INSIGHTS

Transitioning to new role (Part 1) – The key challenges

Vanessa Wende

Transitioning-to-new-role

“There are a number of critical transition changes that you can go through as you move up the hierarchy in an organisation. Each transition point brings its own unique challenges as you move through it. Being aware of what these challenges are can help you in preparing for them.

There are a number of critical transition changes that you can go through as you move up the hierarchy in an organisation. Each transition point brings its own unique challenges as you move through it. Being aware of what these challenges are can help you in preparing for them.

 Changing roles is part and parcel of career growth. Without change, challenge and new experience we don’t learn and grow. Taking on a different role within the organisation broadens your perspective and exposure to the organisation, to other areas of the business and to other disciplines. It builds an agile and resilient career that can set you up for future opportunities.

Where the role change involves a promotion, often the challenges can be under-estimated because the role change is internal to the organisation. After all, shouldn’t you already have a clear understanding of the organisation and the role and an established network to rely on?  While it helps to have previous exposure to the organisation and it’s people, it’s counterproductive to think that this will mean your transition will be a smooth one.

The greater the change you’re making as a result of your role change (i.e. in terms of seniority, location, team, functional versus general management), the greater the need to take the time to consider how the change will impact you and to set some goals that address some of the challenges you may face in your move.

Your first few months in a role are the most critical to your future success and are also the time when you are at your most vulnerable. Your peers, team, new leader and even your clients and customers want to see how well you stack up. They hope to be able to validate their decision to back you, and justify the investment they’re making in you. There will be a real feeling of having to prove yourself. And it’s not just about preventing failure, it’s about realising your full potential and contribution, and building momentum quickly so that you can deliver value to the organisation early. The right planning helps you focus on the right things at the right time and anticipate challenges you might face.

Navigating critical role transitions

There are a number of critical transition changes that you can go through as you move up the hierarchy in an organisation. Each transition point brings its own unique challenges as you move through it. Being aware of what these challenges are can help you in preparing for them.

As roles become more senior they change in terms of the level of complexity, breadth of impact, and decision-making scope, and therefore the behaviours and skills needed at each level. Some transition points are more significant than others and so require a greater adjustment in behaviours and skills. In many cases this means leaving behind what may have made you successful in the past, as vastly different skills are now needed. Skills that were once important may actually become an impediment to success in the new role. When moving through any of the following transition points be sure to include development goals that address the different skills and challenges at the new level.

 

Key challenges for different transition points

Moving from individual contributor to first level leader

  • Moving from doing the work yourself to getting work done through others
  • Letting go of doing all the technical work and focusing on leading others
  • Holding others accountable – delegating responsibilities and allowing others the right balance of autonomy and support to do the work
  • Teaching others rather than stepping in or fixing mistakes
  • Monitoring work and providing feedback rather than doing the work
  • Being available to others rather than focusing on own priorities

Moving from first level leader to leader of leaders

  • As a first level leader there is still some scope for individual contribution. As a leader of leaders, individuals must learn that their role is now pure leadership.
  • Deal with structural and resourcing concerns across their different teams
  • Balance the demands and requirements of their different teams
  • Cross team collaboration, breaking down boundaries of their teams
  • Become more strategic and think about the implication of decisions outside your function.
  • Learn to identify leadership potential in others as they become responsible for developing leaders
  • Coaching becomes a critical skill at this level
  • Empowering your leaders to lead their own team – hold them accountable for leadership responsibilities

Moving from leader of leaders to functional leader

  • Learn to be responsible for and work with other areas outside of your area of expertise
  • Become part of the business leadership team (particularly for smaller organisations) – think about broader business issues rather than just those that concern your function or area of expertise
  • Move from more tactical focus to creating strategy and the future, and adopting a longer term perspective
  • Learn new communication approaches as you become more removed from the frontline employees so that you remain “in-touch”

Moving from functional leader to business leader

  • Learn to integrate different functions of the business into a whole.
  • Trust other’s expertise and take advice from other leaders who report to you as you will be responsible for functions you may not have any expertise in
  • Balance current business needs with long term future business goals
  • Move to thinking and making decisions in terms of cross business measures (e.g. profitability, sustainability, competitive advantage, global trends and impacts
  • Ability to build a strong leadership team and allow them to run their areas of the business

Being aware of the challenges that lie ahead for each transition is important, however, having a plan to navigate those challenges will determine your success. In Part 2 of this series we’ll give you a 10 step roadmap to success.