There comes a time in nearly every company when leaders either change positions or leave altogether. That "world's best boss" mug is packed away and ready to be retired, and employees are left scrambling for answers. Who's next in line? Will someone new take their place? And how will this affect their jobs?
Change in leadership is a natural occurrence in most businesses, but this transition can be difficult for many workers.
"Top-level change can cause anxiety for a team," said Tina Bacon-DeFrece, president of Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More. "It could mean everything from a change in culture to removal and replacement of team members."
Jack Kemperasked the Business.com community, "How can you prepare your company for a change in leadership?" We spoke with industry experts and outlined an efficient process to guarantee a smooth transition.
Breaking the news
While it might feel like a daunting task, you must alert your team of the change, and do so in a respectful manner. This will alleviate tension and build trust in your employees.
"When we have an internal leadership change, we prefer to take the personal one-on-one approach with as many key people as possible," said Aaron Meyers, president and COO of Hammer & Nails Grooming Shop for Guys. "It's important to personally contact all significant players within the company … prior to the official announcement. Taking the time to make calls and speak with your team is a significant commitment, but the more one-on-one conversations you have with your brand's thought leaders, the more they will vocalize support of the change."
Meyers added that transparency is key, as well as maintaining communication with workers of all levels. Don't keep anything from your workers or treat them like they're emotionless robots who have nothing invested in the business.
"It's helpful to add weekly emails and conference calls to the mix to help ensure the entire company is well informed, aligned and confident in where the company is going," he said.
This will not only bring everyone together, but also keep their spirits hopeful in the face of change.
Preparing for the transition
The shift from an old leader to a new one can be rocky, especially if the previous executive was well liked and easy to work with. This type of transition can spike anxiety and affect workflow, which can affect the entire company and culture.
The best way to approach this issue is by ensuring everyone understands that this decision has everyone's best intentions at heart, and that everyone's concerns are heard.
"Help your company understand the reality that precipitated the change," said Meyers. "Business results often are the driver of change. Many companies are not transparent with results, so their people are not aware of the health of a business … Painting an accurate picture of where you are and where you are going is the surest way to prepare a company for new leadership."
Meyers recommended talking with your workers every day, encouraging feedback and open discussions so they aren't out of the loop. Above all, stay positive for your team.
"In our world, we experience change daily, and it is happening faster than ever before," said Meyers. "That means your team is probably scared or unsure of how the story ends and what the future will hold. They need a leader who helps them see an exciting future and ensures them the hard work it takes to get to the top will be worth it. Have compassion for your team, and show that compassion in how you communicate."
Make sure you have a well-thought-out plan to meet the company goals and objectives, and that you share it with your workers, added Bacon-DeFrece. Concerns tend to carry less weight when there's a detailed strategy in place.
Even if you have your reservations, be confident in your organization. If you aren't, fear can trickle down to all employees and create a spark of panic.
"You are either all in and have confidence, or you are struggling as a leader," said Meyers. "A team's attitude is often a reflection of their leader's and whether their thoughts, ideas and concerns are being listened to and acknowledged."