Episode 12:
Transition in Leadership
Blackberry Farm, Tennessee, USA

Nestled in the foothills of the smoky mountains is the renowned luxury hotel Blackberry Farm, a place of natural beauty and elegant experiences. Owned and operated by the Beall family since 1976, in 2016 Blackberry Farm suffered the untimely loss of their beloved CEO and proprietor, Sam Beall. His wife, Mary Celeste Beall, stepped into the role left empty by her husband’s passing. In this episode, Dr. Henry Cloud sits down with Mary Celeste and talks about the experience of transition.

One thing we can all be certain of in business: change is the only guarantee. Though Blackberry Farm experienced a loss, there are many other types of transitions that a company may go through, including staff promotions and departures, mergers, changes in regulation, strategy pivots, new products, and changes in production. Whatever the cause of the change, there are three phases in every transition:

1 Where the company was

2 Where the company is going

3 What happens in-between

The most important tool to assess the above three phases? Communication. Mary Celeste knew that in order to lead the many departments and personnel at Blackberry effectively, communication way key.

Transition can be threatening. Blackberry Farm’s staff needed to know that what they’d already created held value, and that Mary Celeste trusted and believed in their ability to perform their duties through the period of change. She held daily line-ups and established quarterly and annual “vision” meetings to make sure that everyone was thinking forward but also respecting the past.

Mary Celeste made sure to establish “Anchors” (elements that would stay the same) and sets parameters around the “under construction” phase of the transition. Every leader guiding their team through change must be sure to celebrate the wins and acknowledge the milestones their company reaches. Because of her close attention to these markers, Mary Celeste was able to establish herself in her new position at Blackberry Farm with confidence and the support of her staff.

In times of transition, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day. Tony Blair, in his role as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, would take a half-day occasionally to sit by a pond and reflect. Warren Buffet schedules time every day to sit by a window and think. A leader needs to build in reflection time to gather insight and inspiration. Mary Celeste and Dr. Henry cloud discuss the importance of self care and time apart.

Sample Curriculum Tasks:

As we get a close-up look at how Blackberry Farm handled a major transition in leadership, LeadU and Dr. Cloud ask you to assess a change that may be occuring in your own business. You’ll learn how to handle your staff with respect and care, communicate clearly and regularly, and engage structure to tackle the changes you will be facing. Are you ready for the challenge?

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