Leading effectively and keeping teams engaged amid constant change

As part of the "Is my Mic on?" webinar series, FIU’s Master of Science in Human Resource Management program and Mentoro, a non-profit organization offering free mentorship services to young professionals, hosted an event to discuss how to lead effectively and keep teams engaged amid constant change.

Meet the speakers

Moderator: Sungu Armagan, Associate Teaching Professor, Global Leadership and Management, Florida International University College of Business

Guests

  • Nadine Heubel, CEO, Heinemann Americas Inc. (Mentoro Family)
  • Olivier Rozier, Vice President, Human Resources, Club Med (Mentoro Family)
  • Karen Viera (MSHRM ’09), Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer, Church's Chicken
  • Daniel Zumbrunnen (MSHRM ’06), Vice President, Global Talent Development, NBC Universal

As a result of this conversation, we identified four crucial areas that leaders need to focus on during times of change: communication, vision, cohesiveness and wellness.

Below are valuable takeaways to help leaders navigate through change and challenges in their organizations.

Communication

When creating an organizational or team culture, it's essential to communicate with encouraging feedback. Scheduling regular meetings in each division and department will help:

  • Clarify the emotions around the topic of change. You could exchange personal stories on previous struggles and successes. For example, your personal experience when you took on a new leadership position and the range of emotions and feelings you went through. Helping others identify and acknowledge their feelings (shock, denial, anger, acceptance, hope, etc.) can connect team members on a more personal level and collectively envision the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Keep transparency within your team and other organization’s members.
  • Facilitate the sharing of anonymous feedback from team members on challenges and difficulties. Offering anonymity is an opportunity for a genuine conversation when team members are shying away from being vocal about their feelings.
  • Address the topic of possible downsizing with the "approachable leader" attitude. Leaders might not have an answer to all questions, but they can share the guiding principles that will be the starting point for their decisions and actions.
  • Provide all parties a chance to have free speech and explain the situation well so all parties have a clear understanding.

Nadine Heubel, CEO at Heinemann Americas Inc., shared how her experience transitioning from Germany to Miami helped her connect more with her team. Although being promoted was a huge positive for her, it came with the challenge of leaving her home country and adapting to a new culture. By sharing her personal journey, and how she got through it, her team was able to empathize with her struggles and see that change affects people at all levels in an organization. Showing her vulnerability allowed her to build rapport with colleagues and inspire trust that they could overcome challenges as they arise.

Vision

"We are creative organizations at heart. Give feedback without fear."

- Daniel Zumbrunnen

  • Lessen employee uncertainty by setting specific goals — can be long-term (approximately three years) and short-term (about two months).
  • Present the vision to your team members to help them realize that some of the current challenges have a short-term nature. For example, you could explain (if that is the case) that it is not a matter of "if" the business will return but "when."
  • Be vocal about the company's values, such as valuing and practicing employee safety first
  • Create a culture that takes pride in the uncertainty because we are all a part of this historical moment of the company.
  • If it's an international company, it's important to develop the same attitude across teams, regions and countries. Although spread out throughout different regions, it's essential to share a common understanding of what the goal is.

Heubel’s company was historically a wholesale firm and for the first time, it was decided that the company would enter into the U.S. retail market. She and her team felt they were an integral part of this transformation and that motivated them to push through the unknowns that arose through the process. She remembered unpacking boxes in their first store and the enthusiasm of her colleagues. Standing next to the cashier, seeing firsthand how the sale had been made at the register was an amazing experience for her.

"Every employee should have a guideline and an understanding of what they should be doing. Setting goals and priorities help to keep everyone engaged and stress levels under control."

- Nadine Heubel

Cohesiveness

  • Build a sense of belonging and unity within your team and have a shared vision.
  • Connect the CEO and C-suite executives with all the drivers of change at all levels of the organization. By doing so, senior leaders will have their finger on the pulse in critical factors like organization structure, management, culture and skill gaps.
  • Inspire and motivate teams through a story that transcends individuals and makes all be part of something bigger, like breaking a record or being part of a historical moment.
  • In the case of large international organizations, to lead change effectively, it is essential to have all members across the globe embrace the company's new vision. The education process has to start early to give time for people to think and contribute to the new projects and initiatives. An effective way to achieve this goal is to form cross-functional teams with domestic and international members where all have one goal. This opportunity allows for the creation of a solution that considers different cultures and perspectives.
  • Host celebration events that aren't mandatory to keep teams connected and have fun. Examples are an employee of the month, commemoration celebration, runs or walkathon, etc.
  • Determining priorities to avoid employees getting overwhelmed
  • Focus on timing, don't be obligated to project an idea without the proper planning

Karen Viera was asked to launch the "people’s" brand based on the company's values. Her goal in starting this project was to create something authentic. It took her over a year to collaborate with domestic and international teams, find common values, enable mutual understanding and connection, and unify all employees under one shared identity. In that time, it took courage to not rush the process and to say no to senior leaders when quick fixes were expected.

"Check in with your team, focus on the goals, but remember to have fun!"

- Karen Viera

Wellness

  • Focus on human connection and invest in your team members and their well-being
  • Provide wellness and health resources
  • Figure out through a survey how your employees are doing, their wants and needs.
  • Apply functions offered through the new version of Outlook Calendar to schedule meetings with a 10-minute buffer, allowing people to go to the restroom, get up and stretch, drink water, etc.

With change, we are forced to leave our comfort zone and more than ever our leadership "muscles" will be tested. The upside is that it gives the opportunity for leaders and companies to evolve and emerge even stronger.

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