“The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress” – Charles Kittering
“If you want to make enemies, try to change something” – Woodrow Wilson
“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future” – John F. Kennedy
In reflecting on 2013, the entire year was a continuous cycle of change for me; new teams, new brands, new relationships, strong businesses, difficult businesses, new processes, a lot of learning, and even more listening. In November, another big change occurred when I was promoted into another new role at Macy’s. I am now the Group Vice President of Men’s Sportswear, Collections, and Millennial Private Brands. My new team is comprised of 85 people with five direct reports, and I’m responsible for the product development, design, and full P&L of seven lifestyle brands. While I considered that I would be given additional responsibility during my time in NYU Stern’s Executive MBA program, I didn’t anticipate two promotions as a possibility in under a year.
Inherently, people do not love change. For most, it’s much easier doing what has always been done as that’s what worked for them in the past and what they are most comfortable with doing. Change, for others, is a scary proposition in that there is an unknown factor at play, and the results are less certain. As we learned in finance class, people are generally risk averse, and with change, there’s always going to be a certain amount of risk. Finally, there are those that embrace change because they know that there has to be a better way than what they are currently doing. Change is not easy, but it’s the engine that drives the new processes and innovative products that shape the future.
The Stern Executive MBA experience has equipped me with the tools, skills, and abilities to successfully make these transitions and change implementations.
Many of the classes that we have taken have addressed change management and leadership transitions. In an aptly named Managing Change class, focus was placed on how a manager could best handle a transition to a new company along with how a team can best influence the implementation of a new project in an organization. In a consulting implementation example, we utilized a simulator to project the impact of each decision that our team made in trying to gain support for a new technology rollout. The key takeaway was that if you tried to push change on an organization, you would fail miserably. Successful change takes relationship building along with engagement and support at every level of the organization.
Additionally, Stern’s Career Center for Working Professionals offers many seminars and speakers on a wide variety of topics. A webinar titled “The First 90 Days” outlined best practices for transitioning to a new company or to a new role within your current company. The most difficult aspect of these transitions is that the majority of people feel the need to make an immediate impact and look to quickly make changes. However, the art of listening is a skill that I’ve learned is crucial to being successful. The successful manager takes the time to listen, assess, and build relationships. As a leader, one cannot be in the minutiae of every business, but the real need is to trust and develop your teams, listen to ideas, and drive the overall vision and strategy.
Finally, the professors at Stern are very open to setting up office time to further discuss challenges that we are facing in the workplace and how to best work through them. Imagine having the opportunity to tap into some of the brightest minds and industry experts on topics across multiple disciplines.
Of course change isn’t easy. But if we wanted easy, we wouldn’t have made the leap to take on a challenging Executive MBA program along with work and life.
Tim Reid is getting an Executive MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business. He has spent 19 years in the retail industry with The Gap, May Co., and for the past ten years, Macy’s Merchandising Group where he is group vice president of product development and design for Macy’s men’s private branded apparel.
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