Driving Change Without Rocking the Boat
Wall Street Journal
By JOANN S. LUBLIN
Whether they’re promoted from within or recruited from without, executives in new roles had better be ready to drive change.
The tricky part, of course, is knowing what to change–and how much. Executives chosen from inside tend to not shake things up enough, while external hires often transform too much, harming staff morale, management experts say.
As boards increasingly seek players adept at steering change, executives who can handle crises and transitions “with a calm and clear approach” are in greater demand these days, says Stephen Miles, head of Miles Group, a New York consultancy that advises boards about succession.
For instructive lessons on doing change right, consider the examples of two chief executives who helped revive ailing businesses without wrecking their corporate cultures.
James D. Wehr was promoted from within to lead one of the oldest insurers in the U.S., while Keith Wandell, was hired from outside to run Harley-Davidson Inc., HOG -0.68% the iconic maker of motorcycles. Though each took different routes to make change work for their employers, both agree that new leaders must figure out—quickly—what to keep and what to fix.
The Insider: James D. Wehr
Mr. Wehr joined Hartford-based Phoenix Cos. right out of business school as an operations analyst. He worked his way up the corporate ladder, becoming chief investment officer in 2004. After he took command in 2009, he quickly shed more than 35% of the ailing firm’s workforce – its biggest ever layoff. But the 55-year-old CEO only considered company insiders for his top team.
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