Time after time, in our interviews with 70 senior MNC leaders across APAC, we heard one shocking statistic. These leaders were facing the challenge of changing their companies or organisations when half of their managers were judged as being ‘not being right’ for the future, unable to adapt.

When we further examined the “half of my team are not right for the future” comments, it seems that we can generalise from the comments made, and place people into roughly three categories of mindset:

  1. Welcoming of change and progress
  2. Not welcoming of change, but will come on the journey if we can wake them up to the need
  3. Will always resist and never truly accept change

First steps, long game

So, with those three categories in mind, the conclusion seems pretty simple, at least on the surface. The work of the leader facing disruptive change is to invest in coaching and re-training of Group 2 and should eject Group 3.  Right? Not quite. Because how do we actually know who fits into Group 2 and who is in Group 3?

You’re not going to find that from any interviews or a CVs. The task is much more subtle: we have to accurately predict the mindset of a person.

Assessment tools are not new, but their relevance and focus are growing exponentially as companies start to look at the mindset above the skill-set.

Assessment tools are just as useful in separating group 2 and 3, as they are in assessing new hires. The new wave of game-based assessment looks to hold some real promise and some of the world’s largest companies are experimenting with these technologies.

When it comes to Group 2, ie those welcoming of change and likely to come on the journey if we can wake them up to the need, neuroscientist Beau Lotto offers some hopeful insights in his book “Deviate”.

He identifies that the resistance to change is unconscious and making instant big leaps in understanding is not possible. Changing the mindset is a step by step process. What seems to be a “eureka” moment, is mostly the last step that opens the door to understanding. Patience and persistence are needed to move the mindset dial.

The wake-up call

Several executives we interviewed told us how their companies have engaged outside consultants to initiate the mindset change journey.

We interviewed one of those consultants, Rik Vera, CEO of Nexxworks.

Nexxworks had taken one of our interviewees, and his global leadership team, on what he described as a wake-up journey. (Rik is also the author of “Managers the day after tomorrow”.)

“We wake them up. They take a trip into the future.”

Rik takes leadership teams on trips to Silicon Valley to visit fast-moving, innovative companies.

“It’s more about the spirit than the actual companies we visit. The first two days is a wake-up call. Ouch. There is anger, argument and/or depression. On day three, they accept and then we have two days to build. 80% of people do get it, but some people just do not want to change. This 20% who resist can kiss their easy life goodbye.”

Decision time

There is some real risk to companies using this approach. “Some come back from San Francisco and quit their jobs because they don’t believe their companies can make the change. We warn companies that they may lose people when they go on one of our trips, it’s both the laggards and those who want to move faster.”

He said that sending the senior leadership team is only half the job. “In most cases, it’s the middle management that faces the biggest change. The top leadership just need a mindset change. We run a middle-management boot camp and interview them at the start and the end, five days later. The difference is mind-blowing.”

In the final chapter of this ‘Leadership, Disrupted’ series, we’ll draw all the threads together. We’ll share the most telling conclusions from listening to how 70 leaders of MNCs in APAC are coping with ever-accelerating change, and plot the way forward for leadership and the talent they depend on.

The Odgers Berndtson LeaderFit™ Model and Profile is designed to identify the leaders able to thrive in a world of disruption, complexity and uncertainty.

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To read further chapters of the ‘Leadership, Disrupted' Report, click below:

Mark Braithwaite

Mark Braithwaite is the Managing Director of Odgers Berndtson in Asia Pacific. Mark has been a search professional for more than 20 years, with his current focus on growing the Odgers Berndtson tea...

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