Caution is Wise in Leading A Consolidated Organization

By Gary Clayton

So, you’ve just succeeded in being hired to lead a newly consolidated organization. Congratulations! You should celebrate your good luck – very briefly. The odds are that you are expected to create wonders in a very short time and you need to start making progress immediately. And it is highly likely that someone would like to limit your success. How will you deal with that?

Take stock before planning

There are two things you need to do immediately:

  1. demonstrate to your boss and troops that you are a leader, and
  2. take stock of your new environment before making a fool of yourself

You can demonstrate that you have assumed the leadership role in your first meeting of your assembled workers (note: substitute “members” for “workers” if you are leading a membership organization). It takes a little planning, but it is not that hard to do. But making sure that you understand your new environment takes much more effort and a much longer time.

Understand the relationships within your environment

I’ve seen many would-be leaders fail. They are put in a position and fail to thrive. Usually, they are out within 18-24 months. The most common cause of failure I’ve seen is not a lack of technical or business functional skills. In fact, you were probably hired into your new position because of your exceptional technical or business functional skills.

In my experience, the most common cause of failure is not understanding the many relationships that come with one’s new assignment. In fact, you need to put in a special effort to identify all the important relationships that will impact your success. Besides the relationships you have with your direct reports and your immediate boss, relationships with the following people are crucial to your success:

  • Your boss’ boss
  • Your boss’ peers
  • All of your employees
  • The employees and command chain of each department your organization serves
  • The employees and command chain of each department serving your organization
  • Your external suppliers
  • Your external customers
  • The regulatory community that interacts with your company

Allegiances build up around key relationships and few of these allegiances will transfer automatically or quickly to you. You must win the respect and trust of each person to gain their allegiance to you and your plans.

Remember that you are not the only person who has a relationship with each of these people who can affect your success. You will be granted some value good will because of your new position and your reputation (if known to them), but you have no history with them.

Understand the agendas within your environment

Not everyone within your new extended network will share your boss’ agenda, let alone your agenda. Spend time learning about the various agendas to may impact you. Don’t take anyone’s word for granted, verify what you hear with several people who don’t share that agenda.

For example, some or many of your employees probably liked the person(s) you replaced and will be resistive to any changes you make out of loyalty to your predecessor(s). Others will simply fear that you will introduce changes that will hurt their position and others may feel that they should have been chosen for your position. Those employees are friendly with people elsewhere in your company and may even be friendly with some of your external customers. Not only that, but some of your internal and external customers may have felt close to one or more of the people you replaced – and don’t know what to expect from you. The one thing they know for certain is you have been brought in to change your organization and that may be to the affect their operations.

Lead everyone to your leadership agenda – or minimize their influence

Somehow, magically, people who have similar fears or aspirations manage to find each other and will form cliques that can impact your success. Wise leaders learn about the various agendas that differ from theirs, learn who supports each agenda and then find ways to get the dissident group to support the leadership agenda by finding common ground. Failing that, wise leaders neutralize or break up the dissident group.

Understanding the relationships and agendas within your environment takes time and you will feel pressure to demonstrate your effectiveness before you have completed this process. This is a normal need, but stick with creating short low-risk successes until you have a solid understanding. Others who are embedded in your new leadership environment can easily set traps for you.

Gary Clayton has successfully taken over the leadership of several organizational units that were not living up to their potential or were newly consolidated for business philosophy reasons. Gary provides leadership coaching and consulting services to leaders and those who wish to become leaders in business and life.

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Categories : Approaches & Styles