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Leadership development and driving change in a turnaround.

Management de Transition et retournement d'entreprises

Isabelle Pinquet, Human Resources Manager, Executive Transition Manager and Club Delville member, exposed how she has developed leadership in a turnaround context.

In what context were you responsible for leadership development?

I was HR Director of a French company of 235 people that had been acquired by a Danish industrial group. The primary objective of the takeover, apart from realising the business’s development potential, was to restore the health of its balance sheet. The challenge was clear: to transform a family company into a business unit of a publicly quoted industrial group. A turnaround plan was defined involving streamlined processes and significant organizational changes: a transfer of production, disposal of a non-core business, but also the launch of a new business… To implement this plan, it was essential to develop leadership capabilities internally.

Why was this necessary?

By acting alone without the support of the managers, the Executive Committee would have faced substantial difficulties and numerous roadblocks in driving through the changes that impacted all areas of the company. Moreover in a family company, managers derive their legitimacy from their technical skills but do not exercise a true managerial role, for the simple reason that the real power lies in the hands of the CEO. It was therefore necessary to create agents of change at each level of the hierarchy to explain the changes, win the support of the employees and ensure that the implementation went according to plan. .

What actions did you put in place based on this assessment?

I defined and implemented an HR policy to develop the skills of employees (managerial, commercial and technical) and so strengthen the performance of the company in order to accelerate its recovery. To develop a managerial culture, I put in place annual performance reviews, a training program and monthly meetings with the Executive Committee. The annual review was focused on developing individual performance. I then set up a training plan for twenty managers at all levels of the hierarchy. I chose to do this through coaching, taking into account the different profiles of the managers: management of the field service technicians working remotely, the manager of a team of 15 design technicians in an open plan office, the managers of the production teams working two shifts… I also organized monthly meetings with the Executive Committee to break down the silos between the different departments and sites, especially between commercial, design office, the main plant, systems installation and maintenance. At these meetings, members of the Executive Committee explained the various organizational changes to the managers who were then able to discuss them in an informal and friendly atmosphere.

What were the results?

For the annual reviews, we had a return of 65% the first year, a satisfactory result when you consider that in previous years they only concerned the executives. The managers were pleased with the coaching. Two of them, the industrial site manager and a sales manager even asked for 10 additional sessions.

Why is leadership development important?

Because it ensures that the entire enterprise is mobilised to achieve its objectives, namely the return to a profitable financial situation. Leadership development motivates the employees and increases their performance and that of the company. The larger the company, the less employees tend to know about the overall strategy and, in times of change especially, employees need to know where they are heading and why. Leadership gives meaning to their involvement in and commitment to the change. Leadership gives meaning both at the local level as a subsidiary of a foreign company and also at a global level in positioning the subsidiary within the group. Moreover, leadership development is a recurring theme in all businesses. Young managers today are struggling to find their bearings to exercise a managerial role in a changing world. In addition, in the French culture, managers are not always told what is expected of them. And the further up the hierarchy you go, the more you will have to guess. There is still much to do in leadership development. This will inevitably have an impact on the performance of our businesses in times of crisis.