Assuming a new leadership role on the heels of a well-respected predecessor can be exciting and daunting at the same time. Regardless of the circumstances, the challenge is to be authentic while assisting others through the transition from the former leader’s style to yours. Remember that people can accept change if you focus on the nuts and bolts of the transition from Point A to Point B. When you are that Point B, consider the following tips to avoid tripping when stepping into someone else’s shoes:
A large ship doesn’t turn on a dime and neither will some people’s loyalty in your new situation. In most situations, plan on taking anywhere from 6 months to a year to understand the issues and culture that you have inherited without feeling like you must make changes immediately. (If the board hired you to make drastic changes immediately lest the company go under, well, that’s a different kettle of fish.)
“Lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at you.” –David Brinkley
A large part of what you can focus on during your first year, is to get to know others and allow them to get to know you. You might meet individually with board members, colleagues, and direct reports. Small group lunches, town halls, and just walking around with incidental chats are ways to meet a larger number of employees who are more removed from your immediate sphere of influence.
Focus on the Big Picture.
During the transition period to your new brand of leadership, stay focused on “why” the company exists, “why” your position exists, and on the company’s mission. This will keep you from getting caught up in potential drama of other people’s issues around the transition.
Serve Others First.
Another way to avoid getting caught up in your own as well as other people’s “stuff” is to orient yourself to what those around you need from you to remain productive. Focus on the service your customers expect and need. Also, ensure your employees and especially your direct reports have what they need to keep things moving forward. And don’t be stingy with the “thank yous” and acknowledgement for jobs well done.
Don’t Take Things Personally.
Be ready to be compared to your predecessor – a lot. Put your ego aside. This is simply one way people are communicating that they are noticing the differences and coming to terms with them. Deal with this by focusing on what you can actually control within your sphere of Influence. For example, you cannot completely control what others think and do: some people will leave; some will stay; and new people will join. People have to make their own decisions about their individual preferences and loyalties. Assuming you’re being forthright, authentic, above board and respectful, let it go.
Over time, the company will acclimate to you and you will adjust to it. And eventually, you will be a part of the status quo as though you had been there forever.
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.
This post was inspired by a conversation with Stephanie Wright of the Murray Area Chamber of Commerce in Murray, Utah.