CHRISTINA GOLD LEADING CHANGE AT WESTERN UNION
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In early 2003, Christina Gold, chief executive officer (CEO) of Western Union, had just begun implementing a new organization structure. Gold had joined Western Union in May 2002 with a key focus of unifying the company’s U.S. operations with its international division. In guiding the company to act as one entity, Gold proposed a change from a U.S. centric product line focus to a regional structure with three main divisions: the Americas; Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia; and Asia-Pacific. Changing the structure sent out a clear message of Gold’s desired change in mindset to a new type of global culture. Already, Gold was finding that leaders in the United States were reluctant to give up control of product lines. At the regional level, she had keen leaders who wanted to push out the responsibility within their own regions and move towards a decentralized plan. While Gold supported this notion in principle, she wanted to ensure that the right leaders could be placed in decentralized offices in order to execute on the six strategic pillars that she had laid out for the organization. As well, she wanted to match responsibility with authority by giving the regional heads profit and loss responsibility. With this responsibility at the regional level, she wondered how new products would develop under a regional structure. Gold was also aware of the need to consider recruiting, training
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and development of new leaders as the company was growing most rapidly in emerging markets, such as India, China, Eastern Europe and Africa. One thing was certain — Gold had made it clear that no revenue decreases would be forgiven amidst the change. Many considerations had arisen: What pace of change should she take? How would she deal with the resistance to change? How could she ensure that the new structure would support Western Union’s global expansion? CHRISTINA GOLD
Born in 1947 in the Netherlands, Gold moved to Canada at age five. She attended Carleton University in Ottawa where she earned a degree in geography in 1969, and upon graduating, secured a job at a coupon-centre clearinghouse. A year later in 1970, she joined Avon Canada as an entry-level inventory control clerk. Gold worked her way up through more than 20 positions before being promoted to president of the entire Canadian Avon division in 1989. Gold became well known for training sales representatives on selling techniques and time management. Dedicating time to joining representatives on sales calls, Gold explained her rationale, “I’d go out with the sales reps who were doing well and with the ones who were doing badly, and I’d pass what the successful ones were doing on to the others.” 1 In November 1993, Gold was selected from a number of candidates to run the entire North American Avon organization in New York. For several months, she and her husband maintained a commuting...