These were the adjectives – and desired behaviours – that kept recurring during Martin Barner’s rich and dynamic talk at the EU Business School in Munich on Tuesday evening. Courtesy of the School, followers of the Culture Learning Leadership Lab, instigated by Jerry Pico, gathered to hear the Head of People & Organisation at Sandoz – the generics division of Novartis – enthuse about how the company’s culture has been transformed under the leadership of Vas Narasimhan.
When Vas took over as chief executive of Novartis in February 2018, he successfully re-focused the strategic direction while also strengthening the culture and experiencing developmental coaching for himself. What emerged was the critical significance of individual change and increased self-awareness as a precursor to advancing organisational change. So true.
Subsequently, the top 250 leaders underwent a one-year deep emotional leadership journey together, sharing their 360 feedback reports and tackling the underlying root causes of any resistance to change with the support of coaches and clinical psychologists. Shifting individual behaviours as well as the focus from product to people were some of the challenges mentioned. Some leaders apparently couldn’t hack the commotion and left the company.
Insights and tools from cognitive and developmental psychologists were integrated throughout the transformation process, such as Daniel Kahnmann’s Thinking Fast and Slow and Robert Kegan’s Immunity to Change Map, among others like Culture Beat to measure culture change and Coursera online training courses.
With his sparky responsiveness and big smile, Martin seemed a great example of an authentic leader who’s done some hard work on knowing himself and his vulnerabilities better – a leader who’s learned that transformational change starts from understanding our own impact on our immediate environment.