You’ve been in your job for a while and, suddenly, you find out your manager is moving on. This is the person you chose to work for, the one who hired you into the organization. All sorts of thoughts and emotions play out as this seems to change everything for you. How do you react?
First, calm down. You are not unique, even if you feel abandoned. This situation plays out across almost all establishments as a normal part of the career life cycle. Most of us will deal with this kind of challenge many times in our working lives. To successfully navigate during transitions with new leaders, consider this approach:
- Continue to focus on doing the job you were hired to do to the best of your ability while maintaining good relationships. Remember that you were chosen for what you could bring to the role as well as your perceived fit with the organization. In short, you had what the employer – not just your manager – was looking for.
- Deal with facts, not the rumor mill or speculation. Many people have questions during these types of transitions: Where and why is my manager moving? Who will be chosen to replace my boss? What will this new person change or keep the same? How will this affect me and the work I do? Speculation can get out of control quickly and cause fear. Some employees escalate into a panic mode before they know the specifics. Don’t get swept up in this sort of workplace madness – it’s counterproductive.
- Ask how can you help in the transition. This is a good, basic question to pose when you learn your manager is leaving. Raise this question with whomever announces the news. It may elicit more clarity from the person making the announcement. Employers usually want operational continuity during leadership transitions. Sometimes the new manager is immediately named; other times, you hear that an interim leader will be appointed while a search for a replacement is conducted. Asking how you can help shows maturity during times of change.
Once a new manager is officially appointed to the position, find out how you can work most effectively with that person. Leading organizations often have assimilation processes for leadership positions designed to quickly align new managers with their direct reports following their appointment. An assimilation process allows the team to get to know their new leader. Equally important, it enables the new manager to get to know the team and what’s important to them as a group. Many questions get asked and answered in this process and everyone hears the same information. Ask your new manager if a leadership assimilation meeting will be part of the on-boarding process. This is often done by HR, an internal or external facilitator, or executive coach experienced in leadership assimilations.
If your organization doesn’t offer an assimilation process for new leaders, it is still vital for you to understand how best to work with your new boss. What’s important to this person in the new role? By which methods and with what frequency does the new leader prefer communications? Will there be regularly scheduled one-on-ones as well as team meetings? How much detail is preferred when you provide status reports? What drives your new manager crazy? People often assume that they should communicate and work with the new leader in the same manner as their former boss. Likewise, new leaders often assume that their new teams will work and communicate in ways that they are used to from their past. These assumptions often lead to disconnects and frustration, so it’s best to discuss them early in the new work relationship and resolve them quickly.
Effective leadership transitions are about getting new leaders aligned with their teams as quickly and smoothly as possible so organizational success can be achieved. Each employee, not just the new manager, has a stake in making this work so the enterprise can continue to grow and prosper.
How can executive coaching help you manage leadership transitions and achieve what’s next?
Lance Hazzard, CPCC, ACC, is a certified Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach helping people and organizations successfully achieve what’s next. He is Executive Coach and President at Oppnå® Executive & Achievement Coaching. Find out more about Lance and Oppnå® Coaching at oppnacoaching.com