The most important job of a manager during a company shakeup
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 Catherine M. Keating, CEO and president of Commonfund.
Management shakeups are important moments for companies and employees. Having recently joined Commonfund as its fifth President and CEO, this question is certainly top of mind for me. I’ve always found that the first step is to acknowledge that management shakeups don’t happen by accident; they happen for a reason. Management shakeups are a clear signal of a need for change.
We all know that change is essential for any vibrant, growing organization. But the truth is that almost all of us — organizations and employees alike — resist change. If companies were traffic lights, a management shake-up would be a flashing yellow “caution” light for employees, and by extension for clients, shareholders and other constituents as well. The job of the new manager is to understand this mindset, and to turn the organizational traffic light from “yellow” (caution) to “green” (execution) as quickly as possible while minimizing stops, congestion, detours and collisions.
I have been among both the shakers and the shaken in numerous management shakeups over my career, and have found these four steps helpful in getting to “green”:
First and foremost, make an honest assessment of organizational performance. Identify important metrics and measure performance against them. Make the facts your friends and embrace them; numbers depict strengths and weaknesses. I’ve learned employees are generally not surprised by the assessment, and always appreciate the honesty.
See also: How to deal with a management shakeup
Create a vision for the future
Engage your team in developing a future vision for the firm. Employees typically care deeply about what the firm wants to be and do; many care about this as much as they care about their own roles in the future. Most of us spend the bulk of our time at work, and want that time to be meaningful. A change in management signifies that change is coming to the entire firm. During this time, managers need to essentially “re-recruit” their employees to the firm and gain their support for the new vision.
A new vision must be matched by a new definition of success. Select key markers of success and build a realistic execution plan and timeframe to achieve them. Celebrate and share milestones being set, met, and in time, exceeded.
Communicate and acknowledge feedback
Get the message out — personally and repeatedly — and solicit feedback constantly. I have learned that what people hear (or don’t hear) is even more important than what you say (or don’t say). For me, my initial message is always improved by feedback and calibration.