Change within organizations is a constant, and few individuals understand this fact better than seasoned partnerships leader Faisal Mirza. Faisal is currently Adobe’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, and his background includes significant roles at companies such as Udemy, Shutterfly, eBay, Microsoft, and AOL. 

In a recent Partner School conversation hosted by Firneo co-founder and CEO Scott Pollack, Faisal shared valuable insights for partnerships leaders handling challenges such as organizational shifts and restructurings. During his interview, he delved into the complexities of navigating change, dealing with uncertainty, and restructuring within organizations.

Setting the Stage: Building Partnerships in a Changing Landscape

When Faisal joined Udemy, he faced the monumental task of establishing a partnership program from scratch. This endeavor required him to assemble a team, make sure their focus was aligned with Udemy’s growth strategy, and overcome the challenges associated with building partnerships in the digital education space.

As if that wasn’t enough, Faisal had to deal with organizational change while pursuing these goals along with the COVID-19 pandemic, which added an extra layer of complexity to this already intricate process. Udemy’s shift to remote work in response to the uncertainty of the times made Faisal’s ability to nurture strong team dynamics especially critical.

The Art of Leadership During Reorgs

Reorganizations often come with shifts in roles, responsibilities, and even reporting structures. Faisal’s approach, which is rooted in building personal trust and understanding individuals’ motivations, allowed him to effectively assess team dynamics and capabilities during his time at Udemy. However, not all transitions are smooth, and Faisal candidly discussed instances where his team members’ ambitions didn’t align with organizational trajectories.

While evaluating team skills amidst organizational changes, Faisal emphasized mental agility, problem-solving acumen, and curiosity as pivotal traits. Instead of focusing on rigid adherence to traditional partnership roles, he said individuals’ ability to excel in these departments is critical when it comes to navigating complex organizational landscapes.

Reading the Signs and Preparing for Change

When employees are able to recognize the early signs of impending reorganizations, they can give themselves as much time as possible to prepare for these changes. According to Faisal, these warning signs include:

  • Struggles to meet business goals
  • Internal struggles over resources
  • Changes in leadership

Faisal advised team members anticipating organizational changes to foster open communication and build trust with leadership before these changes occur. Establishing solid relationships with people in high-ranking positions will help them better understand how internal shifts might affect their team’s roles and responsibilities.

Another critical aspect of leadership during times of change is addressing team anxiety, and Faisal emphasized the importance of honesty and openness in such situations. Leaders must be transparent about what they can and cannot share while reassuring their teams that they will provide information when possible. By creating an environment where team members are comfortable asking questions, these professionals can foster open communication, address concerns, and maintain trust.

Handling External Partnerships During Org Changes

When organizational changes impact external partnerships, Faisal said partnership leaders should acknowledge these shifts and be as forthright as possible with their partners. When partnerships undergo significant changes due to situations like these, a detailed handoff and open communication go a long way.

Faisal also highlighted the importance of considering partners’ perspectives, as they often face similar situations in their own organizations. Successful partnership teams are capable of adapting to changes, which should ensure a smooth transition and minimize disruption for everyone involved in a partnership.

Building and Rebuilding Trust

To successfully build trust with new leaders, partnerships pros need to understand their vision and priorities. Faisal recommended spending time with incoming leaders, which can make it easier to comprehend their perspective and align partnership initiatives with their goals. 

In these situations, partnerships leaders must also demonstrate the impact of their program and clearly outline their resource requirements. Additionally, Faisal emphasized the importance of being nimble and adaptable—this allows partnerships teams to demonstrate their ability to align with shifting organizational strategies.

Furthermore, partnerships pros must address any apprehension within their teams after the dust settles on a reorganization. Faisal advocated for individualized approaches, acknowledging that different team members may have different responses to change. 

Listening to employee concerns, focusing on controllable factors, and maintaining a healthy perspective on organizational dynamics are all excellent strategies for handling internal chaos. These conversations should be even more effective once trust between team members and leadership is fully re-established.

Preparing for the Unknown with Firneo

Navigating change within organizations can be challenging. With the right mindset and strategies, however, it can also be an opportunity for growth and evolution. Faisal’s experiences with topics such as preparing for shifts in leadership, continuing to nurture partnerships during uncertain times, and rebuilding trust in the aftermath of large-scale changes offer a guiding light for individuals and leaders navigating the complex terrain of organizational transformations.

Partnership leaders can also get advice on handling tricky situations from Firneo’s Mastering Partnerships Strategy program. This program focuses on identifying and solving the biggest challenges threatening your partnerships strategy—from choosing the wrong partners to struggling with internal buy-in. To make sure your partnerships team is ready for anything, enroll in this program today!

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