Transitions are hard, and the American economy has experienced more than its fair share in the last few years.
And how an organization handles transition can make or break it in terms of climate and culture.
Transitions do not just happen when someone is let go or moves on. There are three major times for transition:
1. when a team member enters the organization
2. as a team member progresses within the organization
3. when a team member leaves the organization
When someone enters an organization, they begin to sense the culture from day one—actually, they pick it up in the hiring process. Starting a new job is both tough and exciting all at once. Exciting because of new possibilities. Tough because it may involve leaving old friendships and partnerships and navigating a whole new environment. The organizations with the healthiest cultures pay attention to these all-important moments.
Smart leaders recognize that the newcomer phase is important for creating engagement, attraction and loyalty, for all the right reasons.
As time goes on, transition continues to be a factor. Newcomers become old hands, look around them and see whether the team is retaining valuable employees or not, whether promotions are fairly rewarded or are a product of the politics of the good old boys/girls network, and whether team members are listened to, ignored, or condescended to.
The healthiest climates honor informal leadership as well as formal leadership. Sure, there are titles, dashes and lines on an org chart, and accountabilities . . . but there is also a sense that the best ideas can come from unexpected places and that a leader does not need to be an “executive,” “manager” or “partner” to play a key role in the direction of the organization.
Finally, when people leave—voluntarily or involuntarily—this wrenching transition is handled with grace and skill in organizations with healthy atmospheres. Changes rarely surprise people, because a premium has been placed on communication. People are encouraged to discuss their opinions and points of view on change, and those who leave are honored as they go, even if the reason for their leaving was difficult.
Transitions of all kinds are navigated well when you use these three practices:
1. Credibility: leaders are even-handed and fair, and so make deposits of trust, which can be borrowed against when tough changes have to be instituted.
2. Transparency—unless trade secrets that would compromise competitive advantage are at stake, leaders default to sharing details about the conditions that shape transition decisions, the rationale for unpopular decisions, and the long-term effects on all those in the organization.
3. Honor—in the case of terminations and layoffs, unless an employee was dismissed for ethical or legal reasons every effort is made to honor those leaving, thanking them for their contributions and pointing out their positive characteristics. This is the right thing to do for the one leaving, and it engenders trust and loyalty among those staying!
How about your organization’s transitions? How is your hiring process? Your professional development process? Your leave-taking process?
And how do those processes affect your organizational climate?