Many businesses don’t survive a change in leadership. But I’ve been around the block long enough to see Rea transition from its original CEO to three additional ones – and I’ve seen clients do this successfully, too. Here are some of the best practices I’ve picked up along the way.
If You’re Passing It On …
Take Your Time
Transitioning a business to a new leader is a difficult process (certainly). But it can be much easier if it’s orderly and well thought-out. The last thing you want to do is transition hastily because of a crisis. It’s always better to have an extended transition period – even as long as 18 months – to ensure that the new leader is well-trained on normal operational as well as critical issues. You don’t have a chance of transitioning successfully if you do it haphazardly.
Remember Your Customers
You’ve built a lot of relationships over the years. To help ensure a smooth transition, introduce your customers to new team members before you exit the business, especially if you’re in a relationship business like a professional services firm.
Show your customers that you’re leaving them in good hands. They will probably be nervous about dealing with someone new, and the one taking your place will feel like he or she has big shoes to feel. Make introductions early and often. You can’t transfer the relationships that you built over the years, but you can build a good foundation.
If You’re Taking It Over …
If you’re taking over as the new leader of a business, be aware of your management style – chances are, it’s different than the old leader’s style.
Sure, you want to make an impression on the organization, but if that’s your top goal, you won’t be successful. Instead, evaluate what’s going on in the organization, listen and don’t be hasty when making decisions or changing processes or procedures.
Just give it some time. Allow your team to become comfortable with your leadership style. Earn their respect and solicit their input and buy-in. Then you can begin to move the organization in the direction you want it to go.
Just be careful not to move too quickly, act without listening and change too much too soon.
Respect the Pedestal
One of the things I told Lee Beall when he took over as Rea’s CEO is, “People are listening now.” Sure, he was in the spotlight as executive VP of operations, but being CEO is a different ballgame.
When you’re the leader of the company, you’re automatically on a pedestal. Whether you earn the right to stay on that pedestal or not is completely up to you.
Be very conscious of what you say, how you say it and who you say it to. Set the tone for how people view you as a leader.
Things have changed, even if you don’t feel it. People expect different things from you so you have to view yourself differently.
When it comes time for you to pass your business on, be sure that you’re giving the next leader – and the business that you’ve spent so many years building – the greatest chance of success.
This article was originally published in The Rea Report, a Rea & Associates print publication, Fall 2013.
Note: This content is accurate as of the date published above and is subject to change. Please seek professional advice before acting on any matter contained in this article.