Chip Shots - When The Leader You Got Is Not The Leader You Wanted

Here at Lead Change Group, we know that problems are most effectively solved when individuals come together to meld ideas, energies, and approaches.

To use a golf analogy, not every shot is a long drive. Many times, golfers have to take a chip shot to move the ball along for a short distance, with incisive accuracy.

If you are new to the Chip Shots green, welcome. In our Chip Shots feature, our Leading Voices are invited to provide brief insights into a leadership dilemma. Our first Chip Shots post can be viewed here.

Today's Question

A large state university in Florida recently confirmed a new president (a high-profile politician), after a tumultuous search process marked by allegations of favoritism toward that candidate and vocally oppositional faculty members and students. Have you ever been in a position as a manager to facilitate a team through the on-boarding of a leader to whom they had expressed opposition? What tips would you give for restoring order and morale?

Five of our Leading Voices took a shot at this question. This is what they said:

This Is Not The First Time A New Leader Has Been Opposed

Chip Bell reminds us: the relationship between college president and politician is not a new one. Woodrow Wilson was President of Princeton; Dwight Eisenhower was president of Columbia. Although the new president clearly has challenges ahead, universities are not like countries; you do not have to go to one specific university.

Willingly and openly meet with the opposition. Promise to be respectful of their concerns. Leadership is not about being the pawn of a certain constituency; it is about following core principles and values in carrying out the mission you were charged with implementing. While it is always important to be open to the views of those you represent, leadership is not about being a rubber stamp. Otherwise you could make all decisions based solely on a popularity poll. For that type of role you could honestly hire a clerk to be in charge.

Listen Intensely

David Dye looks back on the two times he has been in this situation and advises: In both scenarios the best thing I did was intense listening. When people are angry about a leadership decision, the most important thing for both you and the new leader is to build or re-establish healthy relationships.

Encourage the new leader to go on their own listening tour and to ask two questions. What does this team do that makes you proud to be a part of it? And, what do you think it would look like if this team really nailed it? This helps the leader build their own relationships with the team by seeking their input first, celebrating what they do well, and hearing their ideas for the future.

Lay Out An Inspiring Vision

Karin Hurt says: "I’ve  been that leader." I was selected to lead a large retail sales team of 2000+ employees with no Retail or sales background. I had a strong track record of success in human resources and call centers, but my highly experienced team was skeptical. It was all about building transparency, constructing real connection, and laying out an inspiring vision for the future. Read more here.

Craft A 100-Day Plan

Will Lukang suggests looking ahead to the 100 day mark and planning to follow up to ensure engagement and progress. He offers these additional tips for restoring morale and order:

  1. Before the new manager starts, engage the team, describe the hiring process, and encourage them to collaborate with the new manager to achieve the department's goal.
  2. Ensure that the new manager is briefed in order to be prepared.
  3. Make an introduction as soon as the manager starts.
  4. Encourage the manager to spend time with the new team and engage them.

Participate With Integrity

Jon Mertz notes times when he has been in this situation as situations that "caused a stir" and created "a big distraction." To minimize these challenges, he recommends to set the right example.

The essential daily work needs to continue. Customers don't expect a disruption. Other stakeholders don't anticipate a disruption. In fact, more than ever, any disruption in service or expectation will create a higher degree of uncertainty than before. So it is essential to continue to do the work required and stay focused.

Opposition begins to disappear when some normalcy returns. Opposition also recedes when the new leaders bring them into the process. This will be the new leader's challenge and responsibility, to be ready to participate with integrity.

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