Successful Shared Services Leadership Characteristics: Engage and Manage

Tags: SSON

Simon Brown

In the last article, in our deeper dive review of the findings from our Boss Quality survey we looked at having and positively communicating a compelling vision for success: Read part 1: Key principle # 1

This time, let’s focus on stakeholder engagement and change management tools and techniques which underpin our Key Principle # 2.

In some transformation journey stories we can see how, in the rush to deliver a project outcome or achieve a task milestone, taking the time to fully engage with the team and clients has not been a priority for the shared services leader. Those stories never turn out to be success stories.

That’s because the shared services leader has not led the change but has only responded or reacted to the brief of others. He has not invested time to ensure that the team, the clients, and other key stakeholders are fully involved in creating the solution. He may have driven the project plan for change but when did he actually engage the imagination of the team to create true followship?

As Peter Drucker observed we use our left brain (logic, facts, sequential plans) to manage tasks, plan, analyse, and control; and we lead people effectively with our right brain (imagination, feeling) – promoting a vision of success which gets them onboard and wanting to help bring our aspirations and goals to life as "the way we work."

To get every one on board we need both management and leadership. And leadership centres around both team and client engagement. We spoke, last time, about team engagement through story telling and drawing a Big Picture vision of success together. In previous articles I’ve also focussed on energising your team.

Now lets look more closely at how we can schmooze with our clients through practical on-the-ground Stakeholder engagement.

A change management programme I recommend and used extensively at Coca-Cola over three years is called "Enabling fast change". This focuses on:

  • Establishing your vision and your brand for change
  • Identifying each stakeholder – business and functional leaders, managers and employees, own function members, and external partners
  • Developing "what’s in it for them," thus opening the dialogue statements
  • Auditing where each stakeholder is currently at, on the change journey, and mapping (using a six-stage scale) versus where we want them to be, to create the gap analysis or Delta to Address.

So far, it’s all about planning and analysis of the current situation, and establishing targets and proposals for action – Deming’s classic S-T-P for problem analysis.

So what are the six stages of stakeholder engagement as they develop over time through the change process? These are outlined in Figure 1 – Engagement Scorecard on a progression of scores from 1-6 (awareness to institutionalization), together with personal statements:

Full engagement only arrives when the stakeholder reaches level 6,and the new way of working becomes the norm … how we do things around here.

A great way to engage your shared services team as it forms is to encourage the team to actively score their clients after each intervention, each conversation, to raise the score.

I found this very useful when I led a shared services team at Coca-Cola, as it was both a way to build and bond our team with a common purpose as we reviewed our progress, as well as score with our stakeholders every 2-4 weeks. So it also brought out the best in our collective and individual achievement motives as we sought to honestly raise the scores of our individual stakeholders and thus the overall average stakeholder engagement score.

It does take time and effort to move stakeholder scores up the engagement scale, particularly from 1. Awareness, through 2. Understanding, to 3. Acceptance.

Don’t underestimate the need for getting down and dirty in fierce conversations with your stakeholders. This is the "storming" stage, which you need to go though if you want true engagement beyond the superficial level. Being polite and skirting round the surface gets you nowhere.
What do they understand and expect? What are their wants? Your wants? And what can you offer each other to move this forward into a working partnership?

Who is Who?

Change Champions are those individuals with influence and power in the organisation who have reached level 4 Engagement – commitment to help advance the change – and are becoming active role models in leading by example to apply the change in their daily business. For example, they can be relied upon to demonstrate that they use Tier 0 Self-Service; and contact the service desk in Tier 1, rather than going back to HR generalist ways by walking down the corridor and asking the local HR department to do it all for them. Recruiting Senior HR leaders and Senior Line Managers from the business to show their profile and speak up as change champions definitely helps to accelerate the transformation in my experience.

Gate Keepers are those whose agreement you need to get before you can move through the gateway from the old field-of-play to the pastures of the new green field. Sometimes known as blockers, these individuals, who exist in every organisation, have the power and influence to stop things happening, to hold back progress on the journey. Seek them out and engage them in conversations to open the gate. Don’t just ignore them and hope they will go away. I have learned that without a conversation, no progress can be made.

When looking at your stakeholders. Ask yourself this question: Where is the energy?

Active Energy:

This is found, and can be leveraged, in Change Champions as we have discussed above.

But there are also Change Terrorists. Powerful or outspoken people who will overtly challenge your every move, seeking to undermine your progress and maintain the status quo with which they are most comfortable, and where their power resides.

Worst case scenario is that you find Change Terrorists in your HR leadership team. It can take six months longer to transform HR if you are in this situation, unless you can turn their negative energy into positive energy. Or unless they are removed from the organisation. After all, Traditional Generalist Turkeys aren’t always going to vote for a Shared Services Christmas.

Passive Energy:

This is harder to discover but can be found in those stakeholders we classify as Yes People. In open meetings they nod their heads in mock agreement, are politically correct, never disagree, often say yes – but then do nothing. Unless you can get them to level 4 Commitment to actively help advance the change they are a low energy blocker.

Silent Assassins are deadly. Again, politically correct and quietly supportive in public and to your face, but keen to stab you in the back by undermining your efforts when you are not present, passing negatives along the grapevine.

Do you recognise these four types in your organisation?

Let’s get real.

As a reality check, I have found from my experience with HR transformation A-Z in many companies, over the last 15 years, that it is the HR community that is often more resistant to change at the beginning of the HRT journey and shared services implementation than the managers and employees - who are more interested in the outputs they get from "One Team HR". My Finance Shared Services Director colleagues have agreed with me that the same is true in the Finance Function at the start of the transformation journey.

I shared this learning with a public sector HR Director recently and she didn’t like what she heard. But let’s get real – it’s nearly always true. Many generalists don’t want to be specialists in the new model, and many so-called HR Business Partners don’t want to let go of the transactional or welfare work to move beyond acting just as a "pair of hands" to the business – the pillion passenger hanging on tightly as the Line Manager drives their Harley Davidson at break-neck speed.

Naming the Resistance.

Resisters won’t go away – unless you prove to them several times, by delivering effective outputs, or unless you are able to fire them!

So get close to your stakeholders, gatekeepers, champions, yes-persons, terrorists and assassins. Sell in everything that works from day one, using both reason and emotion to win hearts and minds. Involve your stakeholders in the design and the delivery where possible so that they become part of the solution, not spectators to the problem. Call out your resisters; confront the issue not the person. As the Greeks say "Put the stinking fish on the table "so we can all see the size and smell the body of the issue. If you don’t do this, you won’t make progress.

Then comes Communicate, Communicate x 8.

Price Pritchett developed a "rule of eight", which is based on the principle that in times of turbulence and change, people often don’t hear anything until the eighth time you say it, and then they get it. So when communicating, do say the same thing in at least eight different ways if you want to get the message heard.

Whilst we now increasingly live in a virtual working world, as technology enables 24/7 instant communications to the global village, I have found that there is no substitute for the customer visit.

Certainly, in a global organisation, face-to-face meetings on the customers’ turf in Spain, France, Italy, etc., makes a big difference and helps them to overcome cultural and language differences. It’s well worth the travel budget to make these trips. Without them, nothing changes for months. With them, the process is immediately accelerated as relationships are built and the work is done together.
Honest and transparent meetings with stakeholders in their office or a common meeting place really do help to build trust.
It’s all about synchronising your communications with "words, music, and dance."

Words, Music and Dance.

We get words through emails, but it’s only worth 10% as an effective communication method. Written messages can be misinterpreted.
When you use your voice to communicate and others hear the tone and emphasis of the words through the "music" of the voice, it raises effective communications by over 30%.
Face-to-face communications include non-verbal behaviours, body language, and gestures -- and this is "the dance". It’s worth around 60% of effective communications. So if you use all three you have the words, music and dance = 100% effective communications: a winning combination!

Great; so we have some tools and concepts -- but what about ending the article with some practical examples? Here goes:

  1. Engagement workshops – Involve a core team of people across the function to map existing processes and help design the new processes.
  2. Global Process Legal validation – when you have designed consistent processes to be applied across the business, country-to-country, visit stakeholders in each country to get their input on any language or legal reasons why the process maps need to be adjusted to meet real, not perceived local needs. Doing it with them, rather than doing it to them, goes a long way to achieving true engagement and buy-in to the new ways of working.
  3. Monthly and quarterly 1-1 reviews with key clients, and with your whole shared services team, to discuss and agree, align and realign, your action plans.
  4. Weekly 1-1 routines with your own team leaders.

Next time, we will discuss Key Principle # 3 for Successful Shared Services Leadership – Being an effective team boss.

Meanwhile feel free to contact me with your own thoughts, questions and feedback.

View more articles by Simon Brown

About the Author
Simon Brown has over 25 years experience in HR Management working in the change management, talent acquisition and talent management space, with a range of FMCG, B2B and Pharmaceuticals sector organisations including Duracell Batteries, GlaxoSmithKline, Premier Farnell and has successfully completed a 3 year change management assignment at Coca-Cola. Simon has recently left Coca-Cola to launch his own consulting business, specialising in shared services design and selection, virtual working, coaching and mentoring. He has been involved in the design and deployment of Shared Services four times since 1995, including vendor selection for outsourced partners. Simon has a strong expertise in selection and development of HR Shared Services teams and has worked with both onshore captives, off-shore, outsourced, and virtual working teams where a blended solution of retained and outsourced has been chosen. Based on his own learning Simon advises companies to choose carefully the right HRO mix for them relevant to their business profile and current situation along the HR