I was working with a client who was recently promoted to a position as a global leader. She was promoted from having local responsibility to having eight countries to look after. Her remit changed from just having people she knew, teams she could connect with, to suddenly having to lead teams, virtually, working across distance, culture, and time zones.
Six months into the role, she was finding it extremely challenging, which is when I was brought in to help her. One of the things I talked to her about in the first meeting, was around transitions.
I’m not sure if any of you are triathletes. I myself am not a triathlete but I have spoken to quite a number of people who are triathletes. They tell me that in any triathlon, when you do a swim, a bike race, and a run, the place where you lose the most amount of time is actually in the transition.
Similarly, as leaders, we tend to lose the most amount of time when we are actually transitioning from one role to another. There’s an author called Ram Charan and he wrote a book called The Leadership Pipeline, and in it he talks about the different transitions we make as leaders.
For example, we start off by leading ourselves, then we lead others, then lead managers, we then lead a function, lead a business, and finally lead a group. All these transitions require different skills, different mindsets, and different ways of working. We need to understand and appreciate what the things that we need to put into place are to help us in transitions. All these transitions require behavioural, emotional, and mindset changes.
A question that I asked the individual I was working with was, if you look at the role that you had previously, one area, one department, one location, to now eight countries, what are some of the things you need to stop doing? What are the things you need to start doing and what are some of the things you need to continue doing?
I usually find that’s a really good kind of framework. What do we stop, what do we start, and what do we in fact continue?
The things that she came up with were the appreciation that she needed to delegate more and that she needed to have a level of trust. She needed to pass a level of accountability across to other members of the team. She needed to think differently. She needed to move from being tactical to being more strategic.
All of this is part of transitioning, and of course it certainly is helpful if you have a good line manager or a mentor to help you through these transitions. It’s also useful to appreciate that we all go through it. Every change we make, we go through transitions.
Here’s my reflection point for you. As a leader, are you conscious of the transitions that you are making? What are some of the transitions you are making as you move into different parts of your operation, what are some of the transitions you need to be conscious of as you’re moving from different countries or different teams? And, of course, with people in your teams, as they get promoted, as they move into departments, how are you helping them manage their transitions?