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How to prepare for a new leader

Frances Cook

Frances Cook, director of the Senior Directors Unit, offers her advice on how to prepare for a new leader

Following the exit of Morrison’s CEO Dalton Phillips, and other high profile board shake-ups documented in the media, now more than ever the spotlight is on incoming CEO’s and their ability to showcase their impressive leadership skills in difficult situations. Many leaders are often parachuted in to businesses in a bid to try and remedy existing problems, leaving employees unsure of their position and function under their new leader. Leaders can often be met with a general sense of uncertainty and the best way they can overcome this is by making sure they bring people with them on their journey towards change in the business.

Employees are likely to feel wary of new CEOs and be protective of their job and ways of working; however the reality is that there is a new leader at the helm and people need to do all they can to get on board with their vision and plans. Those that help rather than hinder new leaders will be recognised for the right reasons, rather than being viewed as resistant to change. So if you are preparing for a new leader, whilst allegiances may feel divided, you can prepare by:

Doing your research

Forewarned is forearmed. By having a look at your new CEOs previous roles you will begin to see a pattern of how they work and the effects they have on businesses they join. Doing your research will mean you’re better prepared for their working style when they join. Understanding your new leader’s personal motivations and drivers is a good idea as it will enable you to better engage with the reasons behind their changes.

Be transparent

Be prepared to brief new leaders on your role, your function, any projects you’re currently working on and challenges you face. In this instance it is best to be frank, open and honest. Be careful not to oversell yourself but ensure you’re not minimising the issues either. Sweeping issues under the carpet may come back to haunt you later.

Don’t go on the defensive

It can be easy to see your new leader as an outsider and view them with an eye of suspicion. If you put yourself in their shoes, they may be feeling unsure and in need of support and will no doubt remember those that were helpful in those tricky first few months. Although you may feel a sense of loyalty to the old regime, this new leadership presents an opportunity and should be taken advantage of. It may not work in your favour if you are seen to be disagreeing with the ways of your old boss either so be sure to moderate your comments. Your new CEO will assume you offered them the same help and support and will question your loyalty and how long your supportive attitude will last.

Look at the bigger picture

How will this new appointment affect the industry? Have a look at key commentators in your industry and what they are saying about this new appointment. They may make predictions about your new leaders ‘First 100 days’ so make use of any analysis and see what valuable information you can glean from it. 

Give it some thought

Make sure you give yourself some head space to really assess what value you add to the company. Once you’ve given this some thought, you are in a better position to sell yourself to your new boss. They will be interested to know what qualities you bring to the organisation and there is no better way to demonstrate this than by giving examples of where you have achieved outstanding results. For example can you showcase that since implementing a programme that was your idea, you have saved the business time, money and helped to streamline processes? Anything backed up with benchmarks and results in numbers will help too. Your new boss may also ask you to provide your thoughts on other team members, so come prepared with well-considered individual strengths and weaknesses. Be careful of commenting on colleagues outside of your team though, as you may not be in the best position to pass such judgements and will be stepping on toes. 

In summary, it is only natural to be wary of change and the consequences it can have. A reshuffle at the top can mean wider change within an organisation, but proving yourself a vital asset in the first few months of your new boss’ tenure can be of benefit to you. There is already significant pressure on incoming CEOs and adding to this by keeping up your allegiance to the old regime and not embracing change and moving forward will only make things more difficult for them and the business in the long run. Change can be daunting but can also provide great opportuniti

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