A change in senior management can be an unsettling time. There are concerns for job safety, funding and priorities for projects, and fears surrounding cultural changes that new leadership may bring. As daunting as it may seem, senior management change doesn’t have to be something that you need to claw your way through in the hope you’ll make it to the other side; it can be a really positive thing. With research showing that the average organisation has undergone five changes in the past three years, and 73% of organisations expect more change to come, it seems that change in business is inevitable. New senior leadership is your chance to embrace change, to learn and to grow, as an individual and as a manager. Here’s how to show you’re along for the journey.
Do your research
If you know who’s coming into the role, do your homework. There’s a global shortage of highly skilled people and businesses are becoming increasingly strategic with workforce planning, so the chances are this new leader has been recruited because they’re going to bring something exciting to the table. A look at their LinkedIn profile or a Google search can tell you more about their working history and give you some insight into their values and priorities. In the same way you’d research a company and your manager if you were starting a new job, it’s good to have some background before they arrive.
Don’t stop your data gathering once the new leader is in situ. Take the time to ask questions and understand their working style and their vision.
Make a good first impression
While this may seem obvious, it can be easy to come across as over-zealous. Don’t march into their office during their first week with your problems or a long list of your new ideas; now is not the time, and that opportunity will present itself down the line. Equally, don’t assume that your silence is conveying that you’re on board. Your new manager is looking for teammates. They’re waiting for you to demonstrate that you’re willing to be part of their new team, not that you’re part of the furniture and you’re trying to keep your head down and ride this change out.
Your new boss will probably want to know more about you and your team. When they call this meeting, treat it like an interview; you need to prepare well and think carefully about the kind of information the manager at this level is going to want and need. Use the research you’ve gathered to understand their overall goals and communication style, bringing this into the way to present the information.
When the new leader wants to know more about your team and department, make sure you’re honest and objective. Of course, you’re selling yourself and you want to demonstrate the positives. But ignoring the negatives doesn’t make you look better; it makes you look as though you’re untrustworthy and you’ll cover up anything that’s going wrong, or that you simply don’t have a good understanding of your department and people. Neither of these will work in your favour. As a new manager, they’ll be looking for line reports that won’t sugar-coat the details, and that they can trust to deliver even the difficult messages objectively.
“….because that’s how we’ve always done it” isn’t good enough
Doing something the way you’ve always done it for no other reason than that’s the way you’ve always done it, just isn’t going to fly. If you’re defensive over the way things are, you’re demonstrating that you’re opposed to change. When it comes to senior leadership changes, coming across as so engrained in the old ways that you’ll be a problem if they want to change anything is going to do a lot of damage. Regardless of the leadership change, that mind-set will never do your career any favours. Whatever systems, methods or processes come under scrutiny, if they really are good enough, they’ll stand up to it. If it’s simply a habit, then a change is probably a good thing. There’s more than one way to do something, and there may be a better way waiting to be discovered.
Remember that you’re a leader
This may feel like an uncertain time for you personally at work, but don’t forget that you’re leading a team. Others will look to you for how to embrace this change, or otherwise. Your anxiety and resistance will be reflected by those you influence in the organisation and ultimately you need to demonstrate that you’re supporting a smooth transition for this new senior manager. The longer the transition process takes, the bigger the impact will be on the organisation as a whole. It may be a challenging time, but your company still expects you, as one of its team leaders, to see the bigger picture.
Before the change happens, prepare your team for it. Like anything, understanding and embracing change is a skill. If you have a team behind you that can continue to perform well even through the disruption of change, you’re demonstrating that not only are you adaptive and resilient, but you can teach others to be, too. You’ve shown more of the value of yourself and your team.
Someone new coming into an organisation at any level needs time to settle in. Your new manager is still trying to get a handle on the organisation and how they fit in. If you think your once highly regarded department is suddenly out of the spotlight and you’re starting to feel undervalued or even a tad nervous, have patience. It may simply be that this new leader is still trying to work through everything else they have going on.
There’s no question that a change in senior leadership can lead to some big changes for a business. They’ll bring with them their own way of working, their own standards and expectations, and their own vision for the future of the organisation. But they’re looking for the right team to help them drive positive change. Let them know you’re not there to just survive it.