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How to deal with a leadership change at work

How to deal with a leadership change at work.


When a major leadership change is happening in your company, it’s normal to feel a little fearful. Whether your company has five or 500 employees, we might feel skittish about what the new leader will implement, and maybe even worry about the security of our own gig. Major shifts in the workplace, even when necessary and welcome, can throw us off our game — and leadership change is no exception.

But what if there’s more to leadership changes than simply surviving? What if this could be a turning point in your career too? With the right mindset and a smart approach, this could usher in a season of growth not only for your company, but for you too. Five strategies to thrive during leadership change:

Listen first — then talk.

With a new leader in place, it’s tempting rush into her office with that list of 50 brand new ideas. Hey, no shame in wanting to make a good first impression! But before diving in headfirst, press pause. During the new leader’s initial few weeks, it’s smart for you as her employee to observe her approach first. Even if she comes from within your company, you’ll benefit from seeing her in action.

Use this opportunity to ask questions. What’s her leadership style? How does she prefer to communicate? A few weeks of listening can help you get a feel for how she will lead. Armed with a little knowledge, you can anticipate how your big ideas will be received and present them with confidence.

Use this time to reevaluate your own approach.

Capitalize on this season of change to spark some changes of your own. Your new leader may be a bit skeptical towards initiatives launched before her arrival. After all, it’s her job to explore new ideas and move the company forward. So conduct a critical, objective review of your role, daily work, processes and tactics. What’s worked well? What’s broken? Bonus points for quantifying the results of your past work. Challenge how you view the role you play in the company. It’s a great exercise in thinking creatively.

Remember to maintain balance between making changes and standing firm. Holding on too strong to “the way we’ve always done it” can make you appear defensive and stubborn. But if you’re overly willing to change anything your new leader requests, you may come off as erratic and timid. You may be asked to evaluate a current practice, and having done so yourself, you’ll be ready to answer her with confidence.

Learn how the new leader defines success.
Perhaps the new leader was brought in specifically to increase sales or strengthen margin. Maybe she has been tasked streamlining workflow and efficiency. Or perhaps she wants to improve company culture and build morale.

So it’s important to know how she defines success moving forward. Have an intentional conversation, and get specific about how you as a team member can contribute. Knowing your goals can set the stage for great results. Even better, you’ll know what you’re aiming for well before annual reviews come around.

Play the long game.

On days when you feel like this leadership change was a step backwards for your company, remember to play the long game. It’s okay to feel frustrated, but stay upbeat around coworkers. Strive to build your coworkers up, focusing on the team as a whole. Keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going right.

Be cautious with gossip too. Even if you think you’re just letting off steam, put yourself in the new leader’s shoes: speak about her the way you’d like others to speak about you.

Take care of yourself.
Even when it’s for the better, change can be hard — so take care of yourself! Set healthy boundaries for your work schedule. Build stress relief into your calendar: do something fun that’s completely unrelated to your job, whether it’s taking the dog for a long walk, hitting the gym or enjoying a yoga class. Especially when you’re putting in longer hours at work, a little self-care goes a long way. Tough days feel less intimidating when you’ve invested in yourself.

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