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Business leaders failing to drive change

Leaders are reluctant to make changes in their organisations, research from Purple Cubed has revealed

The research found that, while employers recognise challenges within their businesses, few felt they were able to take action through investing in new ideas, instead choosing cost-cutting, risk-averse approaches.

In its qualitative research Purple Cubed found that of the 60 leaders interviewed, few saw managing change as a priority. The majority saw the economy and political climate as the biggest risk to their organisations.

Furthermore, many leaders felt too overwhelmed by day-to-day challenges to prioritise long-term change. 'Almost universally' interviewees did not see employee engagement and building leadership skills as a priority.

Speaking at Purple Cubed’s panel event 'Time to change: Fast is the new big', Khurshed Dehnugara, author and a partner at Relume, said: “Companies are being told two conflicting messages. They’re being told to go out there and innovate, but they’re also being told that they should do so without taking any risks – that’s when you see the energy start to plateau.

“Humans don’t want to fail; it always involves an element of fear," Dehnugara added. "If we want to change our relationship with risk we’ve got to start by moving away from the paradigm of thinking of change being a success or a failure, and accept that it’s just part of leadership.”

Scott Macdonald, managing director at Polpo restaurants, said: “People don’t want to make decisions in business for fear of being wrong, and worrying that it will cost them their careers.

"[But] when it comes to decision-making you should ask for forgiveness, not permission. If I waited for everyone to agree with my changes then I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere in the hospitality industry."

The panel encouraged HR to push for leadership roles within businesses. Jane Sunley, chairman and founder of Purple Cubed, said: “Some of the roadblocks are down to the idea that HR can be seen as either transactional or transformational. We need to move beyond the mentality where HR is seen as a support function.

"Everyone within an organisation should be given leadership skills; don’t take a job where you can’t be involved with the business.”