Managing leadership transition

Successfully managing a change in leadership can be difficult for any business.

Good communication and proper planning are key. A change of leadership should be viewed as both a challenge and an opportunity for any business. If you are promoting existing managers, you should be prepared for some challenging times. The transition into the top team is demanding and around 50% of new business leaders fail within 18 months of taking on their new leadership role. This is because longstanding management issues are only likely to surface once the new team is in place, and often they can take the new management team completely by surprise.

However, with proper succession planning, any nasty surprises can be avoided. A change in leadership can also provide the opportunity to move in a new direction, develop new products / services, enter new markets or drive innovation.

It is important for new business leaders to remain positive, regardless of the challenges they face. If the management team is positive and communications are up-beat, this is likely to influence the staff across the wider business and they are more likely to view the leadership change favourably. Changes in leadership often mean changes to processes, and different expectations. The changes should be communicated as an opportunity for the firm to develop and grow.

Deal with resistance quickly. Not everyone will adapt to a leadership change in a positive way. As soon as you identify team members who are resistant to change, speak with them to find out why. What are the areas that most concern them? Is their resistance negatively affecting other team members? It is the job of the management team to encourage and help team members understand the reasons for the changes and to help them accept it. Sometimes the best way to win over dissenters is to give them a change management project to own and run. This makes them part of the solution to the problem.

A leadership change is not the time to close your office door, step back and see what happens. Staff from all levels across the business should be encouraged to submit ideas and suggestions on how they can help with the transition. The leadership team should take time to understand the capabilities of the various departments across the firm. They should encourage debate and welcome both positive and negative feedback as part of the process.

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