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Why you need an outsider to change your company

Stephen Chambers crop

Effective founders tend to be poor at managing organisational adjustments within their own enterprise. As a successful entrepreneur and market disrupter, you probably appear to have all the right skills to personally handle constructive transformation of your business, writes Todd Klein, for Harvard Business Review.

After all, you doubtless had no trouble giving your industry a swift and efficient shake-up when you launched your company. But, as Klein points out, when you are trying to instigate change, while keeping your business running successfully and your employees on side, it’s a completely different scenario.


For some leaders, the necessary traits for the process of change – such as patience and perseverance – might not be strengths, even though their clear intention is to improve both employees’ wellbeing and company performance. This is not the place for the quick, decisive action that saw you boldly challenge the marketplace.

One of the common clashes Klein has observed in his work with entrepreneurs attempting to manage change is stilted communication between leader and employee. If you ask your team members how the business could be improved or their jobs made easier, they will probably feel under pressure and avoid rocking the boat.

“Sit any employee in a room with a founder, instruct them to engage in a candid discussion about how to improve the company’s operations, and that person’s heart rate will accelerate, their blood pressure will rise, and their hands will become clammy. Toss in some office politics and career management interests, and you’ll produce the most banal feedback imaginable,” says Klein.

Even if you do possess all the characteristics needed to encourage honest feedback from your team, as well as the organisational skills for revamping your business, someone trained and experienced in change management could always do it better.


It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but handing the transformation to someone with the expertise needed will pay off in the long run. They don’t even need specific knowledge of your industry – just a wealth of experience in implementing change.

A trained outsider can offer the following key advantages:

1) True objectivity. This is impossible for a founding leader who will naturally steer solutions towards their personal agenda. An individual with no stake in the outcome can employ impartiality and establish an inclusive atmosphere.

2) Sticking to the rules. Mapping out the process in advance and maintaining its integrity throughout is much easier for someone for whom that is a dedicated role, rather than a leader or existing employee who is still fulfilling their regular job.

3) Resolving conflict without bias. When there are disputes during the process – and these are often based on historic clashes – an expert will be well versed in methods of resolution and moving forward.

4) Delivery and responsibility. It’s part of their remit to follow up decisions, emphasise commitment and make sure changes are implemented by those nominated.

If you’re a company founder, it’s natural to covet control of change management challenges, but it takes a strong leader to admit when you are not the right person for the job.