Monday, September 27, 2010

New to the boss's seat: The 7 elements of successful leadership transition

1.  Explore expectations offensively

"Just go ahead. I have complete faith in you." Behind this sentence are a number of unspoken expectations. Ignoring them can jeopardize your new position because they are the benchmark by which you will be measured. For this reason, it is important to follow a few simple steps:
Actively ask about expectations: ask your line managers, your colleagues, your staff
Scrutinize expectations closely and differentiate between them, as they are often contradictory: fact-based suggestions vs. emotional wishes.
Use discussions and meetings to work out specific and joint tasks. Important: not every expectation is a task! And: you can never meet every expectation.

2.  Develop key relationships

To secure power and influence within a company, it is important to develop good relationships with those people who have influence and/or a right of veto on important decisions. These are primarily..
Your disappointed competitor: never ignore him or her, but show understanding and find a basis on which you can work constructively together.
Your predecessor: never voice criticism of his or her work - that's a boomerang!
Your staff: don't try and show off everything you know, and don't try and play the "savior".
Your colleagues: respect their performance and get them involved in your plans as early as possible.

Make time to network!! Concentrating exclusively on the job and not actively relating to your new 'stakeholders' is a big mistake. The result is resistance and reservation towards the ideas of the new manager.

3.  Situation analysis

Five perspectives have proven useful in the analysis of the initial situation:

Perspective 1:
The rules and self-perceptions that guide people

The social architecture of the organization
Rules, things that are taken for granted and stories

Perspective 2: The issues that occupy the organization
Resolvable and unresolvable issues
Urgent and less urgent issues
Long--term issues

Perspective 3: The facts that determine actions

Perspective 4: The innovation potential available
The willingness to change
The positive climate for change

Perspective 5: The resources one can build on
The strengths of the employees and the organization

4.  Goals

The staff are waiting for a plan that will take the company forward and fill them with pride.
The staff are the manager's "customers", so you should create a customer-oriented set of goals for them. It is important in this respect to distinguish between stability goals and change goals (e.g. for creating a positive climate of change). The difference between task-based goals (e.g.: increased sales, higher earnings or improved quality), team-based goals and personal goals is also extremely important.

You should paint a picture of the future, i.e have a vision. Visions not only point the way forward, but also create a momentum of their own by offering the staff something they can identify with.
Relatively surefire ways of getting into difficulties include:
Pouncing on problems that need to be solved urgently
Demanding rapid change by pointing out problems
Launching yourself into the job before you have formed a picture of the overall situation

5.  Climate of change

There are three things that are critical for creating a positive climate of change:

Asking appreciative questions
Reflexive questions: Questions which are asked not just to gather information, but to create new information
Resourceful questions: Ask about problems in the past which have been solved, etc.
Questions that point to the future

Dealing positively with skepticism
This can make many managers feel threatened, but skepticism shows that employees are interested in the subject. Otherwise they wouldn't get involved at all.
 Important: Voiced skepticism is not the same as unvoiced skepticism!

Desire for something new

6.  Initiation of change

Something is needed to start the ball rolling (e.g. a conference)
You also have to appeal to the staff on an emotional level.
The launch event needs a key theme that fits the strategy.
The launch must immediately be followed by specific action. Otherwise it will fizzle out into nothing.

The strategy of "small wins and large gains" is about finding initial steps that produce immediate success and therefore set important changes in motion. They are a way of creating trust in the change process relatively quickly.
The right timing is particularly critical. Change activities should not be started until the staff are agreed upon the imminent changes, the process of developing important key relationships has at least been started and a clear plan / a specific objective has been set for the initial steps. Experience indicates this will take around 2-4 months.

7.  Symbols and rituals

Symbolic management is the skilful and systematic combination of symbols and rituals to create a persuasive message.

The symbolic value of actions is particularly high at the start of a new job, when the employees still know little about the values and the self-perception of the new manager.
Once you have shown respect for the symbols and rituals of your predecessor, it is about making it clear that "I'm here now".

Often, it's not even a matter of creating new symbols and rituals, but just about questioning one's own habits.

Symbols and rituals are only effective if they are embedded in the overall context i.e. if all participants are prepared to give meaning to the ritual.


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VP said...

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Brenda Nelson said...

I have found that there is often one consistent mistake some new bosses make, and maybe this is just true of female bosses as that is what I had mostly. Anyhow some are easily fooled by butt kissers and brown nosers in the work place. They enjoy having their ego's stroked too much and fall for the worst kinds of people - manipulative employees. Those that befriend the boss and use the friendship to get out of work or to get other workers in trouble. Leaders must try to be professional in the office at all times.