Navigating a Change in Leadership

Leadership is an organization’s driving force. It dictates culture and productivity, and everything should trickle from the top down. But what happens when an owner retires, or a new CEO is brought on board? These shifts can feel seismic to the employees who are often left worrying that a change in leadership will negatively impact their role. A new leader should be able to ingratiate themselves while instilling in their employees, investors, and customers a sense of stability and security.

As the business world evolves and the needs of consumers follow suit, changes in leadership are inevitable for organizations. As many companies have learned the hard way, resistance to such changes can spell doom – according to a 2013 study published in Harvard Business Review, CEOs who stay on top for extended periods of time can often damage their company’s overall performance.

Focus on Operations

A change in leadership can impact major functions of a business. As the shift occurs, you need to mitigate potential disruptions to your structure and operations. This means both your business practices and processes must remain consistent, as any dip or fluctuation could signal turbulence, leading to fear from investors.

Work with managers and implement a strategy to make sure your day-to-day operations experience little to no interruption. If your customers are inconvenienced by your organization’s change in leadership, it could result in lost profits.

No Secrets, Be Transparent

When it comes to communicating with both employees and customers, be transparent and cut through the clichés. When a new leader is introduced, it’s easy to fall into empty rhetoric, but customers and employees will see through it – and it could become a detriment.

Be honest with the direction of the company and use that information to create buzz and excitement about the future. Most importantly, be candid. If things are going to change, then let your employees know what changes they can expect, as this will allow them to emotionally and mentally prepare themselves and ensure that their performance isn’t affected by fear or confusion about what the future may hold.

Part of this is ensuring that your employees are heard as they navigate any ensuing leadership changes. One tactic is to have your Human Resources personnel speak with each department (or individual, if possible). The aim is to communicate all information clearly to staff, preferably in smaller groups on one-on-one, and give them a safe place to ask questions or provide their own insights.

Show Stability

Exhibit stability to all key stakeholders as part of the change process. You want to give the impression that it’s business as usual so your customers feel good about sticking around and your investors won’t get skittish.

This isn’t about being fake or ignoring obstacles. It’s about proving through action how your organization will be stabilized as it undergoes a significant change at the top.

Don’t Fear Leadership Change

Leaders can retire or leave to pursue new opportunities, or an organization can decide that it’s time for a significant change. Whatever the reason, businesses shouldn’t fear bringing a new senior leader on board; it can inject new life into a company’s internal culture and lead to big returns.

Navigating a substantial change like a change in leadership takes strategy and a proactive approach. Senior management needs to put employees first, as they will be the most immediately impacted and must therefore buy in. Remember to keep the needs of your customers and investors at the forefront during this process, as change should be designed to improve their relationship with the organization.


Rob Shapiro | Contributing Writer



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