If there is one thing Washingtonians know, it’s that no leader sticks around forever. This is true no matter the sector. At work, there are ways to make any transition to a new leader or manager much smoother – whether you’re a team member or that new manager coming in. It all boils down to being tuned in and proactive.
Organizations would do well to select new managers who are more proactive and change-oriented than a former leader to achieve an effective leadership transition, with minimal disruption This advice is rooted in research. Along with three co-researchers, I recently studied leadership transitions of mid-level managers and how teams responded to them.
So what can a new manager do to be successful in his or her role?
1. First, win over your team. Hold off on implementing all of your new big ideas and focus on getting ‘in’ amongst the team. Your first priority when taking over a new role is to gain team members’ trust and also to help insure that the team’s beliefs and values are consistent with yours as the leader. When a highly proactive new leader is paired with team members who are also high in proactivity, they will tend to “sync” with one another. Seek out ways to get to know each individual on your team better. Set up one-on-one meetings with each member to understand their role, goals and any challenges or concerns. Be perceptive – you need to understand the group’s culture and team dynamics and how individuals work together (or don’t) before you can be effective.
2. Know who came before you. It is critical that you understand the type of manager who led the team previously. If you are new to an organization, the leaders who hired you can help shed light on these details. Your one-on-one meetings with your team members should also fill in some information. Your ability to push through changes in an organization depends on how the former leader was viewed by the team, and also how you view the former leader. Use that information to rally support from the team. If you are replacing a popular manager who will be sorely missed, understand why that person was so beloved by team members and leaders and try to emulate some of his or her traits and continue his or her successful policies. And if you are replacing an unpopular manager, you likely won’t have a hill to climb to gain the team’s favor.
3. Ask for support. Sometimes, extra support from the top down could really bolster your success as a new leader. Ask your organization’s leadership to communicate with your team to help convey your commitment and emphasize your unique positive, proactive characteristics.
4. Now get ready to roll out your changes. Once you have hopefully gained your team’s respect and trust, it will be much easier to get them on board with any new ideas or changes you want to implement. Getting buy-in from the people who will actually be carrying out your vision will make it a lot easier to motivate them and make the efforts more successful.
But what if the new leader is your boss. Here’s some ideas on how to cope with a new manager:
1. Be open-minded. You may think your new manager won’t be able to fill the big shoes of a favorite boss who left. Or he or she may provide the breath of fresh perspective your team really needs. Regardless of the manager who came before, give you new boss a chance without making a snap judgment.
2. Let your voice be heard. Make sure you are proactive about communicating. Your voice will never be heard if you don’t speak up. Offer to meet with the new manager or suggest grabbing coffee or lunch together. This can help build your relationship and establish a level of trust between you and your new boss.
3. Be honest. Give you new manager a true understanding of how your team worked with the previous manager. What worked well and what didn’t? Having this information can help your new manager work better with you and the other team members.
4. Get ready for change. Any new leader is going to have new ideas. Prepare yourself to do things a bit differently and be flexible. Having already established open lines of communication will help you provide feedback to your new manager when he or she does implement something new.
As we all know, change is inevitable, regardless of where you sit – as the new manager or the team member with the new boss. Be proactive to embrace the change and make the transition as smooth as possible.
M. Susan Taylor is the Smith Chair of Human Resource Management & Organizational Change and co-director of the Center for Leadership, Innovation and Technology at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.