When leaders are replaced – whether due to retirement or changing jobs – it can be tricky for the incoming executive. It’s also tricky for the remaining staff members.
Consider these three scenarios drawn from organizations that will remain anonymous. As an employee, how likely would you stay to work with the new leader?
- A newly hired executive meets with employees to lay out new goals and directions. Eager to dive in, she accompanies staff members to a meeting with an organizational partner where the new exec dominates the conversation to showcase her expertise and undermines the current staff-partner relationship in the process. She also revamps a regular customer communication piece without asking the employee to explain the situational context. After a few staff members approach the exec to express concern about growing employee frustration, they’re told unhappy employees are welcome to find new jobs.
- A consultant in an interim executive position tells the management team how his consulting expertise will help them become successful in their jobs. The exec’s intention and other ego-driven behaviors are received as condescending. Wary in their dealings with the new CEO, team members resort to telling him what he wants to hear while they slowly disengage.
- A new nonprofit exec reaches out to staff members, current and former board members, constituents, funders/donors, and community partners to learn their thoughts about the organization. She uses the information and insight gathered from her listening tour, along with the Board’s directives, to develop a collective plan to move forward. In the process, she enlists people’s support in continuing to help the nonprofit further its mission.
The common thread in these situations is respect. In the first two organizations, employees’ expertise and experience are dismissed, whereas in the third they are acknowledged and valued.
Understandably, new leaders want to make their mark. It’s not just what they do but how they do it that impacts employee engagement – positively or negatively.