How can you prepare your company for a change in leadership?
As a tech startup, we've been lucky to have a tight knit team that works really well off of each other. What is the best way I can break the news of a leadership change in our startup? And how can I ensure that my employees are on board and supportive of the change?
There's a good chance that people already know the former person is leaving, and may already have opinions.
Depending on how senior the team is, you might want to involve team members in vetting the new prospect, before you announce the fait accompli. "Folks, this is Voldemort, you new boss/ team member."
I was just in a client's top managers' meeting where the hire of a new manager was announced, "We're just bringing Jack on board! How exciting!" I could see the faces around the table wilt, because several of them had had prior bad experience with Jack. "Why didn't you ask us about him?" they asked.
This is particularly prevalent because so many small growing companies disparage using best HR methods to interview, vet, and hire top people. "I can interview and hire just fine." "Our headhunter says this guy is great!" "Our top investor and board member recommended her." "He has a PhD from Harvard; I'm sure he can learn to manage."
My wife is an HR consultant who is often brought in to fire these turkeys when they don't work out. "Why didn't they bring me in on the hire?" she asks. "And during the orientation?"
I think that you must be very careful in your announcement to tell your team what is really going to happen. If you sold your business, the new owner might want to make changes once the powers are transferred and may make you look like a liar by making drastic changes you did not announce beforehand. I know from experience how stressful this can be for a well tuned team.
Be honest, and be fast; try to get ahead of the rumor mill. Hold a company meeting and pass out handouts that give a bio of the new guy and include FAQ (answers to questions such as why the new guy, how does this affect me, when does he start, etc.).
After the new guy starts, hold another company meeting to introduce him, have him speak, and take questions and answers.
I know it's an overused word, but transparency is key here.
Send an email, then hide.
Seriously, your team will be taking their cue from you, so keep a positive attitude and focus on the good. Make your announcement to the entire group and stress the benefits of this change and how it will affect them - then encourage their questions. They will need your assurance while they adapt.
I assume upper management already knows about this, but if not, tell them separately from the rest of the group. They deserve that.