The process of changing an organization’s leadership is more than a new person inhabiting an old office. Possibly, the entire organizational culture may change creating a sense of uncertainty among staff and other management. Depending on circumstances, some will feel nostalgic and others pleased at the transition. The key is to continue or build team communication. Staff needs to get to know the new leaders and vice versa.
Recognizing Outgoing Leaders
Leadership change activities should recognize the contributions and accomplishments of the outgoing leaders. Such activities could be a lunch, set of speeches or informal gatherings for staff. Depending on the organization’s policy, a gift is likely in order. The new leaders should also recognize the outgoing leaders as a signal that everyone’s contributions are valuable.
Activities should recognize that everyone is feeling something about this transition -- uncertainty, anxiety, sadness, joy. Emotions vary depending on relationships with the leaders and position in the organization. If tensions are high, then a formal facilitation could help. If not, then informal conversations about staff worries in groups are useful for new leaders to learn about the group dynamics of staff.
Rebuilding New Team
Many companies during the transition period plan a team-building activity with new leaders and their staff members. The activity is generally fun in nature and comfortable and allows everyone to personally interact with one another and the new leaders. For example, one activity is to pin a list of personality traits onto someone’s back and have everyone mingle with one another to determine someone’s identity (e.g., athlete, mechanic). Another example would be to have the group plan for their survival on a deserted island by identifying 12 things they would take with them. Some leaders may take the staff outside the work environment to get to know one another. Activities can be simple but still enable communication and group problem solving.
A one-off team-building event will not suffice, no matter how elaborate. The new leaders need to take everyday opportunities and turn routine meetings into team-building conversations. Each team member needs certainty of how the organization will change. Small activities, such as asking staff what changes they desire, are good ways to keep everyone engaged. Some companies post a flip chart in a separate room where staff can write down ideas for the organization in a nonconfrontational environment. The process of getting to know one another requires time, effort and patience.
Maggie Allen is a political science doctoral student and a trained facilitator of environmental conflicts. She has traveled extensively for her work and began writing on these experiences in 2006, including policy papers for international organizations. She holds a Master of Arts in international development from the University of Guelph and a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of Northern British Columbia.