10 key takeaways for leading transformational change

May 03, 2024

There are several core ideas that provide the foundation for transformational leadership and culture that can help future-proof financial institutions and other organizations:

1. Articulate a bold vision for change and align stakeholders.

Leaders must paint a clear picture of the desired future state and explain why change is critical. This vision motivates people by defining the transformational purpose. Leaders must align executives, managers and staff around this vision.

2. Model the agility and openness you want the organization to adopt.

Leadership teams should exemplify the behaviors they want the organization to embrace. If leaders cling to legacy models and legacy thinking, others will follow suit. Leaders must be willing to listen, learn and experiment with new ideas and technologies. They must encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration across silos.

3. Build collaborative, empowered teams focused on rapid execution.

Traditional hierarchical structures won't cut it. Leaders must push authority and accountability to cross-functional squads closest to operations. These teams must be trained and incentivized to move fast, ideate, build, test and rapidly iterate based on customer feedback. Rapid experimentation and implementation of new ideas is vital.

4. Celebrate experimentation and intelligent risk-taking.

Transformation necessitates uncertainty and setbacks. Leaders should foster a fail-fast culture where smart experiments are encouraged even if unsuccessful. This builds organizational resilience to keep pressing forward. Leaders must normalize intelligent risk-taking, and pivot quickly based on lessons learned.

5. Focus on continuous, incremental improvements.

Financial institutions, for example, should transition from monolithic projects to agile processes of constant incremental enhancements made smarter by live user data. The mindset should be on releasing and refining digital solutions quickly versus holding out for the perfect end product.

6. Reevaluate core mission and purpose.

Leading transformation gives leaders a chance to reassess the organization's raison d'être. They must redefine the markets, segments and needs the bank will serve going forward based on changing consumer behaviors and market dynamics.

7. Provide opportunities to train and upskill employees.

As job requirements rapidly evolve, leaders must invest in capabilities development through online courses, workshops and stretch assignments. This empowers people to transition to new roles needed in the future.

8. Codify positive cultural changes that emerged during disruption.

Leaders need to study the positive team behaviors and cultural norms that organically emerged during the pandemic and economic crisis, such as flexibility or solidarity, and formalize mechanisms to sustain those attitudes.

9. Address toxic behaviors.

On the flip side, leaders must also confront negative behaviors that are misaligned with desired cultural values. Issues need to be addressed through supportive coaching and clear expectations. Consequences for those unwilling to change may be warranted.

10. Embrace new workplace models.

The intense demands of transformation take a toll on people. Leaders must promote work-life balance, health and personal growth. Flexible work models can also boost engagement and productivity. Investing holistically in employees will yield dividends for the organization.

The world has changed dramatically. Companies need leaders who can steer their organizations through continuous disruption, not by rigidly clinging to the past, but by cultivating nimble cultures focused on progress, innovation and purposeful transformation.

About the Author
Jim Marous, Top 5 Retail Banking Influencer
Jim MarousTop 5 Retail Banking Influencer

Jim Marous is the co-publisher of The Financial Brand, the owner and publisher of the Digital Banking Report and the host of one of the Top 5 banking podcasts, Banking Transformed. As an author and recognized industry futurist and authority on disruption in the financial services industry, Jim has spoken to audiences in over 50 countries on how individuals and organizations must respond to the digital transformation of financial services.

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