6 Tips for Managing Leadership Change Through the Succession Plan

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Organizations develop leadership succession plans to ensure a smooth transition of leadership. Managing these periods of change requires creating a welcoming environment for incoming leaders, as well as preparing new managers and team members with the information they need to succeed. A succession plan should not just accommodate those exiting and entering the company, but it should also establish long-term goals that will help an organization continue to grow and succeed well into the future.

Make the Corporate Culture Rules Clear

It may be difficult to define a business’s corporate culture from an insider’s perspective. It’s often something people within the organization do not think about, and when they do they often use broad generalizations to describe it. However, defining corporate culture rules and standards is crucial when assisting new leadership with managing extensive systemic change. To set out these rules clearly and concisely, it is necessary for current senior executives and management to provide feedback on the most important aspects of performance and culture within the company. Being able to communicate these rules will benefit new leaders as they join an organization.

Support Your New Leader

It should not come as a surprise that mistakes and errors are often made during times of transition. Any negative impact created during these times can often be lessened if a new leader has adequate support from a fellow manager within the organization. This person can act as an ally, providing key insight, guidance, and additional perspectives as the new leader adjust to a new business environment. Having a mentor can help incoming leaders avoid known pitfalls and remove barriers that may be difficult for a newcomer to anticipate. Additionally, a mentor can provide a sounding board and a safe place to voice questions and concerns.

Over-Communicate in the Beginning

Periods of transition within an organization can bring about feelings of uncertainty for new leaders and for members of the team. When changes are imminent, workers want to know how they will be affected. The best way for a manager to boost confidence during these times is to be as open and available as possible. Transparency is key for reassuring team members and guiding new leaders. Managers should work on an immediate transition plan and be available to answer any questions that come up. Even if the answers and strategies are unclear, open communication about concerns, values, and priorities can make people in the organization comfortable and poised.

Keep things simple

Another way to lessen the anxiety associated with organizational changes and transfers of leadership is to avoid overcomplicating things with convoluted criteria for assessing the transition. Focusing only on what is important to a successful transition—and setting aside managerial minutia—will free up time and alleviate stress. There will be opportunities later on in the transition process for leaders and team members to reassess steps and add complex criteria as needed.

Encouragement and Empowerment

In addition to being supportive, it is important that new employees are encouraged to take chances and make decisions on their own. Giving employees the opportunity to excel on their own and trusting them to make the right decisions is a form of empowerment. Once managers and team members have provided new leaders with the tools and information they need, it is up to these new leaders to take the reins and propel the company along the best path. Encouragement and empowerment are essential in promoting innovation—committed support allows new hires to take an active role in keeping an organization on track towards reaching their goals.

Focus on legacy, not individualism

It is important to eliminate the concept of individualism in an organization’s corporate culture. This type of thinking may work in the short-term, only serving to benefit those who are currently in positions of leadership, but it is detrimental to maximizing the value of a company for future generations. A strong succession plan should emphasize teamwork and how the value of an organization can increase through concerned and focused leadership and the communication of priorities and long-term goals.

Changes, either planned or unplanned, within an organization can be difficult. Employees become nervous when they are unsure of how their roles within the company will be affected. People entering positions within a new organization also need guidance and support. Managing employees throughout the succession plan requires thought and finesse to keep business continuity and performance on par during times of transition.

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Recommended Reading

Ohio University blog, ’10 Business Lessons From Steve Jobs’
Ohio University blog, ‘Tips For Becoming A Successful Executive Leader’


HBR.org, “Change Succession Planning”
GRBJ.com, “Successful Leadership Transition Traps to Avoid”
HBR.org, “5 Tips for New Team Leaders”