What to Look for When Replacing a Manager

A colleague expressed frustration about a corporate search that took nearly a year to replace a department head. It takes time to bring in the right person, and urgency takes a back seat to finding the right fit.

The challenge, however, is getting through the process as employees cope with the “temporary” void feeling uncertain and even anxious about their manager’s replacement. Change can be scary given the unknown of the newcomer’s personality and agenda, particularly if the new manager comes from outside the organization.

That’s why it’s important to remember the words spoken by the wise knight in Indiana Jones’ The Last Crusade: “choose wisely.”

If you’re in a position to select a manager’s replacement, consider the type of engaging manager recommended by thought leader and academic Henry Mintzberg in his classic article “Managing Quietly.” He describes managers who:

  • Inspire rather than empower their people by creating a culture with “conditions that foster openness and release energy” so that “empowerment is taken for granted.”
  • Care for their organizations by spending more time “preventing problems than fixing them, because they know enough to know when and how to intervene.”
  • Infuse change so that it “seeps in slowly, steadily, profoundly” instead of dramatically so “everyone takes responsibility for making sure that serious changes take hold.”

For executives, search committees, and HR staff tasked with filling managers’ positions, you don’t want it said that you “chose poorly.”

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