How to Handle Unexpected Change with Craig Wood

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This is a podcast episode titled, How to Handle Unexpected Change with Craig Wood. The summary for this episode is: <p>Today on The Daily Bolster, we’re joined by multi-time CEO Craig Wood. Tune in as he and Matt discuss preparing for and managing unexpected change. </p><p>This is a valuable episode for any leader, but especially for CEOs. You won't want to miss it!</p>
⏱️ Managing change effectively starts before the change happens
01:56 MIN
⭐️ A real life example from Craig
00:33 MIN
💪🏻 Trust the plan
00:55 MIN
🧠 Trust your instincts
00:39 MIN
🤝 When it doubt, turn to advisors
00:41 MIN

Intro: Welcome to the Daily Bolster. Each day, we welcome transformational executives to share their real world experiences and practical advice about scaling yourself, your team, and your business.

Matt Blumberg: Welcome to The Daily Bolster. I'm Matt Blumberg, co- founder and CEO of Bolster, and I'm here today with my friend, Craig Wood. Craig is a multi- time CEO, currently the CEO of Premier International, which is a PE owned award- winning IT consulting firm, but has prior stints in live events, in direct marketing, in market research. Craig, it's good to see you.

Craig Wood: Great to be with you, friend.

Matt Blumberg: And I'll say just for those who listen to this regularly or who know me, one of the things we talk about at Bolster when we run board searches and place a board member is that when you're doing onboarding of a new board member you need to assign the new board member a board buddy who's going to take you under their wing or take the new board member under their wing and sort of show them the ropes, be a person to ask all the dumb questions, et cetera. So Craig and I know each other in the context of being each other's board buddies about 15 years ago, so that's kind of a nice close the loop moment. But Craig, it's good to see you here.

Craig Wood: Great to see you.

Matt Blumberg: Yeah, and our topic today has nothing to do with that but that was a good aside. So our topic today is unexpected change, and we are living in a world of unexpected change, right? The black swan events feel like they happen more and more frequently these days, whether it's a pandemic, a war, something internal like the death of an employee or an employee getting caught doing something and getting fired abruptly, so unexpected change. And Craig, I would love to hear, since I know you've lived through a lot of these as the leader of an organization, sort of your top three techniques, I guess, or thoughts on handling unexpected change in the business.

Craig Wood: Yeah, thanks, I would be happy to share that. To your point, I think as CEOs we're great at change management and knowing how to plan for a change and how to communicate but what happens when something was unexpected? In my career I've found a few things have worked. The first thing is to understand that the majority of the work done in managing unexpected change was done before that change happened. Let me tell you what I mean by that. Is all the decisions you led, you made leading up to that moment, I call them deposits in the trust bank. Things that you've done to keep promises to the team, to be there for them, to have them understand where you're coming from, that is going to serve you well when unexpected change comes because unexpected change is just as it says, unexpected. No one knows what to do with it. You need to have the trust of your team. You need to have the belief of your team. And so, I talk a lot about the things we're doing now from our past self or our current self is helping our future self. And those deposits in the trust bank, I've used that term a bunch. I've had to take out a deposit from the trust bank to say, " Trust me, I need you to trust me on this one because we're navigating some new territory here." So my first thing is the way to prepare for unexpected change is just do the job upfront, to build the trust, build the rapport, do the things necessary to be able to manage the change when it comes. The second thought I would say...

Matt Blumberg: Oh, by the way, the concept of the trust bank, which is one that we actually use at home as we talk about parenting our kids, putting deposits in the bank. Such a good framework so I love that.

Craig Wood: It's interesting. A bit of a side note. I came into this job upon the death of the founder and CEO so the team didn't know me, so I had no deposits in the trust bank. So the first few things I did were really important to let them see how I was going to lead and how I was going to manage. They were dealing with unexpected change having lost their CEO and founder and I had to come in and figure out how to navigate that without having those deposits made yet. Six years later here we are with, I think, enough deposits made that people will tell you that they're there, but certainly a lesson learned from that.

Matt Blumberg: Okay, great. What's number two?

Craig Wood: I would say the second thing for a leader to do is trust your plan. Now, what I mean by that is as CEOs, as leaders, we have a plan that we're following and something unexpected happens. It doesn't mean the whole plan is gone, it doesn't mean the things you thought were right, weren't right still. There's a tendency to abandon ship the minute something goes wrong and to try to solve that immediate issue, so comment number two is trust what you've already been doing. Yes, you may need to adjust. Yes, you may need to make course corrections, but the concept of what you put in place yesterday still works today even with this change. So trust what you've known as your plan, begin to build around that. I think we saw that in COVID. So many people abandoned what they thought they should be doing in COVID because oh my gosh, there's this pandemic. Those companies, like Premier, that were able to stay the course, trusted what they thought was right and navigated the waters in maybe a more successful way.

Matt Blumberg: All right, and what's number three?

Craig Wood: So the theme of trust, that build the trust bank, trust your plan, the other one is trust your instincts. Is that you're in a leadership role for a reason. You've known what to do, you've navigated choppy waters before. It's important to get input. It's important to talk to your board, to talk to your advisors to get the kind of support you need but, in the end, you're the one making the decision. I've learned over the years that my gut and my instinct is right more often than it's not. And in time of uncertainty, in time of change like this, trusting your instinct is the best advice I can give someone, especially a new leader who maybe is just beginning to learn how to trust their gut and what that means in a leadership role.

Matt Blumberg: How do you deal with the moments where your instinct is that your plan is wrong? So you want to trust your plan but you've got to trust your instinct.

Craig Wood: I think that's where Bolster and advisors come in, right? That's where surrounding yourself with people that can help you understand is my plan right? This is what I thought was going to happen. We've got a great board at Premier and there's sounding boards within that board that I can go to and be a little bit more vulnerable, to be a little bit more about did I miss something here, this isn't working the way I want it to. At some point, plan versus gut. You've got to make a choice, right? And sometimes you trust the plan and go against your gut, but sometimes you have to trust your gut and go against your plan.

Matt Blumberg: All right, thanks, Craig. Craig Wood, CEO Premier International, and my former board buddy. Great to see you again and thanks for taking some time to talk to us this morning.

Craig Wood: Former board buddy but current real buddy, so great to be with you, Matt, thanks for having me.


Today on The Daily Bolster, we’re joined by multi-time CEO Craig Wood. Tune in as he and Matt discuss preparing for and managing unexpected change.

This is a valuable episode for any leader, but especially for CEOs. You won't want to miss it!