So far, it seems like one-third of the employees are very excited and saying, “Thank goodness,” she says. They see the world is changing and that the company needs to change with it.
About a third are a little more skeptical; they liked what they were doing and aren’t sure they want to change. The final third are in wait-and-see mode.
“Communication is absolutely key. It sounds trite,” Byham says. “I know as a leader, I’ve been saying this for the 20 years of my career: Communication is key. But now I feel like I’m living it.”
Byham is a big believer in eyeball-to-eyeball communication to make sure you’re being understood.
In December, for example, she went to China to talk about the new strategies and transformations. The people there were wondering how the new strategies were relevant to them.
“To me, it was a no brainer, but they somehow hadn’t made the translation themselves,” she says.
Byham helped them understand how each and every person was a part of DDI’s future, including how they fit into the bigger picture.
She’s also doing a series of videos about each strategic priority to help the team understand where they’ve gotten in the first six month, what are the goals for the rest of the year and where DDI is going to expect to go after that.
Lay a foundation; mind the timing
Any kind of organizational change starts with a strong foundation of leadership.
Byham says you need to get in front of change early on, to help equip people with the mindset for why the change is important and what behaviors they need to do in the face of that change.
You also need to help your regional leaders understand how to handle other people’s emotions; where they can be a Pied Piper spreading the message; and what are the levels of latitude they have to implement something that is unique and different — adapted to that region’s culture — but will still get the results that corporate is looking for, she says.
DDI itself has a strong culture globally, even with cultural nuances in how certain things are applied.
“Every leader anywhere in the world — whether you’re in France, whether you’re in South Africa, whether you’re in India, China, Bali — anywhere in the world, you would feel that same leadership footprint in the way our leaders work,” Byham says.
But Byham believes DDI will have more ideas coming from the global offices back into the U.S. A video game around practicing leadership was invented in China, and that’s now going to be deployed globally, she says.
“We’re doing some reverse innovation, where innovations are coming in different parts of the world and they’re reversing back and we’re taking those globally,” Byham says. “So it’s an exciting time.”
As excited as she is, Byham is trying to temper her excitement and impatience. She’s been going through this transition for two years, and has started to feel like she’s done with her change process.
“We’re helping launch the change, so we’re way ahead of it,” she says. “Others are coming around the process and they go at their own speed.”
It’s easy to start thinking, “Why aren’t we done yet?” Byham says.
“But what you don’t want to do is not invest in the right amount of time, energy and focus in something like this that is a cultural change — keeping the best of what we had and focusing for the future,” she says.
“If you don’t invest that right amount of time, then you’re not going to get the results you want,” Byham says. “It will be just a flash in the pan, and it will be something that got talked about and then everybody forgot about (it).”
- Communicate changes often and in person.
- Equip your leaders with why the change is important and what will make it happen.
- Organizational buy-in doesn’t come at once.
The Byham File:
Name: Tacy Byham
Company: Development Dimensions International Inc.
Born: New York City
Education: Bachelor’s degree in mathematics/computer science from Mount Holyoke College; master’s degree and doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology from the University of Akron.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I worked as an intern at DDI. Being that we’re a family-owned and run organization, I always worked twice as hard, so others didn’t think I was given anything that I didn’t deserve.
But when I came out of college, I worked for a computer company in New York City, and I learned what a bad boss is like.
I grew up in DDI, where, as you can imagine, if you teach leadership, people live and act it. And they should. I was thrown into a situation where I truly had a bad boss. She didn’t communicate, she didn’t work with the team, she didn’t trust us, she micromanaged — anything you could think of.
Did you plan on joining the family business? No, I did not at all. After working in New York for a couple of years, I ended up doing technical training. I helped create some computer products and we had to train people.
It was a way for me to help other people grow and improve and learn things. You see that light bulb go on, it’s so cool and energizing. But I always liked to tinker — what did I do that could be done differently?
All of the sudden, I realized I was playing in the same sandbox that my father did. He’ll say that one of the best phone calls he ever had was when I called from New York City and asked, ‘Dad, can you tell me a little bit about the training side of DDI’s business?’
What is the best business advice you ever received? Be true to yourself. Be authentic and let others see it. It’s hard to convey the message without it. You’ve got to connect the head and the heart. If I’m feeling scared, nervous, excited or skeptical myself — if I can articulate and share that —that helps build a connection and trust.
What do you like to do when you’re not working? I’m a single mom. I’ve got a 16-year-old son. (Right now, stay off the roads in Pittsburgh.) My friends and I, we love to hang out together and we cook. We love to travel. And then of course, I like to have fun. I saw Beyoncé in Pittsburgh (last month). It was amazing.