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7 Strategies for Managing Leadership Changes

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Ronda Bowen • updated: 5/15/2013

You know it’s coming: Your company is reorganizing and that means a change in leadership for you and your project team. As companies downsize, revamp, and find cost-effective ways to meet today’s economic challenges, change is always a possibility. How do you manage a change in leadership?

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    Preparing Your Team

    Even the best managers won’t do well if they are aware a change in leadership is coming and do nothing to prepare for that change. Research shows that team members will handle change better if they are exposed to effective change plans. Change management experts agree that change is inevitable, so follow these tips to help you prepare ahead of time and during the transition.

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    Tips For Managers

    Follow the Leader4 by Jan Zelf 

    As the manager of a team or project, your people will look at how you confront changes in leadership. How you convey your acceptance to change will be a big influence on your team. Consider these ideas for helping your team deal with change:

    • Ask and Understand – Find out all you can about the change, including the reason for the change. Ask questions on how the change will affect you, your team, and your projects. Make a thorough list of questions and consider what questions your team may ask of you as well. The more you understand the need for the change, the easier it will be to get your team to respond well to the change.
    • Be Positive – If you’re negative about the change in front of your staff, they will be too. Changes in leadership often mean work style changes, different processes, and expectations. Think of this as a new beginning or a challenge and be positive about the change.
    • Talk to Your Team – As soon as you are aware of a change, talk to your team about it. Don’t pop it on them at the last minute. Give them a chance to ask how it will affect their work environment. Let them know if you, as their manager, will be making any changes as a result of the leadership change. Be open about what you feel new leadership might do that will directly affect your team.
    • Deal With Resistance Quickly – Not everyone will adapt to the change in a positive way. As soon as you identify team members who are resistant to change, speak with them and find out why. What are the areas that most concern them about change? Are they negatively affecting other team members with their resistance? It is your job to encourage and help team members understand the reason for the change to help them accept it.
    • Be Open With the New Leadership – How you deal with the new leadership will help you not only win over their trust but your team's trust. A new leadership may bring much change or small change, but remaining open to their ideas is key for a smooth transition. You should also inform new leadership of current processes, past successful change management strategies, and ask to attend or facilitate meetings on what will change in your organization.
    • Submit Ideas – A transitional leadership change is not the time to close your office door, step back and see what happens. Be a good team leader and submit ideas and suggestions on how you can help with the transition. Make leadership aware of your team’s capabilities, weaknesses, and strengths, and talk about successful challenges they’ve met.
    • Agree to Disagree – No matter what you do to protect your team, process, or work environment, new leadership will make changes that affect you and your team. While you may not agree with all of the changes, agree to disagree and find out why they insist on a change. The more you understand their thoughts and leadership ideals, the better you will adapt to change yourself.

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    It's Inevitable...

    Whether you work for a Fortune 500 company or a small firm, good project mangers know that change is inevitable so prepare for change all the time. If this seems daunting to you, consider how many companies are sold or traded, CEOs replaced, or leadership structures modified. Good managers should be able to adapt, assess, and help teams achieve the change in leadership in a positive way with quick results. A smooth transition to change is possible if good change management skills are applied. Brushing up on your change management skills will be key in how you deal and help others deal with a change in leadership.

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