Monday, June 8, 2009

Bring your own shoes!

Question I got from the audience in a forum:

“I’ve just transitioned into a new role within my current company. I was told that the previous manager who held that position for over three years had done a fabulous job which got him promoted. Recently, everybody I’ve met from the top management has been telling me, “You’ve got some big shoes to fill!” Although I understand their expectations, don’t such remarks put unnecessary pressure on the new person? This isn’t an HR issue or question. But can’t the management avoid such remarks and give the new person some time to prove himself? Any thoughts on how to handle the situation”

Well, I did answer the query at the forum. Here’s the answer in as many words as possible.

First, I presume your management has done its due diligence in identifying the right candidate for the role. So unless they didn’t find you suitable, you would not have been offered the position. Right? That’s simple. They have placed their trust in you to get the job done and hence there are bound to be expectations. The previous manager’s success has only increased their expectations.

Yes. The management can avoid such remarks when they meet you, at least not in their first interaction. Maybe, they are saying this for lack of anything better to say. You’ll need to watch out for something more important; Are they just asking you to deliver results? Or are they telling you that they understand you have big shoes to fill and you can count on their support till you find your footing? So here’s a reply that you could use: “Thanks for the heads-up! I’m confident that I’ll deliver results and I’ll need your support to achieve it.” This answer could convey to them that they are partly responsible for your success too. The management cannot just identify a successor and throw him into deep waters. If that happens, you'll have more trouble than you expect.

A few things that you may want to try in your new role:

- Have patience: You’ll hear the big-shoes-to-fill line at least a million times within the first month. Tell yourself that these are new folks who are yet to see you perform magic. They’ll eventually be singing your praises to the next manager.

- Accept the previous manager’s achievements: You might have a few things to learn from your predecessor’s work. Acknowledge it. While you don’t want copy his style, he might have done a few things that you could follow/continue too.

- Self-doubt can be fatal: Really. You will get to hear a lot of the previous manager’s work being rated excellent; if you don’t know when to stop listening and start working. You will end up doubting yourself in that role! That’s fatal. Remember the management chose you for the role, someone must has noticed your potential.

- Can’t change things overnight: It’s a fact. Give the team and management some time to get used to your style of working. You may have some great ideas, but you need the team to execute it. So get the team to believe in your work. That is a process you don’t want to hurry.

- Bring your own shoes! – You have a long distance to run and its best done with your own pair of shoes! Really. Try and do your own things, like building strategies, team management, setting team objectives, etc., Off course it needs to be alignment with the business goals. Else, you'll end spending energy by running the wrong race!

Good luck in your new role!