Leading a Successful Transformation


CHS TransformationI have a friend who says the easiest CEO job in the world is leading a turn around. Why? Because at the point where something needs to be turned around, there isn’t any resistance. You just need to figure out what to do – and do it!

My friend isn’t crazy or lucky. What she is, is a great communicator.

When everyone understands the need to change, then a transformation is simple.

Sometimes the need for change is just compelling: “if we keep losing money we will go out of business”.  It doesn’t get much clearer: no organization, no job. Then it’s simply: “Tell what I need to do to keep my job!”

For the organizations I’ve run, figuring out how to stop from going out of business has been pretty simple: stop wasting money; focus on the core business; learn how to sell more.

The challenge has been communicating the need to do it. Why? Because nobody trusts transparency when it’s only used to make someone change. So organizations who have suffered without transparency, without trust, without empowerment struggle the most when all of a sudden the need for change is thrust upon them.

Here’s a simple lesson I’ve learned. Don’t save open, transparent communication for a rainy day. Use it always. Then, when a business is running well, it will run even better. And when a business needs to transform, the need to change will be easily understood.

Leadership is communication. So are transformations.


Telling My Organization’s Story

‘Tell your story. Please tell your story.’

For the past year that’s what my advisers have been telling me. By ‘my story’ they’re talking about the story of The Canadian Hearing Society. CHS as it’s known is the brilliant, resilient, and incredibly dedicated organization founded 77 years ago to support the Deaf and hard of hearing in Canada.  Today, The Canadian Hearing Society is the undisputed leader removing barriers to participation for the nation’s Deaf and hard of hearing. I’m fortunate enough to be its CEO.

Over the past three years, CHS has gone through a dramatic governance, strategic and leadership transformation. Lead by our Board of Directors, we’ve identified and eliminated risks; set a bold strategic vision for the future; and, attracted all-star leaders to make it all happen. Along the way there have been all sorts of challenges that any organization going through a transformation might expect to face – and perhaps a few they might not!

And our momentum keeps growing.

I hope you will read this story. If you are interested in governance, Deaf, hard of hearing and corporate transformations there is lots of neat learning here. I’m glad we wrote it all down! Here’s a quick sample. We’re proud of our impact!

  • Counselling Services at CHS are comprised of three distinct and highly unique services: CONNECT Counselling, General Support Services and Hearing Care Counselling. In 2016/17, Counselling Services saw more than 6,000 clients, conducted more than 44,000 visits and provided more than 57,000 hours of service.
  • CONNECT provides professional counselling services to Deaf and hard of hearing individuals of all ages, and their families, dealing with mental health issues, addiction, relationship problems, domestic violence or other serious challenges. The average clients’ age is 46 years old, 71% are Deaf, and 72% live in poverty.
  • General Support Services (GSS) counsellors offer guidance, advocacy, support and counselling to Deaf and hard of hearing individuals who request assistance to manage everyday life events including completing government forms and developing strategies to cope with hearing loss. The average clients’ age is 49 years old, 66% are Deaf, and 75% live at or below the poverty line.
  • The Hearing Care Counselling (HCC) Program provides free counselling services to help cope with hearing loss, improve communication with family and friends, stay active and involved and remain safe and independent at home. The average clients’ age is 82 years old, 94% are hard of hearing, and 61% are female.

Here’s a link to the story on our Canadian Hearing Society website.