by tom on October 12th, 2011
At the August 2011 Houston Strategy Forum luncheon – expertly choreographed each month by Ravi Kathuria of Cohegic – John Sheptor, CEO of Imperial Sugar Company, Inc., spoke about strategy and the cultural implications. He talked about how it was critical first to get your strategy implemented and new processes in place that support that strategy in order to reposition the company and to give it a better future. In the case of Imperial, their strategy was to move from being a producer of commodity sugar products to becoming a company whose core business was branded sweeteners. That took them in several new directions and caused several new initiatives to be put in place.
And one of the first steps in the reformulation of their culture was making sure that those people that were on board saw the value and benefit of a new destination. People, presently comfortable in their roles, would want to know “why change?”. So, instead of the classic command and control “this is how it’s going to be and you better get in line”, Sheptor organized and participated in multiple town hall-type meetings that were attended by leadership team members, production floor employees and their supervisors.
Sheptor would spend some time talking about the new direction for the company and why it was important to move away from a commodity-based business that could survive principally by reducing costs and payroll. Following his explanation, he would open up the floor to questions. All of the discussion questions and answers were transcribed and made available to the entire company. One of Sheptor’s very compelling comments that he made in his remarks to us – which reflected his openness to not having all the ideas himself or by his senior leadership team – was that “a complaint is a disguised request.”
What Sheptor most likely realized was the key to leading is to have followers who believe in your mission. In one critical activity that goes a long way to attracting followers to leaders was the leaders willingness to ask “How can I help…What do you need …What gets in the way of you doing your job?” When people understand that the leaders are on their side and when people are willing to make the effort to embrace the new company vision and mission it’s the point where culture and people’s willingness and understanding is really what makes the strategy and process design work.Tags: caring leadership, leadership character