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Surviving Corporate Transition

What does an effective model for management look like during a corporate transition and uncertainty?

Jodie Brown   |   1st June 2014
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Jodie Brown Jodie Brown

Jodie Brown is the founder and president of Summit Solutions – the only Business Aviation...
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Surviving Corporate Transition: Managing the Change Process

With corporate acquisitions- mergers- restructuring- downsizing and rightsizing- flight department managers are besieged by changing demands- priorities- missions and transitions. In the first three quarters of 2013- Dealogic reported that global merger and acquisition (M&A) volume went up 17% to $2.10 trillion with the US targeting M&A as its highest first nine months since 2008.

For the manager of a high performance flight department team- surviving corporate transition can be difficult especially when the new boss has little or no personal experience with Business Aviation.

During corporate transition- it is not business as usual. As critical business units- flight departments also are impacted by change. For aviation managers this change may mean that old habits and routines will no longer bring desired results. Flexibility and adaptability will be the keys to their success when new demands require new behaviors.

Employees are affected by how well managers adapt- how they change their approach- and how they adjust their emphasis to lead a successful transition. Having worked with corporate transition within aviation for the past 20 years- I have coached companies and flight department leaders to become successful change agents. Rather than negotiate through change- they have learned to manage the change process itself. From my experience- the following pointers will help you manage corporate transition.

Own Your Power
During times of significant corporate change many flight department managers become more tentative- more cautious- more careful- and more uncertain. They tend to give away their power- and this wait-and-see attitude makes them less effective. As the subject matter expert- you know your role.

Your flight department will lose its momentum if you wait for clear commands from above regarding what you can and can't do. It’s better to do the right thing now and ask for forgiveness later. Remember the person above you is often in the same wait-and-see situation. As a peer with other direct reports- act with confidence. You are an ambassador for the industry- a trained aviation professional- and a Business Aviation advisor. You know the rules- regulations- safety and service requirements first hand.

It's All About Them
Take care of your team’s self-preservation issues first. They will want to know “Will I keep my job?” “Will my pay be affected?” “Will I have to do more?” What does the future look like with them in it? People don’t fear change; they fear the unknown. Listen to them.

Don’t Just Be Available - Be Visible
There is no such thing as a void in communication. People fill the gap with gossip- rumors and worst case scenarios. Help people find closure so they can get their mind on the business at hand. Communicate what you can- and do it often.

Focus on Short-Terms Wins
Vince Lombardi did not turn a group of individual athletes into a winning franchise overnight. He focused on small victories—making first downs- scoring points- and winning a game. Create small victories during times of uncertainty.

Use aviation metrics like Lombardi used yard lines: For example- keep score of travel hours saved- passenger responses to great cabin service- sales made as a result of customer visits- etc. Be generous with feedback to enhance motivation. Focus on short-term wins.

Mind The Store
With change comes a higher level of uncertainty. With uncertainty comes a higher level of distraction. In managing the change process- you need to respond with hands-on management- clear direction and more specifics when giving your assignments. Even if you’ve been known as a hands-off manager- your approach must change to meet new demands.

Keep Your Priorities Clear
During transition stages- priorities can shift like the wind. Many people and agendas will vie for your attention and time. Focus on high-priority issues that have a lot of payoff. Do not get distracted by the loudest voice and hottest brush fire.

Make sure your team members understand their priorities when you delegate work to them. It’s natural for people to assume the latest assignment deserves the most attention at the expense of everything else.

Re-Clarify Roles and Responsibilities
Be specific about duties and changing responsibilities for each employee within your department. Be clear and precise. Walk around and observe changes in individual and team performance that may distinguish between the old ways and the new expectations.

Be sure to notice and reinforce positive changes as well.

Pay attention to how your team members interact with each other. Anxiety and frustration are often taken out on something like a coke machine or on another team member. During uncertain times people don’t listen or concentrate as well- they miss part of a message- and memory and deadlines suffer. More mistakes are made. Keep your team from splintering under pressure. Above all else the best way to reduce job stress is to keep a sense of humor.

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