Monday, June 27, 2016

Why is gaining acceptance in a new role more difficult than a new role in a new company ?

It was the usual monthly management review meeting where the CEO announced his intent to leave. He had built a great team with mix of talent, each bringing something to the table, complementing each other in more than one way. Potentially any of them could have taken the position and barring a couple, everyone put their hat in the ring. Rigorous process later, the announcement surprised the unelected, many of them believed that they were better candidates and they were not all incorrect in their belief.

The new CEO brimming with pride and swagger, he used the same forum to assert his new found power on the recent peer group that now reported to him. He found himself facing challenges that never surfaced in any earlier meetings, problems that appeared manufactured rather than real, issues that could potentially dilute the company’s image, market share and profitability. Attempts to create allies appeared futile and one by one, most of the aspirants exited leaving the new CEO struggling to sustain the business.

They were already grumpy with perception (their reality) that a less deserving person had been selected; he never really received acceptance due to his past behavior as a peer. Even though he was willing learn, empower the team, help them solve problems, provide resources, to them he remained the pain that he used to be. The exit of more than half the team left him incapacitated, raising concerns with global HQ; he ended up building his own team who would be subservient to his wishes, whims and fancies.

Whenever a person gets promoted unexpected or moves up the corporate ladder laterally, the event creates flutters for many. There are those who believe that the person was granted favors beyond his/her capability or they got lucky, or some kind of nepotism was at work. The person has to work harder than s/he expected to with the new position; there is also a sense of suspicion and distrust which tests his/her capability at every step. Surviving in the new position takes all the acumen until acceptance.

For someone coming from the outside into a position, it is comparatively better; they are given the benefit of learning the ropes (Honeymoon period), culture, people before the pressure starts rising. Off course some aspirants to the position may make life difficult for the newbie or decide to leave to save face especially if their colleagues believed that they should have made the grade. Newcomers get higher tolerance and benefit of doubt, stretchable timelines, and resources to complete the tasks at hand.

The position had been vacant for a while in the quest to find the right candidate for the position; the earlier incumbent had to beat the retreat rather hastily. This time around the management wanted to be sure of their choice and thus validated with help of senior industry veterans. The CXO came on board with a lot of expectations riding on him; he had also connected with the industry veteran to gain insight of what awaited him in his new role. Adequate assurances on both sides, he decided to take the plunge.

Baptism by fire awaited him with a flood of activities, requests, and expectations that filled his plate during the induction. He was overwhelmed by the current state and quantum, urgency and variety of work that was placed in front of him. Every discussion unearthed new facts and challenges that made him shudder; he took it in his stride careful not to set unreasonable expectations. As weeks passed by into months, people accepted his viewpoint and gave him latitude to plan, recast his team and manage deliverables.

Tolerance levels in the first case were significantly lower with strains of animosity and jealousy tainting relationships; cooperation and understanding was withdrawn to otherwise normal working. The CXO intuitively knew the cause and effect; unable to change the situation he accepted it and attempted to work within the constraints which did impact outcomes. He also attempted an offsite team building meeting with his new direct reports which did soften their behavior but not enough to help.

Whereas in the second, the newbie was welcomed with open arms by the Leadership team, peers and direct reports like manna from heaven who will save them from doomsday. On his part he played to the gallery with a balance of finesse, tactical decisions, and playful arrogance, winning hearts before getting down to work. The latitude offered made the difference to how well he could settle down and start executing rather than being judged from day one. He did have a honeymoon period a luxury for a newcomer.

I wonder why is such easing in not available to internal movements ?

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