Recently, I was helping a team think through the imminent arrival of a new leader. They had been preparing and talking with a variety of consultants and advisors about the transition. One firm shared a one-page overview and an article about their approach, which they passed on to me.
As I read it, I found it well-written, thoughtful, and practical—everything I like in a piece of thought leadership.
Yet as I reflected on it, I started to worry that it was a little too sterile—just a little too perfect for how leadership transitions happen in the real world.
I couldn’t miss the chance to provide a Knightsbridge point of view—a more personal perspective on preparing for a new leader. This version takes into account human strengths and frailties because we all know that they’re going to come into play. I share it here in case your team, department, or organization is preparing for a new leader.
Be aware of your mindset. Change is anxiety-provoking for some and a welcome breath of fresh air for others. Regardless of your starting point, you will have moments of discomfort and uncertainty. It's critical that you are aware of your mindset and your own internal dialogue so you can understand the impact it is having on your perceptions and behavior. Listen to your gut! Pay attention to what your body is telling you — especially when it's disagreeing with your brain.
Think like a leader and also think differently than your leader. You will need to anticipate what the new boss will want to know from you and have crisp, candid and courageous points of view on these issues. Don't get sucked into giving opinions. Remember, the new boss is counting on you not only to respond to expressed needs, but to cover the blind spots that might be missing.
Stick together. It's too easy to use moments like these to try to stand out from the crowd by rising above your team. That is short-sighted. You must turn to one another, not turn on one another. (Read more about that here.) Have an aligned point of view and stray from it only when you are in an appropriate forum where the team can discuss and debate the right approach. Your good ideas and your value will shine through...and so will your value as a team player.
Be resilient. You will need to invest in your own resilience. Change—even awesome, welcome, positive change—requires stamina. Find your personal path to physical (good sleep habits, exercise) and emotional resilience. Help each other with the ebbs and flows of energy. Tell your teammates when you need to be calmed down or when you need to be revved up.
Being a little more deliberate than normal can make your transition much smoother — good for you, good for the new boss, and good for the business.
Have you been through a leadership transition? What did you learn? Did you see the issues above come into play? What would you add to my list?