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Alexandra Reese's Growth Guide

Actionable insights to improve your leadership, life, and impact


70% of organizational transformations fail (1). Although the root causes are straightforward (2), many “best practices” designed to obviate those failure points are now irrelevant. They don’t respond to the new realities facing organizations today. 

In this Growth Guide, I share three ways in which most organizations' realities have fundamentally changed, and how leaders should adapt their transformation strategies to achieve success.

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New Reality #1: There is no “new normal”

CEO’s today must grapple with a myriad of questions, uncertainties, and risks:

  • How will geopolitical events shape markets?
  • How long will inflation persist?
  • When will the labor market weaken?
  • Will consumer confidence and spending falter?
  • Will we enter a recession?
  • Will we be hit by a cyber attack?
  • Are we prepared for extreme weather events?

The list goes on… And not only is the number of uncertainties increasing, but volatility is as well.

What this new reality means for you:

To thrive in this new reality, organizations must be able to see and respond to changes in their operating environment quickly and effectively. That means nixing fixed strategy and centralized decision-making to enable agility at all levels—from strategy down through operations. 

How to respond to this new reality:

DON’T design your transformation around a single future state and path forward. Even internal transformations (e.g., organization restructures) are subject to change as a result of shifts in the external operating environment (e.g., inflation).

DO use scenarios to identify drivers of change in your operating environment and their possible impact on your transformation strategy. Then, develop contingency plans, so you can quickly pivot when needed. If you’d like a practical how-to book on scenario planning, I recommend Maggie Kolkena’s new book, Today for Tomorrow: A Field Guide to Scenario Planning

DON’T ignore the hidden costs of uncertainty. In 2016, scientists asked study participants to choose between a guaranteed electric shock and a 50% probability of an electric shock. Most chose the guaranteed shock! Why? Our brains dislike uncertainty more than pain. 

DO create certainty by focusing on what you do know. You know your values, your culture, and the unique talents and abilities of your people. You know you have the capability and capacity to navigate transformation as a cohesive team. And you’re confident you can come out stronger together as a result. Use these messages regularly to instill confidence and trust in your team.

And keep the lines of communication open about what you do not yet know. No news is not good news. When people don't have information on what's going on, they tend to assume the worst. So, keep the lines of communication open—and use them proactively.

DON’T maintain a centralized power-structure. Every time your employee must ask for input, socialize an idea, or pause work to wait for a decision, you pay in the form of labor time, productivity, and time to market. That cost is worth it for big, risky decisions. But those are the minority. About 70% of the time, this is a sunk cost (3)! 

DO use your transformation as an opportunity to decentralize power in the organization. Look for opportunities to delegate ownership and decision-making. I recommend using tools like value stream maps, service blueprints, DARE maps, and value-based role profiles to surface and work through opportunities. 

If you’re curious how you can use these tools to redistribute power to achieve greater efficiency, speed, and impact, reach out. I’d be happy to share how I’ve used these tools with clients to achieve success.


New Reality #2: 76% of employees are experiencing burnout (4)

That means three out of every four of your employees is experiencing some combination of:

  • Depletion or exhaustion
  • Negative feelings or cynicism about their job
  • Mental disengagement from work
  • Decreased productivity and efficacy

Now, imagine you were experiencing these symptoms of burnout. How would you feel if your leader asked you to participate in another major change?

You might feel stressed, under-appreciated, and emotionally overwhelmed. Maybe a little like Jonathan here:

Burnout triggers a stress response in the body. That stress response decreases your cognitive capacity, flexibility, and openness to new ideas. And it narrows your focus to resolving the stressors immediately in front of you. In short, you’re likely to perceive any change not directly tied to resolving your immediate stressors as yet another stressor—even if the change is one you might otherwise find desirable.

What this new reality means for you:

To succeed in this new reality, organizations must meet employees where they’re at. Do not ignore burnout or trust HR and people leaders to “take care of it.” You will exacerbate the issue by piling-on. Instead, use this as an opportunity to address burnout head-on, and perhaps even resolve some root causes.

How to respond to this new reality:

DON’T ask people to do more with the same amount of resources. 

DO dedicate resources to your transformation effort. Empirical data show that a failure to properly resource transformations is among the top reasons they fail (5).

The importance of proper resourcing is as true for labor time as it is for capital expenditures. When you ask people to change what they do or how they do it, they will need time and support to learn, adapt, and perfect. While they work through this process, productivity will suffer. So, you need to reduce your expectations or add resources accordingly.

DON’T ignore burnout when you rollout your transformation strategy. You’ll exacerbate disengagement.

DO openly acknowledge and validate the difficult emotions that may arise through this process, given how challenging the past two years have been for many. When people feel seen, heard, and understood, their stress immediately begins to dissipate.

And provide training and support to managers, so they can coach their employees through challenges that arise. Burnout is a uniquely individual experience: the causes and solutions for each person will vary. So, it’s important to equip managers to help their direct reports surface and work through their unique challenges and opportunities.


New Reality #3: Social capital has shrunk

Social capital refers to the value derived from positive connections between people (6). In business, one can describe and measure social capital in terms of networks, relationships, shared norms, and trust (7). 

Although it can appear intangible and hard to measure, social capital assets are among the most important assets in organizations. When individuals and teams are connected, they’re better innovators and problem-solvers. When they trust one another, they tend to be more engaged and loyal. When social capital is low, individuals tend to leave companies more readily. 

Most organizations made two choices during the pandemic that impacted social capital. They (1) transitioned to remote work, and (2) increased the quantity and pace of work. 

Those choices had two notable impacts on social capital. First, they reduced the number of people with whom the average person interacted. Then, because individuals were interacting with fewer people, they tended to strengthen bonds between remaining connections.

What this new reality means for you:

The ties that bind teams are likely weak right now. So, if you’re working on a cross-functional transformation, you’ll need to pay particular attention to nurturing cross-team connection. 

And those that ties that remain—like the manager-direct report relationship—are especially influential. So, you’ll also want to pay particular attention to manager performance and engagement. 

How to respond to this new reality:

DON’T assume people will rebuild their social networks simply because they now have opportunities to work on cross-functional teams or collaborate in-person. Leaders must manage social capital just as they manage financial, physical, and human capital.

DO create opportunities for individuals and teams to build their social networks. Focus specifically on creating rituals that foster togetherness and a shared sense of purpose. You can build them around milestones, transitions, reflection, and gratitude. McKinsey on Talent just did a great deep-dive (8) on this topic, if you’d like to learn more.  

DON’T assume managers know how to coach their people through transformations successfully, particularly given the complex situations and emotions many are working through right now. 

DO train managers as coaches. Not only will this smooth your transformation, but it’ll pay dividends across your organization.

I’ve been working with several managers to develop and practice their coaching skills quickly and effectively. I lean heavily on role playing, action learning, and other modes of experiential learning to make it fun and sticky. Reach out if you’re curious to learn more about how you could develop your or your team’s coaching skills, so you can communicate, collaborate, and grow with greater confidence and ease. 


Most transformations fail. But they don’t have to! When you leverage resources like scenarios to build resilience, coach training to strengthen engagement and development, and rituals to foster connection and belonging, you dramatically boost your odds of success—both in this transformation, and in all future endeavors.

If you're ready to improve your leadership, life, and impact, I'm here to support you through the opportunities below. Please note, I have only 2 spots remaining for new coaching and advisory clients in Q1. If you may want support, please schedule your complementary consultation today


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Growth Advisory: You've been working diligently to grow your organization, but have yet to achieve sustainable results. Or perhaps you've done exceptionally well and are ready to take things to a new level. I can help you hone a compelling vision and strategy, then execute with confidence, ease, and joy. 


Links to Past Editions

Here are links to the first 15 editions:

Jan 19: To hire a GREAT coach/ consultant, avoid these 3 mistakes

Jan 12: Four strategies to achieve goals with greater confidence and ease

Jan 5: The secret to setting effective goals

Dec 22Glean powerful insights from 2022 w/ this 3-step reflection process

Dec 15: Nine proven strategies to eliminate stress

Dec 1: Three things you can do now to boost success in 2023

Nov 17Eight signs you've got a feedback problem & how to fix it!

Nov 10: Make performance management your unfair advantage

Oct: 1/ The four elements of a high-performing leadership team, 2/ Cultivate an empowered leadership mindset

Sep: 1/ Replan for Q4, 2/ Jumpstart growth through self-awareness, 3/ Three Qs to save you BIG in your next strategy process 

Aug: 1/ Adapt your strategy process, 2/ Support your mid-level managers, 3/ Halt your mid-career crisis

Jul: 1/ Win with values, 2/ How to get hybrid work right, 3/ Vacation like a European

Jun: 1/ The mid-year review, 2/ Sharpen your creative skills, 3/ Win through failure

May: 1/ Prepare for downturns; 2/ Better, faster decisions; 3/ Embrace difference to improve performance

Apr: 1/ The Q1 review, 2/ Prime yourself for success, 3/ Focus your innovation investments for impact


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