Successfully assuming a new management role is often challenging and daunting — regardless of the amount of experience a manager may have. Every promotion brings steep performance challenges, an uncharted working environment and a vacuum where the new manager has to create the networks and relationships necessary for success.
It often feels like having three jobs at once: upskilling in competencies, knowledge and networks; helping direct reports, colleagues and manager adjust to new ways of working; and doing the job itself.
One of the greatest challenges for managers in transition is developing new skills for the new situation and learning to let go of some of the patterns that have led to past successes. It can be difficult to give up what has worked in the past, particularly if no new skills have been developed to replace the old ones.
Today with globalisation, technology and flatter hierarchies, companies tend to have larger gaps in competencies required to move up successive rungs on the leadership ladder.
The 5Rs of success
Time is your most constrained resource when you are making a leadership transition. There is no honeymoon period. To execute well, you need to think in terms of the 5Rs — a systematic approach for leadership transition.
Once you are aware of the transition that you will be making, you need to set aside quality time to do research on your new role. You need to understand the big picture and see how your role connects to the strategic objectives of your organisation.
Depending on the nature of your transition, you probably have to learn something about the organisation or update yourself on the industry — What are the macro issues and challenges? What are the key success factors and the broad trends going forward and how would these impact your role and your company? Talk to people and use the Internet as your knowledge resource.
You have to understand the situation that you will face when you take on the new leadership role. You need to have some insights about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as they relate to your business unit. Identify the problems that need resolution and prioritise accordingly. Then you can make the decisions on revamping, redirecting and reinforcing the relevant aspects of your business unit.
Look at the big picture: keep an open and objective mind and focus on getting the information you need to make the right decisions. Talk to all your stakeholders and get as many perspectives as possible. Seek advice where necessary. Get on an accelerated learning curve.
The first priority is to align expectations with your boss. Find out his major goals and objectives and his key priorities. With this, you can shape your vision and strategies accordingly. What are your top three priorities? Strive for some quick wins in the first couple of months to position yourself as an achiever and to gain credibility with your boss and your team. It is also a good confidence booster for you. Remember, you are in change management.
As part of your dialogue with your boss, you need to request and negotiate for resources — the logistics, people and budget that will support the successful execution of your plans. Critical logistical resources have to be identified, resourced and secured in a timely manner.
In all likelihood, you will need some additional skills and competencies to get the job done. To do this, you may have to recruit outside talent or make internal transfers to your team. Do not forget that the most important resource is you — you have to be mentally and physically fit to handle the demands of your leadership transition. Eat well, sleep well and exercise well. Keep a work-life balance. Your family and friends are your best support system at this time.
Build your support network quickly, seek alliances and identify coaches on your team who can guide you to move things along. Get up to speed with the communication processes in the organisation and leverage them for maximum effect.
Every organisation has its way of getting information around — through both formal and informal channels. Use these information channels to build relationships and build your profile. Reach out to your direct reports and ask them for their take on the current situation and sincerely solicit their advice and ideas. Know who supports you, who are not aligned and who needs to be persuaded. In short, know the politics and navigate it with finesse.
Early momentum in leadership transition is critical to ensuring long-term success. A framework for addressing transition issues prior to, during, and even after an appointment increases the likelihood of both individual and organisational success in times of change.
At any management level, a failed transition can result not only in organisational expense, but also a negative impact on the career and personal life of the failed leader. Safeguarding the investment in leadership talent is critical to an organisation’s current and future success.
DBM is a global human capital management firm providing career management, executive coaching, and talent management solutions to private and public companies, not-for-profits and governments. Website: www.dbm.com