Leadership transitions tend to take place behind closed doors, where a small group tries to replace the outgoing leader while mitigating disruption as best they can. Unfortunately, the results of this approach tend to leave organizations fixated on preserving the status quo instead of moving forward. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Successful leadership transitions can and should begin with empowering new leaders to actively engage with the entire organization to create its future. The process can be cathartic and energizing if taken on in an open and inclusive way.
Interestingly, this is how Millennials naturally think and work. Millennials look at the world differently and have some incredibly valuable things to contribute to the traditional ways the rest of us think and work.
They collaborate by default and encourage diverse ideas to solve a problem; They are highly networked and work in rapid-fire, interactive ways; They are driven to succeed and break down hierarchies and silos to make progress; and they have an inherent understanding of how to use tools and technologies.
Leveraging Millennials’ way of thinking can make all the difference in creating the conditions for a more successful leadership transition. When beginning your leadership transition conversation, consider the following framework.
1) Languaging possibility
Begin with a big question such as, “What would be true if this transition is successful?” This question invites responses that go beyond just objectives or goals and speak to possibilities and how the organization can be shaped by the transition. Write down all ideas, no judgment. Work through them one-by-one so everyone understands what was meant and come to an agreement on which of these ideas your team is willing to own.
2) Provisioning possibility
Now that you’ve identified what success looks like, ask, “What are the most essential things that need to be provided to have this possibility become a reality?” This question enables each member of the team to contribute what he or she sees objectively, without regard to current roles or historic structures. Capture all ideas and establish understanding and agreement.
3) Actioning possibility
With a clear understanding of what needs to be provided, ask, “Who will commit to providing what’s most essential?” This encourages willing action from the team. It also allows them to ask for what they need to be successful.
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