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  • Writer's pictureAnnabelle White

Navigating a leadership change


It's been a long time since I wrote a blog, it's been super busy as you can imagine, with more people than ever needing support navigating changes both within themselves, and in their lives.

It won't have escaped anyone's notice that there's been quite a lot of changes in the UK too, with a new monarch, two new prime minsters and buckets of uncertainty. During this time, I have also seen a lot of changes within my clients' teams, with organisations restructuring, new leaders and new team members. There certainly seems to be a lot of change in the air. So how can you cope with these feelings of uncertainty? How can you make the changes within your team a success?

"Good endings make way for great new beginnings" (Bridges, 2004)

When there is a change in leadership, most people are impacted in some way by the uncertainty of what lies ahead. This is often influenced by what came before. What circumstances did the last leader leave in? It may seem counterintuitive, but in order to navigate that future uncertainty, you need to be able to properly mark the ending of the previous chapter. Whether that is a leaving party, a funeral, or a time of reflection, to look at what the good things are that you want to bring forwards with you into the next chapter, and to acknowledge the things you'd rather leave behind. Ignoring someone's departure, brushing it under the carpet, is unsettling for the team, and makes it difficult to turn the page, and move on.

With uncertainty, comes opportunity

The transition period from one team identity, or one leader, to the next can feel uncomfortable. Some of you will have heard of Tuckman's (1965) phrase 'forming, storming, norming, performing', and although his research was primarily looking at groups rather than teams, we can all acknowledge that there is often a 'storming' phase when a new team forms or a new leader arrives. It's uncomfortable, and it's part of that liminal space I spoke about in this earlier blog. It's in that space that lies the opportunity to make the transition transformational.

Having knowledge of the good things you would like to bring forward into the next chapter, as well as the things you want to leave behind, gives a sense of certainty. For example, with HRH Queen Elizabeth II, there were a lot of people who spent time acknowledging her service and dedication. Take the time to reflect on this. Knowing what you want is more important than focusing on the fears of the might-bes. Hold it lightly though, there may be even better alternatives ahead. Keeping an open mind, being comfortable with being uncomfortable, is a super power.

How can you set the new leader up for success?

Sometimes when a new leader joins a team, the team members watch in anticipation, waiting to see what type of leader this person will be. If the previous leader was a disaster, this becomes even more important to them. However there are times when the expectations are so rigid, that the new leader is almost set up for failure. Sometimes you need to look at it from the other perspective, what can you do to be a good team member? How can you get comfortable with your new team identity? How can you help set this new team up for success?

If you're a new leader, or have a team going through a transition phase, you may want to consider some leadership or team coaching. Coaching supports those transitions to be successful by raising awareness of the blockers keeping you in that liminal space, and supporting you to get clarity on the actions needed to evolve into a high performing team. If you're interested to find out more, do contact me either through LinkedIn or via this website here . I'd be delighted to have a conversation.

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