MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you handle a management shakeup? is written by Perry Yeatman, CEO of Perry Yeatman Global Partners.
It’s been my experience that the best people are transferred or promoted at least once every three years. Add this to the overall increase in turn over in many industries and it’s almost inevitable that at some point in your career you will unexpectedly get a new boss. However, it’s how you handle the transition that makes all the difference. So, don’t just sit there – genuinely embrace the possibilities the change can bring.
View the transition as an opportunity, not a threat
Don’t be scared. Despite what you might have heard from others, and even if you loved your old boss, be open to the fact that a new boss might be even better. I’m not saying ignore what others say, but don’t pre-judge what might happen for you. Here’s why. Back in 2005 I was hired by the then CEO of Kraft Foods (KRFT). I moved my family halfway across the country to take this new role. Approximately eight months in, the CEO was unexpectedly replaced, and a new leader was appointed. Given that my role required a high degree of trust and personal interaction with the CEO, I was concerned that the new CEO — whom I’d never met — was going to sack me just because she hadn’t hired me. This is by no means unheard of in my type of position, so it was a valid concern. But in the end, not only did the new CEO not fire me, she gave me additional responsibilities. This same scenario has played out with nearly every management shakeup I’ve faced.
Listen, observe and learn
Once the new boss is on board, you need to quickly learn what their priorities are. Why? Because you can’t help them succeed unless you understand what they are trying to achieve and why. They may tell you this directly or you may have to figure it out for yourself. Either way, figuring this out is critical to your success. So open your ears and eyes and learn all that you can about them – their style, preferences, motivations, goals, etc. The better you know and understand them, the better you’ll be able to work with them.
Embrace your chance to teach someone the ropes
A new boss often gives you a chance to be the teacher. This is a great opportunity for two reasons. First, learning how to brief someone and help them grasp new material effectively are critical leadership skills — ones you’ll surely need to advance. Second, when you have a chance to teach someone, you have a chance to help frame their thinking. This is an opportunity to influence the new direction they are likely to set.
See also: How to deal with a management shakeup
Champion the changes that follow
Every smart leader knows you need to always leave a role and/or organization in better shape than you found it. Your new boss will want to put their own stamp on the company. Don’t fight this. Instead, be honest, helpful and engaged. This is the best way to ensure that the changes they make are ones you’d make yourself — if you could. It also helps position you as a trusted advisor and an indispensable ally – something every new boss needs.
Let go of any resentment
Most people don’t like change, but it’s a fact of life and work. So find ways to become more agile and adaptable. For example, even if you were passed over for the role, and wish you’d gotten the promotion, don’t sit around and bemoan the situation. That won’t change the decision and it can quickly make you someone the new leader wants to eliminate. Instead, work hard to understand why you weren’t chosen this time and do your best to get ready for next time. If you’ve proven yourself worthy to this new boss, chances are they will either fight to take you with them when they move up or they will fight hard for you to replace them when they move on. Either way, it’s a win-win for you.