Few changes in the workplace resonate as strongly as a transition in management. Whether expanding and promoting your top performers into new management positions or shifting the responsibilities from one manager to another, there are several potential pitfalls you might face.
To guide executives and senior HR staff through the process of transferring responsibilities between leaders, here are several tips to make reorganizations as seamless as possible.
Recognizing the Fear of Change
By our very nature, we fear change. That change can be good, or it can be disruptive, but many employees will be wary and some resistant to it, whatever the purpose. Keep this in mind before and during management transitions. The predictability of “sameness” goes away when someone is promoted, or a new manager is brought into the organization. People will react in kind if there is any ambiguity to their role. The natural next step is increased stress and reduced productivity.
How do you address this? Start by recognizing how people are likely to react. You might see only the positives – the improved accountability, the positioning of a high performer to help grow your company.
Acknowledge that your employees might see it as a threat to their own career trajectory and a shift in their job responsibilities. They might even worry about the security of their job. Address these concerns through frequent communication, while showing empathy for their situation. Make it clear the role of the new manager, what their background is, and encourage the manager to immediately engage with their new team to avoid unnecessary stress and unease in the team.
Frequent and Direct Communication
The biggest risk during management transition is a lack of clear communication. Encourage employees and new managers alike to open communication channels in the form of weekly one-on-one meetings, team stand-ups, and an open-door policy to encourage discussion whenever there are questions.
New managers should take the time to sit with their employees and evaluate their professional goals and performance history. They should get a sense of who they are working with and what that person hopes to achieve.
Frequently in a startup or small business on a rapid growth track, these are employees who had limited or no direct oversight before the transition. Maybe they reported directly to a co-founder who had less and less time for direct oversight. Having a manager who is more hands on can be a major advantage for them, but the benefits need to be clearly communicated to avoid them feeling threatened.
All-staff meetings can be helpful as well to ensure all teams are on the same page with the evolving structure of the business. During this meeting, provide:
- A clear reason and explanation for the change being made;
- A breakdown of what’s changing and what’s staying the same; and
- What impacts these changes will have on the staff.
There may be sensitive topics during this meeting, especially if turnover was involved. Communicate appropriately, keeping in mind that all employees and management, no matter their performance issues, likely have friends in the workplace. Lastly, give people time to ask questions and be available for follow-ups via email later if needed.
Check-in Regularly on Manager Performance
Whether someone is new to management entirely or just new to your business, check in regularly. Even top performers who are new to management can quickly feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the shift from individual contributor to management. But they are used to being at the top of their game and are hesitant to ask for help.
By encouraging them to share their concerns, discuss their recent challenges, and address next steps in the transition process, you can provide the foundational support they need to succeed. This not only helps your managers perform better; but it also ensures your employees feel comfortable throughout the process.
Mentoring and Coaching for New Managers
Ongoing communication and regular meetings with your newest managers are incredibly important, but you can go a step further for those who are new to management. These individuals are likely adjusting to delegating and supporting a team, rather than diving in and doing everything themselves.
One of the most valuable resources for people in this position, no matter how well they are adjusting, is a kind ear. A mentor in the form of a fellow manager, executive, or professional colleague can be there for them to provide insights and bounce ideas against. If internal resources are limited, you can bring in a professional in the form of a leadership coach – someone who has extensive experience working with young managers.
The Only Constant Is Change
Businesses will continue to change as long as they grow. Humans naturally fear that change, so it is important to build open lines of communication, a process through which to onboard, train, and support new management, and action plans to implement when there are issues along the way. The better you can provide for your team in this process, the more smoothly the transition will go and the better new managers will be able to tackle their roles with confidence.
To learn more, download our Guide with Tips for Better, More Insightful One-on-Ones. In it, you’ll learn how to get more out of your conversations, make sure others feel heard, and express your opinions and suggestions in line with the needs of others.