The five C’s of effective change leadership

Capita CFO Patrick Butcher on leading teams in times of change


Listen to the full conversation

When Patrick Butcher first took over the role of CFO at Capita – the UK’s largest business process outsourcing and professional services provider – the company was in dire financial straits. Patrick needed to overhaul the finance system and implement new policies, to change Capita’s standing for the better.

To do this, he needed to make sure that the 250+ finance leaders spread across the business were united behind that goal.

Patrick recently joined us on our podcast – The CFO Playbook – where he talked about how he made this happen by providing people with what he calls the five C’s of effective leadership: context, commitment, clarity, connections, and compassion.

Here’s why the five C’s are important, and how you can use them in your organisation.

Context

To motivate your employees to do good work, you have to let them know why they are doing it.

When Patrick first joined Capita, he spent a lot of time with the finance leadership answering questions such as ‘Why are we transforming Capita?’ and ‘What is our role as a finance team?’

Answering those questions, Patrick says, motivated his team:

‘Unless people understand why they’re doing something, they can never be committed or clear about what it is they’re trying to do.’

So, when you’re trying to implement change in your business, make sure you’re giving the people you’re leading proper context to help them understand what their work is and why it is important.

Commitment

Once your employees have context for why they’re doing something, you need to get them to commit to your vision.

How do you do that? You leave room for conflict.

Patrick has studied many successful businesses, and he found one thing in common with all of them: they engage in internal debate and ideological conflict.

If you give people the opportunity to voice their opinions and even disagree with one another, they are more likely to commit to that project or venture. According to Patrick, ‘Through conflict we can secure commitment.’

In short, to get your employees to commit to your plans, give them the chance to voice their opinions, even if they differ from yours.

Clarity

Clarity follows naturally after context and commitment. However, finance leaders are often tempted to go straight for clarity by issuing goals, targets, rules, and objectives.

Patrick says, ‘Leaders will cascade goals that land on people’s desks and then they have no idea what they’re trying to do. And they definitely won’t be committed.’

By providing context and securing commitment first, Patrick doesn’t have to set objectives – he simply has to measure progress.

‘The magic that happens when people have got context and commitment is that they are more ambitious than you would ever be… because they understand why it’s important, and they’re committed to it.’

Once context and commitment are in place, building a performance management system is key to achieving clarity, because you’re defining what success looks like.

Patrick does this by asking two questions: ‘to whom is the performance relevant?’, and ‘what is important to them?’ He says you need to make sure you don’t base KPIs on what’s important to you – or worse, the data that you’ve got available.

You can only apply relevant KPIs after you learn what is important to which stakeholders.

Connections

If you want people to work well together, they have to be connected to one another. And, as a leader, Patrick believes you can make connections that other people can’t.

You have the ability to connect people who are solving the same problems in different departments, because you’re aware of what different areas of the business are doing, and you can see the big picture.

By doing this, you can speed up learning around your organisation. Patrick says:

‘As finance people, we’re wired to take personal accountability. It’s your accounts, your judgements. That drives us to do too much ourselves. By making connections, you open people’s eyes.’

And that can spark a movement. ‘Once you make connections for your team, they start to realize the power of connections, and they start to make connections within their peer group and for their own people.’

Not only will this help your team work more efficiently, but it will also help create an open, collaborative, and curious culture.

Compassion

In many workplaces, it’s common to strive to keep your nose to the grindstone. But Patrick believes that mindset is set up for burn out, and not sustainable for more than a short period of time.

Instead, he regularly talks to his employees about their life outside of work. He’s even helped some of his employees set boundaries, so they don’t neglect other areas of their life in favour of their jobs. This, he says, is what has kept so many of his employees around long-term.

When you care for your employees, your company will reap the benefits, says Patrick.

‘If you want people to be sustainably productive in the workplace, then they need to be managing their lives in a sustainable way.’

So, check that you’re not asking your employees to sacrifice their personal lives, and you’ll be able to maintain a healthy and productive environment in your organisation.

Affecting change in your business

Implementing change is never easy, no matter what the size or complexity of an organisation.

Use the five C’s – context, commitment, clarity, connections, and compassion – to unite your team behind company goals and move forward.

After all, if you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your business.

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