E31 – Leading Organisational Change With Jackie Lanham – Expert Interview

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E31 – Leading Organisational Change With Jackie Lanham – Expert Interview
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E31 – Leading Organisational Change: Interview with Jackie Lanham

Jackie Lanham is Hilton Food Group’s Chief People Officer, with a career history that tells a story of leading change in all its forms to help businesses to achieve their goals. It comprises of 3 key phases:

  1. HR Generalist and Business Partner covering all aspects of HR.
  2. Large leadership roles establishing and running HR centralised and shared services.
  3. Developing and implementing strategies to ensure business success now and for the future through culture, capability and organisation design.

What really makes her tick?

Change. Creativity. Performance. Fun. Results.

Headshot of Jackie Lanham smiling at camera
Hilton Food Group’s Chief People Officer

You Can Read the Full Transcript of Our Interview With Jackie Lanham Below:

Darren A. Smith:

Welcome to the MBM block. We are absolutely delighted to welcome Jackie Lanham. Jackie, welcome.

Jackie Lanham:

Thank you, Darren.

Darren A. Smith:

This is our blog where we talk to experts and people who practice in the field right now, and we’re talking to them about soft skills. Jackie and I know each other and we have selected the topic, well, Jackie did, of leading organisational change. Is that right?

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah, absolutely spot on.

Darren A. Smith:

Good. I thought if we’ve chosen another topic, I’ve really stuffed up the first part of this, but that’s okay.

Jackie Lanham:

We can do buying handbags if you like.

Darren A. Smith:

I’ll tell you about a friend afterwards who did a vlog on all her handbooks. No, maybe one for another time. We have the pleasure of Jackie’s company for about half an hour. We have a bunch of Google questions. So these are the questions that people typically ask around this topic. We’re going to put them to Jackie. But before I waffle on anymore Jackie, would you tell us a little bit about you please?

Jackie Lanham:

Course. And thank you so much, Darren, for inviting me here to have this conversation with you. I’m really looking forward to it. As Darren said, my name is Jackie Lanham. I am the chief people and culture officer for Hilton Food Group. And Hilton Food Group is a premier food packaging organisation. Absolutely focused on the protein category. Well known in meats, also getting well-known in fish, and also in vegan and vegetarian products as well, on an international basis.

Jackie Lanham:

I love my job. I get the opportunity to talk to people across Europe, into Australia, and also have the wonderful opportunity of building things into new countries, most recently, Belgium. In my role, I’m really responsible for facilitating our thinking around our people strategy, and really ensuring that our people love working for us, are fully engaged in what we do, because we know people who love their work, love working for the business, produce the best.

Darren A. Smith:

Very true. Very true. Yeah, very true. Okay. And you haven’t just worked at Hilton… I say just.

Jackie Lanham:

Oh, no, no, no. This white hair is earned, unfortunately. I got into human resources pretty quickly, and I have to say, I love it. Absolutely, felt very lucky to find my forte really early on in my career. I’ve worked across retail for the Co-operative and Tesco within the U.K. And also, I’ve worked on an international basis within the financial services’ sector. A period of 11 years with JPMorgan Chase, and a period of seven years with, also, Aviva, in the insurance sector.

Jackie Lanham:

I think what I absolutely adore about the profession I’m in, is the fact that it’s pretty transferable across different sectors. And I think I’m at my best when I’m working in businesses that are absolutely focused on delivering to the customer. Yeah, that what I enjoy doing, and really working with businesses who have that at their heart.

Darren A. Smith:

Brilliant. I’m going to go off at a slight tangent, and hopefully, you’ll be okay with it-

Jackie Lanham:

You did.

Darren A. Smith:

I’m looking through my… Not now, but I was looking through my LinkedIn feed, and there are people who are changing jobs and thinking HR might be for them. So I just want to take you back a few years to, when did you know you wanted to get into HR and why did you think it was right for you? And what’s your advice for those people that are thinking, “Do you know? I might have a good go at that”?

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah, it’s a tough one. I’ll tell the true story. So the true story was, I graduated in English literature and history-

Darren A. Smith:

Wow.

Jackie Lanham:

… and at the time I graduated, people are going, “What? You say you’re going to be a teacher? You’re going to be a journalist?” And I had a bit of a flirtation with being a journalist and worked out that I wasn’t really tough enough for doorstepping and all of that kind of stuff. And went back to the university careers centre, filled in one of these online things you fill in. Actually, it wasn’t online. It was paper and pen at the time, but there we go. And the results came out, “Oh, you could probably do marketing or personnel.” And I looked at marketing, thought, “Oh, that looks quite interesting.” And I looked at personnel and quite liked the fact that I could get another year’s education with a qualification.

Jackie Lanham:

So I decided to go back in and do my post-grad, kind of focusing on what was then personnel. And I think what grabbed me, in terms of loving it, was just the sheer variety. The fact that one moment, you’re recruiting, the next moment, you’re helping somebody perform better. You’re doing that at an individual level and also at an organisational level. And also, you get to work at very senior levels within the organisation, relatively young in your career, which is fantastic as well. So you get a real insight into the strategic direction and the commercial direction of organisations.

Jackie Lanham:

I think human resources gives you the flexibility to not only work within different sectors, but you can also work in different components of human resources now it’s really, I think, developed as a function. So if you love numbers and you love rewards, you can kind of have that analytical reward route. If you love more, the training and development side, then again, you’ve got the opportunity to look at how you bring an organisation along, or individuals along from that perspective.

Jackie Lanham:

I can name, we have diversity and inclusion now. All those types of things gives you the opportunity to specialise if you wish, work as a generalist if you wish, and then work across different sectors. And what I’ve loved is the opportunity as well, to look at how I can manage my career to different stages in my life, as well.

Darren A. Smith:

Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah.

Jackie Lanham:

So yeah, as I had my son, I could start to think, “Well, actually, I think this is the time for me to specialise a bit more because I can manage my time. My time is more my own.” Whereas when you, in a more business partnering role, I can tell you, it’s not so much your own. So again, fits another stage of your life in your career.

Jackie Lanham:

So I just had that flexibility, and obviously, people can take it into their own businesses, running fantastic consultancies as you do, or indeed, looking at how you might be an independent consultant as well. So yeah, I just think it’s opportunity-rich and I’ve just absolutely adored it.

Darren A. Smith:

Brilliant. And just coming back to, if I’m an HR… I’m not, but if I was a person wanting to be an HR manager, what’s the one thing that regrets too much. What’s the one piece of advice you’d say to someone, “You should go and do that. You should try this. You should…” What is it? What’s the thing?

Jackie Lanham:

I think it’s, dip your toe into everything. And I think probably, yeah, I think a regret is a really good question. And very, a couple of times early on in my career, I was given the opportunities to work internationally. Now, I’ve been lucky that I’ve done international roles, and I’ve been able to travel into countries and spend periods of time. But at least on two occasions, I was offered the opportunity to work in New York, offered the opportunity to work in Holland, or the Netherlands, sorry, and never took it up.

Jackie Lanham:

And I think if I look back, I can go, “Yeah, you should have just pushed yourself a bit further on those things.” But I think trying to really widen your experience as much as possible, is really important. And we live in a very small world now, so the more experience you’ve got of working with different culture on an international basis, I think the better, in terms of your career.

Darren A. Smith:

That’s good advice. All right. Well, I’m thinking that we could do 40 minutes about you because I am fascinated.

Darren A. Smith:

Do that more than one. Let me just come back to our topic for a moment because I’ve got about a thousand other questions and the people are thinking, “Hold on. You were going to talk about this, now you’re talking about that.” So leaving organisational change, let me ask the stupid questions. What the hell does that mean? It sounds like something out of a book. What does it mean?

Jackie Lanham:

It does, doesn’t it? Yeah. There’s also this piece around… I don’t want to sound passe, but change is constant. It absolutely is. And I think for me, around leading organisational change, it’s around, you always need to be on point because there’s always going to be changed in play. And yes, there’ll be big change, there’ll be small change. If you, as a professional, are not always looking at how you can do things better, how you stay relevant, then at some point you’ll be extinct, the business will be extinct. We’ve seen lots of examples of that in history.

Jackie Lanham:

If we look at how… It’s the easy one, isn’t it? How technology has lifted us off to a different place. The impact that’s had on retail, for example. Those retailers who have not quite grasped that, are in quite a difficult position. And they were in a difficult position pre COVID. So I think for me, around leading organisational change, it has to be in your kitbag on a 24/7 basis. And the minute you get complacent is the minute you start to become not successful. And it might be not successful in the next few months, or it might be not successful in years to come.

Jackie Lanham:

So for me, that it has to be part of your toolkit, whatever role you have within a business, with that constant focus on, “How can I always do it better? How can I make sure I’m absolutely relevant as an organisation or as an individual?”

Darren A. Smith:

When you were talking, the one that came to mind was a tech example, but I was thinking of BlackBerry. I had about 15 BlackBerry’s, I think during maybe the ’90s or early the early ’00s. I can’t remember. And then they just went… And you think, “Wow.”

Jackie Lanham:

That’s it.

Darren A. Smith:

“How did the company that owned 80% of the market just go off the cliff?”

Jackie Lanham:

I know.

Darren A. Smith:

Wow, wow, wow. Yeah.

Jackie Lanham:

It’s absolutely scary. And that’s why I think it’s essential to always be looking at your internal health as a business, as I talked about earlier. Now, “How are people feeling around here? How are we meeting the needs of our customer?” But it’s also incredibly important to look at the external environment as well. It’s a bit like your own body, isn’t it? Are you breathing the air well, and is the air that you’re breathing in, good, fresh air?

Darren A. Smith:

Very true. Very true.

Jackie Lanham:

So for me, it’s, I don’t want to make you feel as though you have to be constantly restless, but I think the more curious you are, the more interested you are, the more relevant you’re going to continue to be. And yeah, as you’ve rightly said with BlackBerry, and there’s lots of other examples that we could probably come up with between the pair of us, where for whatever reason, the eye has gone off the ball.

Jackie Lanham:

But there are also some great reinvention stories. I mean, you look at IBM, look at how they’ve reinvented themselves.

Darren A. Smith:

That’s true.

Jackie Lanham:

They are absolutely amazing. So there are good examples there, where people have kind of sat back and said, “Hey, hang on. Where’s our relevance? What do we need to do going forward?” And that’s something Hilton Food Group has done, in terms of starting off within the red meat business. And then we look at how we’ve now developed into looking at other proteins and ciliary services around data and that kind of thing as well.

Darren A. Smith:

The other example that came to mind was when I was young, I had a cold. Mum sat me on the sofa and gave me Lucozade with the foil top. Do you remember this?

Jackie Lanham:

Oh, God. I love Lucozade.

Darren A. Smith:

And you only had Lucozade when you were ill.

Jackie Lanham:

You did, yeah.

Darren A. Smith:

And then, must have been some bright spark at Lucozade said, “Hold on”-

Jackie Lanham:

Energy.

Darren A. Smith:

“How come people only drink this when they’re ill? Let’s boom.” Wow.

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah, yeah.

Darren A. Smith:

And then…

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah, exactly. You’re absolutely right. Yeah. Yeah, reinvention.

Darren A. Smith:

Yeah. And I think it was Martha Lane Fox, who was the founder of lastminute.com, who said, “Working at lastminute.com is like being a headless chicken on amphetamines”-

Jackie Lanham:

That’s it.

Darren A. Smith:

Maybe that comes back to your restless part.

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah. I think there is. And it’s like, you don’t want to be restless to the fact where it’s really impacting you at your mental health and your wellbeing. But like I said, just having that, I guess, that healthy curiosity.

Darren A. Smith:

Okay.

Jackie Lanham:

“What can I learn from this conversation? What’s that telling me? What do you think?” Incredibly important because nobody’s got the biggest brain in the world. The best ideas always come together through collaboration. And I think when you’re looking at up-leading change, collaboration is absolutely essential. Especially as you come more senior in an organisation because that’s the point around the customer.

Jackie Lanham:

Unfortunately, you can become more and more detached the more senior you are within the business, in terms of what’s really happening at the frontline with respect to that customer. So having those conversations and that collaboration, is incredibly important to staying alive to what’s going on in your system.

Darren A. Smith:

And I guess that must be particularly challenging. You’ve got a business, Hilton, which must be, I don’t know, 30 sites around the world. I don’t know how many I’m afraid,

Jackie Lanham:

I think about something, yeah. Yeah.

Darren A. Smith:

So you’ve probably got 20 different cultures there, 15 different languages. Wow. That’s tough.

Jackie Lanham:

I know. It’s wonderful. I love it. Yeah. It’s because, again, you’ll get… And I was having a conversation with one of our managing directors in the U.K. and we were looking at how he wanted to focus on some improvements and immediately said, “Oh, I can see from our engagement survey, that our operating company in Denmark’s doing some great stuff. How can I learn from Denmark?” Yeah.

Jackie Lanham:

So as well as the importance of making sure you’re having those conversations, managing through data, I think is very important as well. So the more we know through asking our people what’s on their mind and collating those results through… Quick pulse engagement surveys can be very useful because then you can create some better sharing of best practice internally when you see spotlights that really great practice.

Jackie Lanham:

Plus also, in a business of our scale, you can start to see, “Well, I think I could really help this particular operating company, because obviously, they’ve got some challenges in these particular areas, and how can I take the great ideas that I see across the business and help them with that within this particular setting?”

Jackie Lanham:

So yeah, managing through data when you’re looking at change, can be really important. It’s back to the whole extinct businesses. How were they talking to their customer around what their views were, what they wanted?

Darren A. Smith:

That makes sense. Yeah, yeah. Being informed. Yeah. Sorry, it slightly froze there. And it’s just coming back. I think.

Jackie Lanham:

Think we’re in.

Darren A. Smith:

Okay. It’s back. It’s back.

Jackie Lanham:

All the children have gone online and they’re playing games at the moment.

Darren A. Smith:

Little tinkers. All right. So let’s ask you, what would be an example of leading organisational change, either this business or a previous business, so people can go, “Okay. I can see me doing that. I can see me trying that”?

Jackie Lanham:

I think that was… I mean, I’ll go back a little bit. In my last organisation, I worked for a manufacturing organisation called Wrexham, who were taken over by a big American conglomerate called Ball. A wonderful company actually, they were really great to work with. But quite frightening, because with the FTSE 100 business, plants all over the world, we needed to go through many difficult legal challenges and issues around ensuring that we didn’t have any issues around noncompeting, all of that kind of stuff.

Jackie Lanham:

So what we had to do was, take the employee base through a change that was going to be difficult for them. They might not be in a job. It might be a change that was not going to happen if it failed in any of the legal jurisdictions. So we were kind of, set ourselves a real clear vision when we went through this change, which is, “We are going to be a fantastic business, whether we are acquired or whether we’re not.”

Jackie Lanham:

So we set a very clear vision. And I think when you’re going through change, that clear vision is incredibly important. Then what we did was, we looked at it through the lens of, “How am I, as an employee, going to feel going through this change, and how can we best equip our employees to face this change as well?” We talk to them about it. We talk to them about what might they need. And this was what I might need as an employee in going about my job, but also, as a line manager as well, in terms of how I could support my people through the change.

Jackie Lanham:

And that was fantastic to see it come through because we started to put in place conversations, engagement surveys, we kept going with our high potential leadership development program. Some organisations I’ve seen in play, where they might be taken over, have just cut every single piece of this kind of activity and investment out. We divided that we needed our people to be incredibly motivated during this period, and based on what they were telling us, we kept everything in place but we upped it.

Jackie Lanham:

So we gave them more tools around how they might manage change personally, not just on the basis of getting your job done, but how you might handle it from a wellbeing perspective. We also looked at giving them tools to help them find their next job, which was taking quite a risk.

Darren A. Smith:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s important, isn’t it?

Jackie Lanham:

Because my kind of vision was to… Yeah, we wanted to hand over a business that was in good fettle to the new owner, and actually, all the people that the business wanted to stay state. And those people who moved on felt that they got fantastic support, in terms of managing their career going forward. And communication sat throughout all of this. So I think that was… Well, I know it was successful because we were clear about the vision, we collaborated with people as we went on the journey.

Jackie Lanham:

And that collaboration meant collaborating with our colleagues in North America, South America, across Europe, and across the Middle East and Africa. And it did mean a few back-to-back flights to Dubai and sleeping on the plane, doing change workshops.

Darren A. Smith:

Wow.

Jackie Lanham:

But it was so appreciated, Darren. So appreciated, which was fantastic. And so to me, the business was acquired and it’s gone on to do brilliantly, and I have people that worked in my team who are still there, absolutely loving it.

Darren A. Smith:

That was a great story. Great.

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah, so-

Darren A. Smith:

Because there are so many stories where it all goes wrong, and that’s lovely to hear one that went really right. And some ballsy moves in there as well, courageous move.

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah. Yeah, I think so, I think the… And obviously, we had really great support from the top team there. So for me, that was something that did go well, it had a good outcome and it was in difficult circumstances. If you think about, you know Kotter’s change model, where they talk about having that reason to change, that kind of call to action.

Jackie Lanham:

Sometimes it can feel as though it’s a non-positive, it’s not about the opportunity, it’s more about a threat to be overcome. And sometimes that can feel, “Don’t scare me into change,” a bit like Brexit. It was like the campaign of fear, so everyone goes… Well, not everyone, but a few people go, “Hang on. I’m not going towards that.”

Jackie Lanham:

And so what we did was, created the opportunity around this as well. So yes, it is a fear that people could lose their jobs. It is a fear that the transaction might not work and we could be forever in that place of being looked like a business to buy. So it was really time also to presenting the opportunity that gave to people. And I think as well because we had a good year to work it through, people can go through that whole change curve. They’ve got the time to go through the change curve and work out what this means to them. And I suppose, that’s an example I’d probably use.

Darren A. Smith:

And it sounds like… So you talked about, you hear people go from fear to opportunity, and sometimes it’s just semantics. We’ll change a word and we’ll sort of manipulating them, but actually, what you guys sound like you did there was, it was genuine, “We can turn this into an opportunity. It is a real opportunity. It’s not just semantics. It’s right through the business.” Okay. I’m just picking that up.

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah. And being really proud I think. There’s an incredible pride in giving, and wanting to make sure that that legacy is there really, no matter what it means for the future. I remember talking to my boss at the time. I said, “I don’t think I’ve been busier than on coaching than ever before.” And it was marvellous because we just said, “Oh, God. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was like this all the time, with people constantly coming to us?” They’re saying, “Please can you help me? Please can you give me some help and support around this particular area?” But anyway, we made the most of it in those particular circumstances.

Darren A. Smith:

I know you’re a big fan of coaching-

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah, definitely.

Darren A. Smith:

You’re a fan, aren’t you?

Jackie Lanham:

Yes. Yeah, definitely. I think it’s always interesting with coaching though. And I love the purist coaching where you really are… It’s back to curious questions, posing those curious questions to the person that you’re working with, to really help them get to that answer. That’s the coaching I love.

Darren A. Smith:

Yeah. And I think our story around that is… I tell some of these things become an urban myth. There was a story around Adrian Moorhouse, the gold medal.

Jackie Lanham:

Oh, yes. Yeah.

Darren A. Smith:

And the story goes something like, the journalist came into the pool, into the area. The coach was on the side. Adrian had doubled cramp and was sort of half drowning. You can imagine, the story gets embellished. And the journalist says to the coach, “Aren’t you going to jump in and help him?” And he says, “No. I can’t swim.” And you just love those type of stories to put forward, coaching doesn’t mean they’ll have to understand what you do.

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah, exactly. It can just be those insightful questions or putting that person in a different perspective. I often, sometimes if somebody talks to me about a really terrible experience, just saying, “Well, how did you feel at that time?” And to the silly things like, “If you’re an animal, what animal would you have been at that time? And what animal would you prefer to be?” It sounds daft, but it takes people to a more creative place.

Darren A. Smith:

Yes, yes. Absolutely does. Right.

Jackie Lanham:

And allowing them to move on. So yeah, no, I can talk for ages about coaching, really enjoy it.

Darren A. Smith:

Well, we might come back to that. Let me ask you our other question.

Jackie Lanham:

Okay.

Darren A. Smith:

The first step in leading organisational change. Have you got an example, and is it always the same step?

Jackie Lanham:

I think, probably if I look at the Hilton Food Group, Hilton Food Group, fabulously successful business, but really grown quickly. And there was a point where we’d got to say, “Actually, we’ve got a very small leadership team. That leadership team cannot, on a constant basis in part, what the vision and direction are to the business, keeping it alive for everybody. We have to start to empower more through the organisation to do that. And in doing that, we really need to be clear about what we’re about.”

Jackie Lanham:

And that was an interesting one, because usually when you’re going through a change, there’s kind of a bit of a clear call to arms, isn’t there? There’s kind of, “There this opportunity. We’re going to go and do some business over here, and we’re all going to go for it.” Or it’s going to be, “Oh, no, there’s a threat coming round the corner. We’ve got COVID. We know that people are going to be hit in their pockets. And we’ve got to think about providing more value.”

Jackie Lanham:

So this one, it was kind of, “Well, why do we really need to be doing this?” It was very important I think, for us to be clear, going back to the Wrexham case, “What’s the vision for this, what’s the reason for doing it?” I think, every change initiative, it should start with being very clear about, what’s the why. Because if we’re not clear around that, how can you take people with you? And I know there’s always ambiguity. There’s always ambiguity, but being very clear around, “What’s the purpose of what we’re doing here?”

Jackie Lanham:

So for us, I mean, this is the sort of poster thing behind me, was something we developed to be very clear around, “This is our purpose as a business. This is why we do business. This is our ambition. And these are the values we hold dear and the principles we hold dear.” And there was, in the beginning, a bit of a, “Why are we bothering?”

Jackie Lanham:

Well, why we’re bothering is because we are growing at such pace. We need to make sure everybody that joins this business, knows what’s important and what we need to keep doing, knows how we should make sure we’re aligned in a similar direction to achieve what we need to for the customer as well. But always doing so where there’s… I don’t really like the phrase but I’ll use it. A kind of freedom with their framework. So, “This is the framework of how we operate, and obviously, want to empower people to be able to do things in a way that’s right for them, but within this particular framework.”

Jackie Lanham:

So that was very interesting to get into and be able to really be clear around, “This is what it’s about, is to ensure that we all know what’s important in this business as we start to grow and develop. And in going through that change, making sure that everything we do can be rooted back to it.” So if I just sort of concentrate on the human resources side of it, it’s when we’re recruiting, we’re recruiting people who kind of like our values.

Darren A. Smith:

Yeah. Yeah, makes sense.

Jackie Lanham:

Because if you recruit people who don’t really like your values, then they aren’t going to last very long because it’s not the right business for them. We have a value about being entrepreneurial. And if you prefer an environment that’s perhaps a little bit slower paced, where you have more time perhaps, to think through some solutions, out advance, we’re not right for you because we’re constantly being curious around, “What’s the next idea? How are we going to move forward on that? Well, let’s try out. Oh, we might not get that completely right. That’s okay. We’ve learned from it.” If that’s not the environment for you, then we’re not the business for you.

Jackie Lanham:

And so I think being really clear about those kinds of things is important, but at the same time, obviously, we don’t want to recruit a lot of people who look exactly the same-

Darren A. Smith:

Yes.

Jackie Lanham:

… but at least we’re being clear about kind of, “This is what’s important to us.” So yeah, I think around starting the change, it’s always about why being very clear about why. And then immediately after, checking in on why. “Does this make sense for you? How would you go about doing this? Would you like to get involved with me on this journey?”

Jackie Lanham:

And it’s the usual stuff around making sure that when you’re forming these teams to work on this type of thing, you don’t just have your people who are cheering in the stands or cheering by your side, you also have those people that’ll be, “Oh, yeah. I’ve tried this before, Jack. I don’t know if it’s going to work.” Yeah. Or, “I’m not really sure about this.” You need those people engaged as well because they’re going to help you come up with the best solutions and the best way forward.

Darren A. Smith:

Yeah. Some of those people who have a problem who has a… What is it? A problem for every solution.

Jackie Lanham:

Oh, yeah. They’re wonderful, aren’t they?

Darren A. Smith:

Loads of people just, “No.”

Jackie Lanham:

“So what would you do then, in my place?”

Darren A. Smith:

Yeah. And they normally answer, “Well, I don’t know, but whatever you’re doing is wrong.”

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah. Yeah, they are. I know, the wonderful naysayer, but you’ve got to listen to them.

Darren A. Smith:

Yes.

Jackie Lanham:

There’ll be nuggets there.

Darren A. Smith:

Yes, I know. I know. Well, if you can win them over, you win everyone else over. All right-

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah. And sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you can’t win them over, but if you listen to what they’re saying, there’ll be things there that’ll help you build a better solution, that’ll help you win more of the larger population over so I tend to listen. I think again, it’s an old saying, isn’t it? But you’ve got two of these and one of those.

Darren A. Smith:

True. So start with why. So it sounds a bit like the Simon Sinek.

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah.

Darren A. Smith:

And the way you described that was sort of a sense check. We can keep coming back to it. Should we go in this direction? Well, this is why we said we will, you keep coming back.

Jackie Lanham:

Absolutely. And that sense checking, I think is really important because you get more data along the way. And I think again when you’re working through change… I mentioned ambiguity earlier. As much as you can create why there will be ambiguity, and we need to keep questioning, “Why is there ambiguity?” In order to help set more direction as you move forward. So I think sometimes, people find it tough, which is “Okay, there’s the goal. I’ll kick the ball and it’ll go straight in the goal.” I don’t know why I’m using a football analogy because I know nothing about football.

Jackie Lanham:

I’ve learned a bit more about football. But there’s a bit around, “Well, who do you need to pass the ball to?”

Darren A. Smith:

Right, yeah.

Jackie Lanham:

And if you don’t pass the ball over to that person and you try and kick the ball in, are you going to cause yourself a problem with somebody that they’re marking, they weren’t marking, suddenly appearing from nowhere. This analogy’s not working well, but-

Darren A. Smith:

I like it. I know nothing about football and it works for me.

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah. Yeah, but it really is. It’s kind of this piece around, you’ll start off on a track but you’ll get more data as you go down that track, then you may just need to make adjustments. So I think people, when they think in black and white all the time, “Show me the path, show me the direction.” Well, actually, when you’re going down that path, there may be some other little routes you want to follow when you do that.

Jackie Lanham:

So I think for people to be willing for those changes along the way, which means that collaboration, communication both ways are very important as you’re going through change. And as you’re going through that change, making sure you celebrate the successes along the way. So I’ve worked on some change programs that have taken quite a time, and I’ll have occasionally have come across people who’ll go, “Well, what are you up to? I haven’t seen anything different.”

Jackie Lanham:

So for me, it’s around. “Yeah, I know you haven’t seen anything different, but I know we’ve achieved this, we’ve achieved that and we’ve achieved the other.” And I had somebody who did that to me in Hilton Food Group. And then about 18 months later, they came and said, “That’s really good, that work we did on blah.” And I’m not saying everything goes well. But I also knew they had been a naysayer on the way, “When are we going to see it? When are we going to see anything?”

Darren A. Smith:

And it can take time.

Jackie Lanham:

So you have to give yourself your little successes along the way, you have to give your credit to the team along the way and your thank you’s as you’re going on this journey as well. Yeah. And there’s a little bit of hold your nerve.

Darren A. Smith:

So it’s a bit about celebrating success, hold your nerve, and the other bit that resonated with me was, someone once said to me that an airline pilot, they are 80% always off course, because of the wind.

Jackie Lanham:

Oh, I didn’t know that. Oh, okay.

Darren A. Smith:

But they’re always going that way, but they’re slightly off course all the time, but yet they’re still going the right direction. It’s like, “Oh, yeah, that” Okay.

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah. Yeah, I like that. I’m going to steal that one. No, that’s very good. Yeah, and I think that’s a really good one. And as you go through this, there is, you have to be really real with people and authentic, and if something’s not going well, it’s not going well, how can we make it well? Be very honest. And obviously, sometimes that can be a bit scary but we’re dealing with adults here. I think we, as all adults, would rather know, “What’s the real story around here, and how can we then work together to resolve this issue?”

Jackie Lanham:

If the change is presented on the basis of a threat, let’s be open about what that threat is and how can we marshal together in terms of meeting it and overcoming it. And that collaboration, I don’t think is just about collaboration. It’s also, how can you devolve as many decisions down as possible? People love being empowered. Okay, so what is it that they can do, they can contribute as well when are you going on this journey?

Jackie Lanham:

It shouldn’t be all about what I would call kind of archaic, “I’m the leader, follow me.” It’s kind of, “How are we work together on this? What’s my contribution going to be?” And in that way, we learn and grow, and we make the mistakes along the way as well.

Darren A. Smith:

That’s good. That’s good. I’m going to ask you about our last question because I’m aware of your time.

Jackie Lanham:

Okay.

Darren A. Smith:

My last question to come out is, which leadership style is best for change management? Let me make sure I got that right. Which leadership style is best for change management? That’s the last question that everyone seems to be asking.

Jackie Lanham:

I don’t think there’s one thing, I think there’s a number of things. I’ve said collaboration a lot. The big thing for me is curiosity, and always wanting to do things better, and allowing those mistakes, allowing that testing.

Jackie Lanham:

And I think for me, at Hilton Food Group, I remember early on a colleague had not managed something as well as they’d want to manage it. I was only new in the business, and I thought, “Oh, crikey. I think I’m going to have a very difficult conversation with the colleagues and boss around their future career.” The boss said, “Ah, they’re really going to learn from this.” And that, to me, I went, “Do you know? This is the company for me.”

Darren A. Smith:

Good.

Jackie Lanham:

That real entrepreneurial willingness to let people have a go was just marvellous. And I think again, as a leader, you have to promote that and support at the same time when things don’t go as right as they could have done. Yeah, so those are some that’s a mixture for me really, Darren, that would be what would be in my head as some of the really useful things.

Darren A. Smith:

So there’s not one style, there are probably six or seven attributes that you’ve listed there, which you think are important to lead the change?

Jackie Lanham:

I think so. And it depends. It can depend on the situation too. If you’re one dimensional as a leader, then you’re not going to be successful. You have to flex to what your circumstances are, and also, who you’re leading. So if you’re working with somebody who perhaps has a lot more experience, you’re going to work with them in a different way from somebody who doesn’t have as much experience. So you’ve kind of got to flex, and listen, and collaborate and facts of being authentic, all of those types of things.

Darren A. Smith:

Brilliant. Brilliant. Thank you. Leading organisational change. If we had another 30 seconds with you, that would be great. What would be one last nugget you’d like to leave these people with that are interested in leading organisational change? Here, I’ve got an expert, someone with lots of experience, made a few mistakes, lots of success. What would you want to leave them with?

Jackie Lanham:

Always be curious.

Darren A. Smith:

Cool.

Jackie Lanham:

Internally, externally. If you lose your curiosity, then you’re extinct I think.

Darren A. Smith:

Brilliant.

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah. Which sounds a bit frightening. But the minute you stop asking questions, I think that’s the moment to think, “Is this really interesting to me? Am I doing the right thing?”

Darren A. Smith:

And you can almost imagine, back to our story before of BlackBerry, someone just didn’t ask the question they probably ought to, which is, “Is this really going to be relevant in five years?”

Jackie Lanham:

Well, exactly. It’s tough with strategy now because there’s a lot of, sort of reading the idea that says, “Oh, having these fixed strategic plans for the next five years is not the right thing to do.” And I don’t think it’s around having a fixed strategic plan. It’s around scanning the horizon all the time. And it’s a bit like that healthy body thing, isn’t it? You’ve got to have healthy lungs and the air that you’re breathing in’s got to be healthy as well. So I think you should look at that from an organisational business perspective too.

Darren A. Smith:

All right. Jackie, actually, I’m going to ask you one last thing because I’ve just remembered. I think you have been nominated for an award, but I can’t remember, is it the Women’s Award?

Jackie Lanham:

Oh. What it was, was, no, we’re now sponsoring Meat Business Women.

Darren A. Smith:

Ah.

Jackie Lanham:

So yeah, it would be through that. Yeah. So they very, very kindly asked me to present at their last conference, which had to be virtual because that’s the world we’re in at the moment. And which was lovely of them to do, and a fantastic organisation. And what we’ll be doing is sponsoring with them over the next two years or so, and hopefully longer, to really look at how we can promote women’s careers within the meat industry because we have a dove. We’ve got lots of great men out there, we’ve got some great women, but we’d like some more great women.

Darren A. Smith:

Brilliant. And if we plug them, is there a website these guys have got, or a Facebook or a…

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah. Meat Business Women, you can find them by LinkedIn and they’ll be doing some more work on websites and all of that kind of thing. And we, along with a number of other organisations, will be helping them with that on sponsorship, like I say, starting next year.

Darren A. Smith:

Cool. All right. Well, we’ll have the link beneath in the YouTube comments, so you can get to that easily.

Jackie Lanham:

Yeah. Yeah, that’s great.

Darren A. Smith:

All right. I’ve taken up much of the time as I said. So, Jackie Lanham, that has been fabulous. You’ve answered all our questions people have asked, which is brilliant.

Jackie Lanham:

Phew.

Darren A. Smith:

I’ve put you on the spot and you’ve done fabulously, so thank you very much.

Jackie Lanham:

Oh, thanks, Darren. It’s always great talking to you. Take care.

Darren A. Smith:

All right. You have a good Christmas. Bye.


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