Leaders in Transition

Hilary PottsI am delighted to have Hilary Potts as my guest this month.

Hilary Potts is a leadership strategist, and business coach specializing in organizational change and executive transition. A former C-suite executive with vast global experience, she helps senior leaders navigate today’s intensively competitive business world with success. She is the author of “The Executive Transition Playbook.” As the Founder of The HAP Group, Hilary is devoted to enabling others to perform at their best during times of change. With her guidance, leaders get clear on the direction, and people work together to make better decisions and execute plans more efficiently. You can find more at www.HilaryPotts.com.

1) What prompted you to write this book?

I wrote The Executive Transition Playbook to share proven strategies to successfully maximize the short time frame leaders have to get up-to-speed and make key contributions.

As a change expert, business coach and operating executive, I have seen the challenges incoming leaders face in entering new roles. The entry of a new executive signifies a change which is often overlooked. Unfortunately, over 40% of executives entering new roles fail within the first 18 months and many struggle silently as they try to figure out how to navigate in the new environment.

Throughout the years I’ve noticed some consistent themes in successful transitions and the potential traps experienced by leaders who move too quickly to action without fully understanding the business or the role. The Executive Transition Playbook shares a step-by-step approach for executives to create a leader transition strategy and to look at all the key aspects of the business.

2) What are some fundamentals for any leader in transition?

The Executive Transition Playbook is a tool for executives to create the goals, strategies and transition plan to learn and assess the business, cultivate strong working relationships and decide how to lead the business. The Playbook incorporates a plan from pre Day One through the first 6-18 months. Whether it’s a new role in an existing company or a new company, each situation is an opportunity to learn, connect, assess and take action.

3) What are some typical things you have seen leaders NOT do well when in a new role?

In the book, I talk about the 10 warning signs that derail incoming leaders. All too often, leaders jump into the conversations and start making decisions without taking the time to listen to others, learn about the business and assess what is needed. It’s too easy for a leader to think the situation is similar to a prior role and to begin making decisions without all the information. Listening to gather information and communicating to engage others are simple and important skills required in the first few months.

Here are five tips to help in the transition:

– Listen even when you don’t like the messages

– Open communication channels by interacting with a broad spectrum of people, each has a perspective on the business

– Establish trusting relationships in your actions and follow up. Avoid making commitments you can’t keep.

– Be a student of the business and assess your findings before jumping to action

– Enhance your leadership skills; one size doesn’t fit all and each role provides an opportunity to develop

4) What often gets overlooked by leaders in transition?

Leaders often overlook themselves and spend more time caring for the people and organizations they serve. Attending to personal development and ensuring a healthy work balance can get ignored. The learning process, time to think and plan often get short changed which can be a detriment to the business and can cause issues later on. The Playbook provides helpful ideas for leaders to learn, develop, communicate and assimilate into the role.

5) How can a leader best deal with the sense of urgency and need to perform versus the need to what a good leader in transition does?

It’s healthy to act with a sense of urgency and to put this energy to good use in fully looking at all aspects of the business in the shortest time possible. It’s irresponsible to jump in to addressing the business challenges without all the facts.

Things to consider while balancing the need to act versus taking the time to get up-to-speed:

– Be proactive and create a transition plan to avoid reacting. Incorporate the urgent business requirements into your plan.

– Engage and enlist others to be accountable and responsible for the business instead of acting like the hero to save the day.

– Identify the few critical projects that will require your input and create a way to handle these urgent decisions.

– Set the timing and tempo. Recognize while others may push a sense of urgency to make a decision, you ultimately decide what and how you get involved.

6) Are some personality types better at doing what you are suggesting than others?

The Playbook is designed so that leaders can customize and tailor the transition plan to fit the business and the leader. It’s important for leaders to understand his or her own strengths and vulnerabilities, and to create a plan to avoid missing specific aspects.

7) Do you really need a plan?

Many executives transition into new roles so often, they forgo a transition plan thinking it’s a minor event. Acting without a plan can cause inconsistencies and a missed opportunity to learn and connect with others. Why leave it to chance in this competitive and complex business environment. Leadership is a key element to getting results, so why not use proven time tested techniques to enhance the likelihood of success.

Jasbindar Singh is a business psychologist and leadership coach who loves helping individuals, teams and organisations grow and develop and perform at its best.

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