The first truth about transition is it can be harrowing, feel like you’re jumping through hoops of fire, and like everyone on the sidelines has an opinion. Add the element of your office audience likely being the people you have the privilege of leading and the pressure to remain cool and calm can get intense when you’re going through your own leadership transition. Whether coming on board to a new company or new office, being newly promoted among your peers, or exiting a team you’ve led for years, let’s talk brass tacks shall we?. What happens in the transition and how do you lead through it? All three transition stages are addressed in today’s Monday Moment and of course, I’ve also included action steps for each.
New Coming In
Coming into an organization as a newbie has its own set of challenges. Of course, those issues are lessened when you are the person with the highest title, but the more quickly you learn the history, the loyalty to, and the actions of the person previously in your position, the better. Without insight into the culture of the organization for which you’ve now begun working as a person in higher management, there may be landmines you miss because you simply don’t know they exist. In week one, meet all of one layer of those who report to your title. In the two or three weeks following, meet as many of everyone who reports to you as possible. Those who manage other managers need to know your style, your thinking, and your direction. Meet with them as a group to share that information and incorporate them in the discussion. Each leader has his or her own style of doing this, however, when you are a new person coming in from the outside of an organization, the more quickly you can build rapport with those who’ve been there the longest, the more quickly you will begin to be seen as one of the family, instead of an outsider. Listen more than talk in the beginning. Be wise on who to trust and avoid verbalizing quick judgments and if possible, and applicable, choose to employ an assistant who’s been with the company for eons and who knows how things really work around here.
In Contagious Companies we offer a course and a webinar entitled Transition from Buddy to Boss and it’s extremely popular because this transition is not easy. One moment you’re their friend, mutually griping about the same boss while you’re on break. The next moment you ARE the boss about which they now get to complain. The expectations change. Your responsibility changes. The measurement on your own individual performance becomes based on what everyone else is doing and the way you used to influence others no longer works and looks like begging your old friends to help you. Fear not, this transition is tough, but not impossible. Upon being promoted, meet with each team member and clarify the new expectations. What are yours and even more importantly, what are theirs? Share what must change, but also what can stay the same. There are things you won’t be able to share with them, but it doesn’t mean regular lunches or weekend activities are now off the table. Stay open to the time it will take the team to transition, as well. Their world has changed and you ignoring that will provoke a feeling of you against them. Let them vent, talk with you about what’s going on and what’s happened and be a sounding board, as well as their mentor and leader.
Not New and Leaving
It seems odd to share action items for a leader who’s leaving, but this type of transition of the one who leaves, often leaves those who remain in a state of confusion with resistance to new people, and a decided lack of interest in being productive for far longer than necessary. If you know you’re leaving, either to a new company, a new position, or a fabulous retirement, let those you lead know as soon as humanly possible. Create a team or focus group in charge of creating the plan for transition. How will the work continue? Who’s planning the party, if applicable? The more you involve those you leave behind, the easier it will be for them to move on, but if you’re leaving, why does that matter? Each leader has the potential to make changes for the better, often referred to as a legacy. Helping the team you leave behind to smoothly transition into this next chapter, from which you’ll be absent, leaves your legacy intact and prevents what could have been years of wasted effort. It’s not a guarantee, but the action of creating a transition team helps matters and also aids the leader in being able to leave on a good note. One just never knows when that bridge may be one you wish to cross again or return to, so be careful not to burn it.
Transitions are inherently tricky. Even the lottery winner who transitions to a new mansion, is faced with complexities that before their win, simply didn’t exist. Transitions in leadership can be time consuming, filled with details, and also often filled with feelings. All are normal and natural and to some leaders, real inhibitors to the achievement of results. Give it time. Jump through the hoops and don’t get burned. Follow the actions and take the time to get started in your new role on a good note and on your terms.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist and professional speaker. Her coaching, books, and skill based training programs are requested internationally. Monica is the CEO of www.ContagiousCompanies.com and a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. She may be reached at 1-866-382-0121. To learn more about the CORE Profile® or to complete the abbreviated, free, CORE Snapshot™, follow this link.