Today the world will be focussed upon the seismic change of leadership in American politics, when Donald J Trump is inaugurated as President. We have already seen that his views differ greatly from President Obama and other political leaders and that some change was effected before he was officially in place. For example, we have already had some insights into his future plans through statements he has made, people he has appointed, ambassadors he has sent home and even through the people he has chosen to meet (or not).
When a manager or leader of an organisation leaves, a similar process can be experienced by employees. In some cases, a change of direction and/or personnel is welcome but for most, it represents uncertainty at best and worry at worst about the months and years to follow. So, how can a business best transition its employees to a new leader?
It could start with an element of collaborative recruitment and selection. Involving employees in such an important business decision is controversial but elements of this are already being carried out by many employers. Usually though this is limited to a short meeting at a late stage of recruitment when the decision may largely have been made and where their feedback on fit is not likely to make a difference to the end process. Other higher profile cases such as those highlighted in a relatively recent TV programme allowed employees to carry out a full assessment centre over a number of days and largely failed where company owners ignored the feedback and did what they liked anyway. The lesson then would appear to be that if you are going to involve employees, do so meaningfully and be open to challenge.
If this seems a step too far for you, what can be useful is to ease employees into the transfer of power. Can you invite the new manager along to meetings or events prior to their start date? Can you ensure that expectations of the new manager are clear so he or she is not arriving on day one to ‘change the world and make an exacting impression’ but with a remit to get to know the team, learn what works and what can be improved before making any significant changes? The risks otherwise are that talented members of your organisation will disengage, may look for other roles, work output will decrease, employee relations issues will emerge and you will be left with a mess to sort out.
Change at the top is always a risk but may be a necessity and if handled well, can be a positive thing. Like most other things in life though, it just needs some planning and for people to have time to come to terms with it. America may not unfortunately have had that same chance.
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in the above article, please contact Wendy Meiklejohn.