Forbes Coaches Council Member

CEOs Give Best Advice On Leading Change

This topic could not have come at a better time given the political environment we are currently enduring. While I know, some people feel optimistic, a good many Americans feel fearful and uncertain about their lives in the US and the future of America.

And, while change in companies and organizations is different, in some ways, it evokes some of the same feelings for employees like ‘what does this mean for me and my family?’ and ‘what does this mean for my future?’

Organizations go through change regularly – whether it’s a re-org, change in product, change in strategy, change in leadership or a merger or acquisition. The pace of change is fierce and leaders need to know how to move through change effectively, set a new course, keep people motivated and engaged and frequently blend and re-build cultures. That was the topic of conversation I had with three top CEOs:

·       Steve Singh, Concur

·       Jean Thompson, Seattle Chocolates

·       Stan Pavlovsky,

With courage, these three leaders spoke from the heart and described the hardest things about leading change. The tone was personal and thoughtful with many important messages. The one that whispered loudest to me was: “Best advice? “Go create something better.” @SteveSSingh @CEOpov

I’m totally onboard! And here were some of the other main takeaways:

  • Be humble in order to leverage the power of others. Building platforms that others contribute is how you can benefit from their brilliance. ~ Steve Singh @SteveSSingh
  • Change is good and essential. It invigorates and stirs things up. To thrive, you have to change, keep moving and innovating. The best changes are the ones you design and orchestrate deliberately with a clear end goal in mind. ~ Jean Thompson @SeattleChoc
  • Success in implementing change requires Strategy, Transparency, and Participation.  Without these core tenants, execution is a journey to a new place without a map or purpose. ~ Stan Pavlovsky @spavlovsky

And the Twitter Highlights:

To be a fly on the wall at this sold-out event. @Allrecipes @SteveSSingh @Concur @SeattleChoc @spavlovsky @CEOpov

It’s going to be a packed house for Leading Through Change From the CEO’s Perspective at #WTCSeattle! @CEOpov

Starting the morning @WTCSeattle learning from the #CEOs perspectives #CEOpov #Seattle @SteveSSingh @SeattleChoc @spavlovsky @CEOpov

“Don’t be afraid to make a decision. Being indecisive is the worst thing you can do.” -Jean of @SeattleChoc

A CEO must provide context and transparency to encourage employees to stay on after the company is acquired. @spavlovsky @CEOpov

Sometimes change has to be self-inflicted when things are going well. @SeattleChoc @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

“Transparency allows everyone to be a part of the equation.” -@SteveSSingh

Chocolate is not all that complicated but it’s a lot more complicated than you think. @SeattleChoc @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

Competence is a gradual process. It’s helpful to have people around you that believe in you. -Jean of @SeattleChoc #CEOPOV

“We looked at what our consumers are doing. Almost Overnight, traffic went from desktop to mobile which changes everything.” -@spavlovsky

“Change is like a shark. If you don’t keep swimming, you’re going to die.” – Jean of @SeattleChoc

“Look at Netflix. 20 years ago it didn’t exist. It’s been reinvented 3 times. Change must be incorporated into your DNA.” -@SteveSSingh

A CEO’s job is to create opportunities for others and give people something meaningful to do. – @SteveSSingh @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

As a child, my mom would tell me what a leader I would be someday. I didn’t know why, but over time I internalized it. -@spavlovsky

“Being able to negotiate with a toddler can prepare you for any leadership challenge.” -Jean of @SeattleChoc #CEOPOV

Both Jean of @SeattleChoc and @spavlovsky find themselves asking ‘why not’ or ‘why’ constantly. #CEOPOV

“If you don’t take the time to listen and understand, then you as a CEO will fail.” -@spavlovsky @Allrecipes #CEOPOV

“Each company is defined by you and your decisions, and every CEO will be different. I had to trust that what I thought was best was right.”

“People don’t like change. But it’s the thing that makes people and companies great.” -@SteveSSingh @Concur #CEOPOV #WTCSeattle

Listening to CEOs describe selling their companies – getting employee buy-in & doing what’s best to execute on a dream. @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

“My approach is to have participation. It takes more effort, but employees being bought in is critical for transition” -@spavlovsky #CEOPOV

Jean from @SeattleChoc said if she ran a talk show, Beyoncé would be her first guest. #CEOPOV

“My pet peeve? Lack of strategy.” -@spavlovsky

Learning from 3 incredible leaders about how to lead through change. Thank you @SteveSSingh @SeattleChoc @spavlovsky

The most important part of being a leader according to @spavlovsky of @Allrecipes ? Persistence.

The most important part of being a leader according to Jean, CEO of @SeattleChoc ? Listening.

The most important part of being a leader according to @SteveSSingh of @Concur ? Open mindedness. #CEOPOV

There’s as many ways to lead as there are leaders. #CEOPOV

Best advice? Make a decision. You can always change it. Don’t be indecisive. @SeattleChoc @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

@SteveSSingh Great group of Seattle leaders in the audience. Thanks for your time and commitment to our community.

Listen. Walk before you run. Get feedback and have empathy. If you want to drive accountability, understand how everyone feels. @spavlovsky

@SeattleChoc CEO “make a decision, good or bad, as indecisiveness is the worst outcome” @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

Transparency means also having to communicate the things people don’t want. @spavlovsky @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

Transparency drives accountability, builds trust and allows everyone to participate. @SteveSSingh @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

“I always go back to having a clear strategy and provide context to employees to help alleviate resistance to change.” @spavlovsky #CEOPOV

Employees need context. A vacuum creates rumors and stories. Participation is critical. @spavlovsky @MeredithCorp @CEOpov

The why is never in your business or products; the why is in your values. @SteveSSingh @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

My two teenage daughters have taught me what negotiation really means. @spavlovsky @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

“If you don’t take the time to listen and understand, then you as a CEO will fail.” -@spavlovsky @Allrecipes #CEOPOV

If you try to protect what you have you’re almost always going to fail. @SteveSSingh @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

“Each company is defined by you and your decisions, and every CEO will be different. I had to trust that what I thought was best was right.” Jean, CEO of @SeattleChoc

The thing that makes companies great is the ability to change. @SteveSSingh @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

“I had to prove myself when I started. The employees didn’t believe I had my heart into it.” – Jean, CEO of @SeattleChoc #CEOPOV

Lack of clarity and communication causes fear in employees. @spavlovsky @MeredithCorp @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

After 11 years as a stay home mom Jean proved herself and got the Frango business. @SeattleChoc @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

@SteveSSingh thinks everyone should read the book “Only the Paranoid Survive.” #CEOPOV

Even chocolate is not recession proof. @SeattleChoc @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

You have to be willing to constantly reinvent your business. @SteveSSingh @CEOpov @WTCSeattle

Great questions today from the audience. It’s been quite a lively conversation this morning! #CEOPOV

Always great to be at @WTCSeattle to see Teri Citterman @CEOpov for her #CEOpov series.



Find more leadership advice in my book “From the CEO’s Perspective” where I interview 20 top CEOs on how they are developing leaders in today’s world.

Watch my latest CEO Forum coverage on What CEOs Need to Do About Diversity with advice from Orlando Ashford, President, Holland America, Diane Neal, CEO of Sur La Table, Jonathan Sposato, CEO of PicMonkey & Chairman of Geekwire.

















Subscribe to our Newsletter