Leadership Transition

Blind spot for leaders changing organisations after a long tenure

One of the more challenging leadership transitions occurs when a leader moves from an organisation where they have worked for a long period of time into a new organisation.

The obvious challenge is around the change in culture, especially from one that you know so well and are likely hardwired to exist within. Whilst this is often the case, it is less of a blind spot for senior leaders. We know it is a challenge and even though the leader nor the organisation may not have a clear solution for it, at least it is out in the open.

The blind spot I see more often is the lack of self-awareness in leaders in terms of how much of their ‘ability to get things done’ is tied to the relationships and understanding of the people in their old organisation. Over years leaders form deep relationships and even where they don’t, they develop deep understanding of what motivates and drives people around them. When new people join, the long-term leader is a known identity and profile which means they can often influence the newcomers to positive outcomes. This advantage continues to grow over the years.

This intimate, often tacit understanding of the people around the leader is a huge advantage.

It generally takes leaders some time in the new organisation to realise how much this understanding of people helped them perform. We tend to associate our performance with ‘our ability’ to build effective relationships and influence people. This is certainly tested when you move organisations and you no longer have an established track record. The potential impact is a loss of a key tool in your ‘high performer’ tool kit and potentially increased anxiety if you struggle to get things moving as fast as you expect in the new role.

So, what can you do if you have recently moved or are about to move to a new organisation after many years in the former?

Firstly, recognize that ‘time on ground’ is likely a strong influencer in your past success – and to what helped you get this new role. Accept that the advantage / asset is now gone. Refresh your ‘building relationships’ skill set and invest time in quickly building effective relationships broadly early in your transition. Look to other skills to ‘get things done’ and deliver early.

If this is an area of interest, please feel free to join the discussion at the LinkedIn

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