Managing leadership transitions effectively

By: Kyla Slen, VP of Operations

Stepping into a new position or role can be very difficult for a variety of reasons. There are many complicating factors including, but not limited to: the business situation, team dynamics, product issues, market dynamics, budgets, expectation and goals, and understanding the new position.

The team one inherits will be the most critical factor. These individuals will help the new leader to define the situation as it exists, develop a plan of action, and help to implement that plan. It is important for the leader to evaluate the team members for the strengths and weaknesses, as any coach would evaluate players on a team. This is not easy for a person stepping into a new position to do, as people tend to present in different ways than they act. Many times their actions aren’t indicative of their overall ability.

Leaders must seek objective data when inheriting or building a new team. I have worked with many happily married couples who after 20 years together still do not understand important aspects of their peer’s behavioral profile. If married couples that have spent extensive time together struggle with concepts such as listening, conflict resolution, interpersonal skills, and attitude; the same struggles could certainly occur with a leader that is working with teams of varying size.

The use of objective analysis will help the leader establish stronger relationships faster. Data gathered will help the leader leverage the talent that exists, develop the abilities of those already on a team, and hire or retain people that possess the skills necessary to accomplish an objective. Essentially, it will help to develop a stronger, more cohesive single unit. Many leaders fool themselves into believing they can assess individuals through a series of meetings and observation over several months.

When assessing these leaders, many times we find that they themselves don’t understand their own strengths and areas requiring development. If we are predisposed to self-deception relative to our own abilities, what makes us think we can accurately evaluate the talents of others without objective data, and why would we want to?

Establishing the strengths of the team, leveraging these strengths from day one, and developing skills and abilities of the team relative to the business objectives are the keys to the success of any leader and ultimately, the team. The use of data to make this transition more efficient and effective is critical to the success of most transitional situations. Corporate America is faced with constant reorganizations. Many companies go year-to-year without accomplishing simple business objectives. If companies were to use a more objective measure to understand team dynamics and organizational dynamics, these transitions would occur with greater efficiency. In addition, the potential to last for more than a fiscal year and the likelihood of producing the types of results that organizations are targeting is also higher.

Leadership transition is important and requires data to be effective. Understanding team dynamics and the construct and development of a strong team are critical to success. Most people under plan and fail to leverage tools to address this critical area. Those that do so will have a significant advantage and a higher level of success.