Too Much Transformation, Not Enough You

Elba Pareja-Gallagher

As a leader attempting to transform your supply chain with the right balance between technology + humanity, it's important to consider how you can empower your team through your leadership. Finance and Strategy expert Elba Pareja-Gallagher, who works for UPS as a Director of Finance in U.S. Domestic Product Performance, weighed in on the topic.

Below is her advice on people-focused management and how you can apply it to your team. 

It seems that everyone is in the middle of a transformation. Departments, processes and systems are changing against the backdrop of the breakneck pace of international commerce.

Often though, the behavioral change — in other words, agility — required from leaders to execute ambitious strategies gets lost.

Instilling agility in teams means leaders must behave differently; they too must reconstruct how they delegate and lead. The good news is that best-in-class leadership isn’t about who you are, it’s about what you do.

As a manager in a large organization undergoing its own transformation, here are some tips for becoming the type of agile leader who can make a real difference.

“Instilling agility in teams means leaders must behave differently; they too must reconstruct how they delegate and lead.”

Let go of command and control

Lately, I’ve turned to guided meditation to deal with stress. Under the tutelage of spiritual guru David Ji, I’ve learned to let go of certain elements of my life. I’d like to challenge senior leaders to channel this same concept and let go of the command-and-control leadership style — it’s simply no longer effective.

There was once a notion that leaders knew all, and altering plans meant failure. Forced cooperation just doesn’t work anymore. Today, it’s those willing to think outside the box who come up with many breakthrough ideas.

So, step No. 1: Let go of command and control. Instead, embrace the tenets of the Agile Manifesto: Value individuals and interaction more than processes and tools, value collaboration more than transactional negotiation, value a working product more than over-planning, value responding to change more than following a plan.

“Forced cooperation just doesn’t work anymore. Today, it’s those willing to think outside the box who come up with many breakthrough ideas.”

Practice the three E’s of fair process

One of my favorite tools in the agile leadership toolbox is from Blue Ocean Strategy. To execute your vision and deliver the successful projects and products you want, bring respect, impartiality and fairness to the workplace.  

If you’re not fair, it can lead to toxic consequences — you don’t value my ideas, I don’t value yours, nor do I trust in or care about the strategic decisions you’ve reached.

Step No. 2: In everything you do, ask yourself: Have I engaged everybody and asked them to weigh in? And this doesn’t mean through the traditional hierarchical structure — have you asked the people on the front lines? Have you explained things clearly and set unmistakable expectations?

Just do it

Remember I said agile leadership isn’t about who you are, it’s about what you do. I recently led a workshop for a group of UPS managers. We used flashcards I created from a Forbes article on agile leadership, which one of my team members discovered and shared with us.

Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Be transparent

Don’t hide information, share information freely and share the whys. What are you working on? What’s going on around you? What’s coming down the pipeline?

2. Check in, don’t check up

Make sure you share context with your team, and then get out of their way. This is all about empowering your team members.

3. Give a lot of feedback

Coach and mentor daily. Encourage constant feedback.

4. Celebrate

Be generous with recognition so people feel the value they bring to the team.

“Whether you’re at the top of the pyramid, at the bottom or somewhere in between, remember that corporate transformations aren’t just about process and system reorganization.”

Don’t forget to transform yourself

Whether you’re at the top of the pyramid, at the bottom or somewhere in between, remember that corporate transformations aren’t just about process and system reorganization.

Transformation requires you to change alongside it — and in a measurable way. How will you begin to act differently? And how will you empower those on your team to make a similar transformation?

This article first appeared on UPS Longitudes.

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