4 Steps to a Smooth Leadership Transition

With the U.S. presidential battle now in its final 90 days, and dominating daily headlines, federal agencies have been preparing for the transition for a while.

As many new senior leaders settle into their roles across the government’s administration, they will feel the pressure of asserting themselves in a new position, and – although it may be an overused term in management – the first 100 days of a leader’s tenure is a critical period for facing these challenges.

How Change Costs You Millions

New leadership brings new perspectives and opportunities, but change is never easy for employees at any level. In fact, change-stressed employees experience, on average, a 5% decrease in performance, according to CEB data.

That is a figure that quickly adds up. For instance, a 10,000 person organization that experiences a nine-month leadership transition squanders $26.9 million in lost productivity. So, for leaders, getting their transition right isn’t just a personal prerogative – it’s a financial one too.

Four F’s for the First 100 Days

Making the most of this 100-day period begins with four F’s.

1. Fit: Cultural clashes can quickly derail an executive transition. While new leaders bring their own style and experience, they should also understand the culture of the organization they are entering.

Also, they need to know the reasons behind why they’re taking over the position. The context for their transition will vary based on the success and popularity of the outgoing leader.

2. Focus: New leaders are eager to understand what constitutes success in their role and contribute to the development of their staff and organization.

So successful new leaders will put a lot of effort into building consensus and clarifying performance goals in the short, medium and long terms. They also account for transition risks, such as envy or resentment from others who were passed over for the role.

3. Future: Defining their strategic priorities is critical for new leaders, and gaining the mythical “quick win” – a new and visible contribution to the organization’s success – helps separate high-performing leaders from struggling ones.

However, the nature of what they accomplish with the quick win is also important. Leaders who jump to hasty conclusions or focus on their own pet projects risk alienating their new teams. So they should work collectively towards a goal that the entire team shares in.

4. Friends: Earning the support and trust of your managers, peers, and direct reports is essential to success in any new role.

Leaders gain backing and a variety of perspectives by building and engaging a strong network of internal and external stakeholders.

Contributed by CEB, a best practice insight and technology company. Read more CEB blogs here.

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