Close your eyes and think back to a time when you witness (or experienced) a new leader intent on making their mark…simply by changing everything in sight.
Wow, that didn’t take long, huh?
Most of us have experienced or witnessed just such a tendency numerous times in our lives. And sometimes it’s justified. For example, for years the Green Bay Packers languished in the basement of the National Football League. Enter Mike Holmgren, and almost overnight, the fortunes of the team began to reverse. Sometimes a change in leadership direction is just what is needed.
But let’s be honest. Most leadership transitions are not brought about by prolonged or even sudden failures. Most simply are the result of natural attrition. Either a leader moves onto another challenge or retires. So, in a vast majority of cases, operations are humming along fairly well when the new leader arrives. Therefore, what’s the big hurry to change things up?
Well, sometimes in the anxiety borne out of being put in a new leadership role, an individual may feel the need to make their mark, to prove they are “smart” and capable of leading. In other words, they may not be conscious of it, but there is often reluctance to acknowledge solid leadership of your predecessor. And that subconscious competitiveness can be the kiss of death to many a successful unit, department, or organization.
If you’re new to a leadership position, and unless you have been explicitly informed upon your promotion that you are expected to dramatically introduce change, don’t. Take the time to really evaluate the current state of affairs. Learn the key players, the champions, the knowledge sources, and the informal influencers on your team. Take note of the strengths of the group and the successes your team is already having. Leverage them wherever you can.
With the departure of Joe Torre as the long-time manager of the New York Yankees, Joe Girardi was brought into an already successful organization. He didn’t toss out Derek Jeter and A-Rod, simply because they had been part of Torre’s winning strategy. He didn’t trade away closer Mariano Rivera. No, he evaluated where the team was a winning team. He kept the strongest parts, and along with General Manager Brian Cashman, attempted to only make changes where necessary. The result…a continue preeminence in the American League East.
So, next time you find yourself in a new position leading an existing team….don’t stir the pot. Sometimes the cauldron is bubbling nicely on its one. Just continue the spells already successful. Then slowly….ever so slowly, begin experimenting with your own.