the change to fit specific job requirements, making the implementation smoother and more effective.

Reduced Resistance

Employees are more likely to embrace change when their concerns and ideas are considered. By involving them in the planning and decision-making process, resistance and opposition are minimised, and the change is more likely to be viewed as a collective effort.

All of these points ultimately lead to enhanced employee wellbeing. Change can be stressful, but involving employees can help mitigate the negative impact on their wellbeing. When employees have a voice in implementing changes, they can influence the pace, workload, and adjustments necessary to ensure a more manageable transition.

Set & Celebrate Milestones

Recognising and celebrating achievements along the change journey is essential for maintaining motivation and momentum. In a previous blog, Achieving Small Wins During Times of Change, we discuss this in detail.

Many leaders and teams feel pressure to move on to the next action item quickly. Don’t miss the opportunity to recognise and savour accomplishments along the way — no

matter how small. Celebrating achievements reinforces what is working, strengthens team relationships, and creates positive momentum.

Successful CEOs manage this by acknowledging and rewarding the progress from individual and team efforts, reinforcing the importance of the change. They also highlight and share success stories and the positive impact the change has had on the organisation, all whilst maintaining positivity throughout.

To lead effectively through change, CEOs must prioritise having a clear and inspiring vision, effective communication and employee wellbeing. By following the top tips of successful CEOs, we can learn how to navigate the complex and often tumultuous waters of change, ensuring that our organisations not only survive but thrive in the face of adversity. Remember, change is not just about transforming the organisation; it’s about nurturing the people who make it all possible.

To find out about how Quirk can support your organisation through change, email us at [email protected]

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Quirk Solutions have a reputation for working with large and medium sized businesses across the world to maximise the internal team and empower positive change.