Marie Jackson’s Leadership at Renfield Farms

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The Renfield Farms CEO’s leadership characteristics and performance

A chief executive officer in any company is responsible for the overall performance of a company. It is essential for him to adopt leadership skills and maintain the desired behaviors within the organization. It is also within the job description that CEOs must see the unseen and predict the changes ahead of competitors to gain an advantage. In this case, we will try to understand and analyze Maria Jackson’s actions or, in some cases, “inactions” as CEO of Renfield Farms, once was a thriving business, now become a sinking ship and in need of immediate Capitan to salvage the future of the company and employees. We will try to analyze her personality and leadership traits. Following the case details, her leadership styles relate to transformational leadership styles.

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Moreover, analyzing the CEO characteristics, we can say that Marie Jackson had realistic optimism, strong communication and negotiation skills, and learning abilities. She changed the direction of existing business operations towards improvement and betterment by creating a new vision for the organization and a new structure as well. Maria Jackson communicated with suppliers and collected feedback from clients, who indicated not only her hard-working personality but also her dedication to the betterment of the organization.

Analysis of Maria Jackson’s Personality

Marie Jackson possesses the traits of a great leader who faces extreme hardships that could derail her success at Renfield Farms. She made efforts to implement significant changes within the failing organization, but to better understand her leadership characteristics and traits, we need to first break down her personality. An overview of her personality using the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) will be demonstrated. The MBTI can be defined as a personality questionnaire that identifies various psychological differences among people. According to Furnham & Crump (2015), the MBTI broadly categorizes the personalities into extraversion-introversion dimensions that are indirectly linked to employee performance through job satisfaction.

Of the sixteen MBTI types, Marie is best described by ESTJ that implies a practical person, good communicator, matter-of-fact, decisive, realistic, quick to implement decisions, organizes people and projects to get things done and focuses on getting results in the most efficient way possible.

These characteristics are observed when Marie terms the company as apathetic and vows to change things. Specific examples include the virtual town-hall meetings within her first month intended to reach out to all members of the company. As a practical person, her vision was followed by actions such as creating a brand group to coordinate brand and product strategies. Her decisiveness is manifested when she dismisses those senior staff who resisted the changes she proposed. She calls managers for meetings and organizes them alongside set objectives and tasks intended to achieve the desired change. In addition to being transformative, these actions show that she is also a pragmatic leader.

As a thinker, she perceives new ways to handle the current problems, such as the use of social media and the launch of new products. As an extravert, she is outspoken and loves to engage the people around her for insights and deliberations. Her communication abilities are also evidence of her extroversion as she continuously engages and communicates with the executives before making significant decisions. Such a characteristic is indeed a major strength in that communicating issues before making decisions means everyone is on board. Any problem emerging can be deliberated upon before the final decision, and this could be a way of reducing the resistance.

Maria Jackson’s Leadership Traits

There are four major traits that can be used to define a transformational leader like Marie. Firstly, idealized influence describes a leader who behaves in a way that makes them a role model for the followers who are expected to emulate their actions (Fok-Yew, 2015). At Renfield Farms, she started by trying to reach out to almost everyone in the organization, listening to their thoughts and fears, making them feel not only part of the change to come but a necessary pillar of the future success, thus using her high communication abilities as a tool to motivate the employees, Marie has behaved in a way that makes even critics enthusiastic about the new vision.

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However, their bond to be followers who are skeptical about her background, fearing that she might turn the company into a processed foods wasteland as she previously worked for a processed foods company. The resulting resistance is the main reason why the attribute of idealized influence did not achieve the best possible results.

The second quality is intellectual stimulation, where the leader instills innovation and creativity in their followers by challenging the status quo. Marie’s intellectual stimulation has led to a new hype in product development and, consequently, the launching of the new product, Hale Refresh. She observed the need for taking the company in a new direction and decided on the people she needed to involve in its formulation. Thirdly, inspirational motivation focuses on helping followers to find meaning in their work (Fok-Yew, 2015). Marie’s attempt to motivate the managers across the different units was only partially successful, but the attribute remained noticeable.

Skepticism concerning her background in processed foods worked against her determination. She motivated employees only to the extent that they believed her efforts would not jeopardize the principles of the company and its founder. Lastly, individualized consideration is a trait seen in leaders’ desire to coach and mentor followers. Even though she liked to work in groups, Marie pointed out to various individuals areas that they needed to improve for the sake of organizational success. Marie fell short of individualized consideration as she was unable to mentor several senior executives to embrace the changes she brought.

Maria’s strengthes and weaknesses in face of challenges

The challenges Marie faced at Renfield did reveal more of her strengths as opposed to weaknesses. The environment at the company was not right for a change, and yet she visibly persisted until some changes were effected and some initial successes realized. Managing change in franchised chains is exceptionally challenging for corporate leaders because the individual business units insist on their autonomy (Brand, Croonen, & Welsh, 2016). In such a scenario, the leaders will face not only resistance but also departmental/business unit leaders working against the vision pursued by the leader.

Marie did all that would have been expected of a leader in her situation and went beyond that to try new techniques to achieve the new vision for the firm. The concept of change through persuasion, as described by Garvin & Roberto (2005), best fits Marie as she tries to convince the managers that change is the only way to get things done better. A specific example of her persuasive approach is when she explains that the current apathetic situation can be turned around and that she sought to restore the company’s reputation. Additionally, she regularly met with senior managers to share her findings and challenged them to explore new solutions.

Even with the highlighted strengths, Marie overestimated her leadership abilities. Her persuasiveness failed to bring everyone on board, and her change attempts were still faced with massive resistance even when successful attempts were made. For example, despite the success of Hale Refresh, one manager was still reluctant to pursue further new ideas. He stated that “groundbreaking new product launches are often too risky. Failure would wipe out my bonus”. Evidently, her success failed to instill any confidence in the employees that they could take risks and become successful.

In conclusion, Marie possesses the characteristics of a transformational leader despite working in an environment with persistent resistance. The four traits evident in her actions as a leader include idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. The challenges revealed more of her strengths, but she did overestimate her ability to inspire change. She remained determined and persuasive when facilitating the change, and it has been argued that the skepticism regarding her background with processed foods derailed her progress.

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The change process of Renfield Farms

Organizational change is critical in certain situations are the survival and growth of a business in a competitive environment may depend on it. Firms that effectively manage change reap the benefits through improved efficiencies and productivity. Several theories have been proposed to explain the process through which change occurs. Among the models that can be used to explain the change process is Kotter’s 8-step change model. This section discusses the change process and Renfield Farms and argues that the change was partially successful because of improper implementation of the change process.

Change Process at Renfield

Kotter’s 8-step model can be used to explain the change process explaining why the success in facilitating change was only partial. Firstly, Marie managed to create a sense of urgency in her first statement, saying that a change was necessary if the fortunes of the company were to be turned around. With a great sense of urgency, according to Kotter (2005), over 75% of the management will be convinced that the current state is unacceptable. The message was that now was the time for the change and not a moment later.

Whether or not Marie achieved over 75% support is not clear, but it can be judged that those opposed to her intentions to effect immediate change were the minority. The main reason for the opposition is the skepticism regarding her background and fears that she might deviate from the company’s traditions.

Marie did not create a powerful enough guiding coalition, considering that even those in support of her changes were not very committed. According to Kotter (2005), not creating a powerful enough guiding coalition makes major change impossible. Marie may have managed to bring some senior managers on board, but she failed to win the support of enough senior managers. This is despite having created a vision to help guide the change and to develop strategies to pursue that vision.

Her vision was that Renfield could perform better than competitors and where that reputation could be restored. Questions can be asked regarding whether the resistance was the result of undercommunicating the vision. According to Kotter (2005) undercommunicating the vision by a factor of ten startles the whole process. In her defense, Marie continuously communicated the vision through the meetings with senior managers and the multiple webinars with the employees. She had all the qualities of a good communicator, including engaging people before making decisions.

Having properly communicated the vision, slow success can be attributed to the ineffective empowerment of the people. Kotter (2005) states that a guiding coalition empowers followers to take action. Marie managed to win the hearts of some critics, but the fact that the initiatives stalled soon after they were implemented means that not enough employees and senior managers were empowered to carry on with her vision. In this case, failing to remove obstacles to the new vision explains the failures and challenges. Several employees left the company, but it can be argued that those who mattered most remained and became the biggest obstacle to her vision.

Failing to create short-term wins may also derail the change process. In Renfield’s change process, the short-term wins include immediate goals such as the adoption of social media marketing and the launching of new products. These were achieved even if their attainment failed to inspire the longer-term wins. However, improvement to the short-term wins was communicated by Marie, for example, through the directives to the chief marketing officer regarding better resource management to improve the efficiency of the updated operations.

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Lastly, the institutionalization of the changes and new approaches implemented was yet to be achieved at Renfield. With success being partial, however, the new approaches have not become part of the new status besides the adoption of social media marketing.

Marie’s change-facilitation at Renfield Farms mainly faced push factors often used when the business is experiencing a difficult time and when change is a matter of survival and staying alive (Boivie, 2013). Marie has to change the entire company to turn its fortunes around. The push factors include the fact that the company is losing its market share and its reputation has diminished. Additionally, the declining sales revenues are other push factors confronting Marie. These push factors can be examined using Kotter’s model above, specifically in the stages involved with the creation of the vision and the short-term wins. The company’s current problems shape Marie’s vision and the short-term goals developed are intended to solve the internal difficulties.

In conclusion, the change process at Renfield Farms is partially successful as some of the change initiatives do stall after time. There lacks a sustained drive among the senior managers to pursue the changes. Additionally, the firm simply implements what Marie asks them to do, beyond which they fail to take any initiative. As expressed earlier on, the 8-step model shows two of the eight steps have not been properly implemented.

Resolving the challenges at Renfield Farms

Effecting change within a complex organization is not always a smooth process and a guaranteed success. According to Kegan & Lahey (2005), competing commitments are among the real reasons that people do not want to change. At Renfield, the change has been partially implemented because of the challenges encountered in the process in the form of senior manager’s commitments competing with those of the CEO. This section seeks to provide some leadership skills recommendations to Marie to allow her to manage the complexity of the change process and to lead the firm better. The section supports the idea that becoming leaderful will go a long way to improving leadership skills.

Advice on How to Solve Challenges

Before exploring the idea of a leader, it is important to recommend some areas of improvement and skills that need to be practiced. Leaderfulness can be defined as being intuitive and interpretive as opposed to being rational and objective. Being leaderful means being aware of how and why she, as a leader, acts, feels, and thinks the way she does. Firstly, Marie should learn how to instill trust among the employees. The resistance among the senior managers emanated from how they felt about her being formerly a CEO of a company whose practices are an “antithesis” of what Renfield is and what it does. Trust is among the critical issues for leaders because followers will only commit to a leader they have confidence in (Hao & Yazdanifard, 2015).

It is recommended that Marie’s initial message should be about her commitment to the values and beliefs of Renfield. The communication skills she possesses are adequate to win an audience, but she should also understand what messages would work within the given circumstances.

Additionally, Marie is a person who likes to make statements using tangible results. To provide tangible results, she will need to implement a change or undertake action and let the outcomes speak her message. In an environment where resistance is high and persistent, she will need to develop her persuasion and negotiation skills to help her win over even stubborn employees. To implement chain-wide changes, she will need to negotiate with the senior managers across the affected business units rather than directing them.

The idea behind using negotiation is that these managers prefer autonomy, but through negotiations, they make active and constructive efforts to make improvements to their operations (Brand et al., 2016). Besides these deficiencies in her skills, her past success in other organizations depicts her as a skillful leader.

The concept of leaderfulness offers a different approach to leadership, and it comprises three main ideas or strategies that can be recommended to Marie. According to Yeo, Gold, & Marquardt (2015), leaders often serve as stabilizing agents during turbulent times. To do so, Marie would need to be mindful of being authentic in her thoughts, actions, and emotions. The mindfulness strategy would mean pausing to think about what is going on around her. The strategy would help her realize that the real problem is her inability to convince the employees about her commitment to the organizational values.

The second strategy is to mobilize the intellectual capacity of the workers to develop a culture of participation and continuous learning. According to Yeo et al. (2015), employees can be used as collaborative and change agents. Currently, Marie seems to be the only one focused on the change, while all other people are against it. Lastly, leaderfulness requires leaders to promote the autonomy of the employees through interdependent engagements. As recommended earlier on, chain-wide changes with autonomous managers would work better; the leader negotiates changes as opposed to when the leader directs the changes.

Marie should allow the changes to come from the business units themselves, but she would still be required to convince the senior managers that immediate change is needed.

Implementing the specific strategies recommended has some risks and tradeoffs to consider. The major risk would be losing control of the change process, and the urgency with which the change is needed would not be properly felt among the employees. Considering how rigid they are, the senior managers would prefer to continue producing the current products. The example of the manager opposing the launching of groundbreaking products explains the argument that conceding control of the change process would be a huge risk.

The tradeoff, however, is that the senior managers would be more supportive of the change process they initiate themselves and of which they are part. The results may not be immediate, but the frustrations from the resistance would be significantly reduced. A sustained and consistent pace for the change process would be achieved. Additionally, conceding some control may work well to install a sense of trust among the senior managers who question her motif and fear the introduction of processes products.

In conclusion, Marie could work better as a leader if she successfully installs trust among the employees, specifically making the employees trust that her intentions are aligned with the corporate values. Communication and negotiation skills may be needed to help her communicate change and drive the change impetus among the senior managers. With the complexity of the organization and the challenges she faces, it has been recommended that the three major strategies of leaderfulness will give her a new approach to leadership.

References List

Boivie, C., (2013). ‘Change management: deciding whether to ‘push’ or ‘pull’. Web.

Brand, M., Croonen, E. & Welsh, D., (2016). ‘Successfully managing chain-wide transformational change’. Organizational Dynamics, 45(2), pp. 94-103.

Fok-Yew, O., (2015). ‘The relationship between transformational leadership and followers’ work characteristics and task performance’. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 5(6), pp. 366-377.

Furnham, A. & Crump, J., (2015). ‘The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Promotion at Work’. Psychology, 6(12), pp. 1510-1515.

Garvin, D. & Roberto, M., (2005). ‘Change through persuation’. Harvard Business Review, pp. 24-34.

Hao, M. & Yazdanifard, R., (2015). ‘How effective leadership can facilitate change in organizations through improvement and innovation’. Global Journal of Management and Business Research, 15(9), pp. 1-7.

Kegan, R. & Lahey, L., (2005). ‘The Real Reason People Won’t Change’. Harvard Business Review, pp. 49-59.

Kotter, J., (2005). ‘Leading change: Why transformation efforts fail’. Harvard Business Review, pp. 4-12.

Mayo, A. & Beckham, H., (2015). Marie Jackson: Revitalizing Renfield Farms, Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.

Yeo, R., Gold, J. & Marquardt, M., 2015. Becoming “leaderful”: Leading forward in turbulent times. Industrial and Commercial Training, 47(6), pp. 285-292.

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