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Levers Of Change: Strategy, Leadership, And Organizational Culture

August 2020
Hector Postantzis Samaras
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Virtual Roundtable series kicks off with HR leaders from the Greek market

In the current volatile and uncertain environment, businesses face unprecedented challenges and need to keep moving forward for creating a new sustainable future. Leaders across all sectors of the Greek economy are faced with decisions of high impact for their businesses.

Across all sectors of the Greek economy, leaders are facing decisions with a large impact on their businesses as they seek to address the challenges posed by the current environment of volatility and uncertainty.

In times like this, it is vital to stay connected and gain from each other’s knowledge, experience, and insights. At Stanton Chase, one of our aims is to create value for our business community by facilitating an inspiring dialogue that provides insightful and actionable input. To that end, we created “The Building Blocks of the Future,” a series of Virtual Roundtables for Business Leaders that was launched on July 14.

The first Virtual Roundtable theme was “Levers of Change: Strategy, Leadership & Organizational Culture.” The event was facilitated by Jenny Anagnostopoulou, Head of Business Unit, HR Professional (the sole HRM magazine in Greece), in cooperation with Alexandra Lekkou, Director, Leadership & Organizational Culture at Stanton Chase, and Piotr Gryko, Senior Partner (MENA) at Hofstede Insights, Stanton Chase’s global partner for Culture Transformation. The participants of the event were six exceptional HR leaders from some of the most distinguished companies on the Greek market:

o   Golfo Agapitou, Assistant General Manager, Head of People Talents at Eurobank

o   Dimitris Artikopoulos, VP HR GREECE at AB VASSILOPOULOS- AHOLD DELHAIZE GROUP

o   Sophia Kanta, HR Director Greece & Cyprus at Coca-Cola HBC Greece

o   John Kollas, Executive Director Group HR at TITAN Cement Group

o   Spyros Linaras, Chief People Officer at OPAP S.A.

o   Alina Papageorgiou, Chief HR Officer at LAMDA Development

The discussion focused on new strategic priorities, vital leadership capabilities and enabling organizational cultures through the perspective of these strategic HR Leaders. As Lekkou explained, the impact of these three key levers of change for any organization has become even more visible these days. This is also reflected in a recent Stanton Chase survey among top level executives in general management and HR management, which found that 95% of respondents reported their company’s strategic priorities have changed to a larger or lesser degree due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The results also revealed that culture transformation is one of the top five topics on companies’ agendas – and the second-most important obstacle for strategy delivery. Our respondents confirmed that leadership development in the No. 1 priority in the People agenda.

A key theme that surfaced during the Roundtable discussion was the need for both speed in decision-making caused by the current crisis and striking a difficult balance among crucial priorities, involving business continuity, customer experience, and employee health and safety.

On top of that, our guests highlighted the critical role their HR functions were called in to play contributing to changing strategies and risk management while ensuring a high level of performance across the organization (new models of work, new tools for employees, new skills required, and new ways of communicating and managing people and activities).

When it comes to leadership, everyone on the Roundtable talked about its central role and gave examples of how leaders have managed to keep people engaged and how they have walked the extra mile, under new conditions, to keep the business going while at the same time changing their ways of working. Two leadership qualities that all agreed are vital at this stage for most organizations are resilience and agility.

Leadership behavior greatly affects organizational culture, and together with other practices it can enable or hinder performance and a business’s ability to adapt and change. The participants of the Roundtable emphasized the cultural aspect and the significance of people orientation, care, and trust for successfully navigating challenging times. On top of that, they talked about practices that foster a growth mindset, which is vital for managing not only to handle a challenge but also in turning it into an opportunity that leads to change for a sustainable future.

At the end of the discussion, Gryko summarized the key takeaways in three imperatives for organizations: leveraging diversity, embracing change, and sound leadership. The first focuses on the ability to leverage on the different ways that people think, which means an organization needs to have built-in ways that enable communication and learning from each other. Embracing change requires a higher level of adaptability and flexibility at both the individual and organizational level. To achieve this, an organization needs to decrease distance and increase trust, creating a healthy physical and psychological environment for working and exceling that fosters a sense of shared direction and creates change readiness. Lastly, leadership needs to engage people and see through their eyes in addition to being more approachable and empathetic – which translates into putting a people-centric culture in practice.

About the Author:
Hector P. Samaras is a Consultant at Stanton Chase Athens.

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