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Is your company getting in the way of its own success?

April 23, 2015, 4:00 PM UTC
Courtesy of Ruder Finn, Inc.

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Describe one make or break moment in your career–how did you navigate it? is written by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

A great mentor and role model of mine always says that if companies do the same thing for too long they’ll be left behind. Ruder Finn experienced an incredible period of growth; we were acquiring new and exciting assignments across the globe, but our internal processes and financial management systems where old and in desperate need of updating. I discovered that this was slowing us down–we were getting in our own way. We needed to more effectively manage our growth, improve processes, and continue to build on our strong performance culture.

So as a leader, it’s up to you to acknowledge when a change is necessary and have the courage to bring in someone who can successfully lead a critical transformation. It’s a risk that can go very wrong–and it won’t make you popular–but is necessary to deliver on the vision you and your colleagues have for the business. And that’s exactly what I had to do.

The culture at Ruder Finn encourages longevity, a non-hierarchical team structure, and opportunities to step up regardless of your level or rank. Our teams are cohesive, and work closely together–so it was important that senior leaders across the organization were supportive of this new manager and the change he or she would bring with them. Fortunately, we made the right hire. I feared I wouldn’t get it right, but it’s the trust that you feel when you meet the “perfect” candidate. This was the first step, and in hindsight, the easy part, as the transformation this new leader sparked shook our organization at its core.

We ripped out legacy systems, challenged managers to more carefully focus on how their teams spent their time, and refined our focus on servicing our clients–while also remaining productive and efficient. We were met by critics and skeptics, and our team sometimes bumped heads–it is necessary. We learned that real change is hard. But worth it. Our focus on improving the business caught like wildfire and bred a refined passion for learning and improvement across our entire organization. Employees at all levels volunteered their ideas and worked together to find innovative processes. There is a science and an art to finding the right moment to transform your organization. You can’t do it aloneyour entire team needs to be willing to take the ride with you.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question:Describe one make or break moment in your career–how did you navigate it?

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