Companies across every industry undergo periods of adjustment, which include tapping someone new to steer the organization in a different direction. Changing out the CEO and replacing upper management teams may sometimes be necessary, but when that shift isn’t well-executed, it can exacerbate old problems and create new ones. The reason is simple: those in charge lose sight of – or can’t grasp – the core principles that are necessary for effective leadership, especially in times of transition and turbulence.

Years ago, I participated in a meeting with top executives from various healthcare delivery organizations that became part of a larger health system in the Midwest. We were discussing challenges these leaders were having and trying to solve. They defined the problem as needing assistance in being able to communicate more effectively. But it was hard to get concrete about what the actual problems in communication were. At one point in the discussion, an executive raised her hand and asked if their communication problems had anything to do with the fact that they were all previously separate organizations. After her remark, you could hear a pin drop in the room. And, as the meeting went on, more disparities came to light. As it turns out, these merged hospitals had continued to use their old letterhead and talked about the way they were before in the context of their previous organizations, not even mentioning the new system by name. All of this was still going on–even three years after the acquisitions. The experience that day was stunning as it was instructive to what we are witnessing today in healthcare delivery.

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