Changing of the Guard

Everyone works for someone…that’s a good rule of thumb, anyway. So even though you are in a leadership position, you most likely have someone, or several someones, above you. Every now and then those faces will change, and you need to be ready when they do.

A leadership transition has a number of effects. The first you will run into is a transition period, when you better expect that no new decisions — at least, nothing important — will get made. There may be a gap between the departure of your old leadership and the arrival of the new, and even if the timing is seamless, there will be a period during which the new leadership is getting its feet on the ground and learning about your busness. Even if someone has been promoted from within, they still have to get used to their new position, and that is going to take a little time. If you have got anything important that needs to get approved, it is a good idea to take care of that before this transition period starts.

You can make this process go faster by putting together a “transition book” or some similar means of communicating what you do to your new boss. Include examples of your department’s work, info on your employees’ backgrounds, some explanation of your objectives and functions and how they all fit into the firm’s overall goals…basically, let them know what you do, how you do it, and why.

Preparing in advance for the transition does more than just getting you through that phase more quickly; it can also help make sure you continue to exist. New leaders sometimes take a look at the organization and start making structural changes. You can save yourself a lot of grief if you are prepared to explain why what you do is necessary and why you need the resources you have. Remember that what seems like common sense to you might not be so obvious to your new leadership, so try to take their perspective instead of just your own when preparing.

You might also look at the transition as an opportunity. If there are things you have wanted to do, but you have been blocked by past leaders, then this may be a chance to make some changes. Prepare your case for change and be ready to present it early on. Do not push the issue the moment they walk in the door, but instead set the stage for it when you meet with your new boss early on and then make your pitch soon after, once they start feeling comfortable making decisions but before they have gotten set in their ways.

However you view the problems and opportunities associated with new leadership, you would be wise to start preparing as soon as you know change is coming. Do not wait until a new boss arrives to start getting ready for the change. While it is helpful to know something about that new boss (since that will help you get ready in a way that’s appropriate to the situation) you can get the basics of your transition together even before you know who is coming in. If you wait until they arrive then you have waited too long, and when it comes to transitioning to new leadership, you really do not want to leave stuff to chance.

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