3 Steps To Successful Leadership Transitions

By Mike Pritts and Robert Gowin

Transition does not only apply when changing companies or career fields.  Sometimes transition happens when an organization experiences a change in leadership.  Leadership transition can be a challenging aspect of change for any organization, and its up to the new leader to manage this transition and chart the course of success the team will follow.  Much of the confusion surrounding leadership transition can be reduced if you follow three simple steps: setting organizational goals; setting the conditions for success, and managing the transitions.



    1. Set organizational goals.  As a leader or manager, it is your responsibility to develop and present the vision of how the future shapes up for the organization.  Vision is your inspirational idea of what the organization will accomplish both the short and long term under your tenure.  The organizational vision will provide an identifiable end state that can be used to develop initial and intermediate goals driven toward organizational success.Each member should have individual goals that roll up to the organizational goals. It’s important that each member understands their role in aiding the success of the organization by achieving or exceeding in their individual goals. If you’re taking over a team from a previous leader and they were working toward an existing vision, be sure to carefully evaluate whether wholesale changes are required or if it is possible to modify it in a way to incorporate your views without creating unnecessary anxiety.
    2. Set conditions for success. Change is difficult for everyone, particularly your subordinates who may not understand the WHY behind your vision.  This is why it’s important to set the conditions for them to be successful, and this begins with open communication.  Communication within the organization will offer an opportunity to voice differences of opinion and identify potential areas that you’ve overlooked when setting goals.  I’m not saying that you cater to whining, but you must listen.  When people feel their concerns have been heard and addressed, you may find that they “buy in” to your vision and will begin setting their own goals to help them and the organization succeed. Create an environment that allows open communication without fear of repercussion and you may foster innovation that didn’t exist previously. Next, empower your subordinate leaders and get out of their way.  Nobody likes to be micromanaged.  If you have established open lines of communication, you can always make slight corrections, but you have to let them work.  If you don’t, you’ll be a hindrance to your own vision. Mistakes are inevitable and it’s important that leaders feel the ability to freely admit they’ve made them, can learn from each, and move on without feeling that they’re being unnecessarily judged. Use them as opportunities to demonstrate your ability to mentor and empower them to achieve greatness from their mistakes.
    3. Manage Transition. I consider this to be the social aspect of management.  Social management is what places you in a position to directly engage with your subordinates and build the network necessary to accomplish your organizational objectives.  Your presence during critical times during transition will provide an opportunity to encounter and overcome any resistance that develops as a result of changing the organization’s status quo.  The resistance that is left unanswered will continue to grow and slow progress, so it’s best to get ahead of it early.  An old friend of mine used to call this “leadership by walking around.”  That’s really what it boils down to, get out of your office and into the company environment and be accessible. When doing so, be aware of the leadership shadow you are casting and that your team is observing how you handle each situation as well as how you interface with them in times of crisis. This may mean you have to expose your own weaknesses at times and be vulnerable, it demonstrates that you are human. By exhibiting genuine compassion, kindness, and empathy toward your team, you will inspire them to want to excel at their job because you made a connection.

Leadership transitions are when your team begins to see how you will lead them toward the vision you’ve established. Setting organizational goals, conditions for success, and managing the transition are steps that you can perform to ease your teams fears or anxiety through the change. Your success and that of your team, depends on the foundation you establish and in how you inspire and empower each member to excel.



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