New Leaders Challenge

promotionOne of the forgotten challenges of a new leader is, how to handle those people who applied for the the position you were offered, but were unsuccessful.

Often they can feel resentful towards the new leader, can be uncooperative or just look to leave, which can then leave you will a gap in the teams required expertise, as these are likely to be some of the better people who were interviewed but were unsuccessful.

Obviously you want the company to have the best organisation possible, so you will want to keep the best people.

I would recommend that you treat them with respect and courtesy, and not go round gloating, making a big thing of your promotion, telling them you’re the best.

Be humble and gracious, no need to rub it in.

Cut your contenders a little slack and give them time to get over their disappointment, and work with them to make them key components of the team.

If there is any negativity, look to deal with it professionally, and in conjunction with management if needed.

It would not be a surprise if the leading contenders start to look for alternative opportunities, either in other departments or outside the company, because of their disappointment at not getting the job you’ve been promoted to, this is not uncommon.

So definitely think about succession planning in order to minimise the impact of any departures, and in fact you should have already started to think along those lines during the interview process.

Look to do a quick assessment of who might leave and how you would manage their replacement.

It’s tough to take a new leadership position, but even tougher when you lose part of your leadership team, so it’s better to be prepared.

Another possibility is mutiny.

Unfortunately, I have experienced this, I was promoted and someone felt they were better qualified, and even worse, the company didn’t interview them, and the result was that they worked against me trying to undermine my credibility and authority.

This was a challenge that I had to take head on, as people clearly saw my authority being challenged.

In this case you need to stand firm, you need to show that you’re in charge, if you let someone take you on and win, then you will struggle to lead the others.

This doesn’t mean you go out all guns blazing and make an example of them.

In fact you need to set the example, you need to show tolerance and a willingness to work with them, but also firmness.

You are the boss, there is no need to shout that, people already know, but you do need to stand firm and show you will not be undermined.

When this happened with me, I did everything I could.

I laughed about it and tried to ignore it; I tried to work with the person, showing understanding; but non of this worked, the person still insisted that they would not do what I wanted, and they were disruptive, and were causing a lot of trouble.

Eventually I moved them, sat them with others where their influence was a little bit less.

Ultimately I ended up having them come to the office every day at 8 to review their work. They were refusing to do what was asked of them; we needed this person, and I didn’t want to just fire them because they were popular.

So we would review the work daily ensuring they done what had been requested and I told them I would not pay for days where they didn’t do what was requested.

I was able to do this as they were a contractor. I stated this up front so it didn’t come as a surprise, but it also ensured that they didn’t put me in a position where I needed to refuse to pay for a day.

We met daily for about 2 weeks, they kept this up because he wanted to see if i would weaken, but I was prepared to stand firm, because I couldn’t afford to let them win.

Eventually they realised my resolve,  that I  was in charge and that I had the full support of the company, and finally they decided that they would toe the line.

This was a stressful experience, but one where I had to show my mettle.

I have also had situations where permanent staff just refused to work and tried undermined the strategy that were implementing.

Here I tried to give them interesting work and keep them too busy, but they were determined that they would look to complain and cause problems, and ultimately I had to let them go.

They were very popular and many people complained that I had let this person go, but I just explained that, although they were very good at their job, their negative contribution was too disruptive and was holding the department back, and that couldn’t be accepted.

I also explained that this person wasn’t happy and I had discussed it with them and there was nothing I could do to make them happy.

So the best solution was to let them go, and let them be happy somewhere else.

Life if too short to stay somewhere you’re not happy.

This is a topic that doesn’t really get much coverage, but it’s much more common than you might think, as it’s very rare that someone gets appointed to a leadership position without there being any competition for the role, whether they are interviewed or not.

Where there is competition there are always winners and losers, and we need to be able to deal with the losers, and look to try and keep them happy and a part our organisation.

It’s not always easy, but it is a challenge that we will have to deal with and one we should think about whilst applying for leadership roles, so that we are not taken by surprise.

Have you ever experienced this, if so I would love to hear you story, how you handled it, or how it impacted you.

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles