I am no longer the CEO of the company I founded close to 15 years ago. Earlier this month, we announced that I would be stepping into my new role of Chief Vision Officer and our Managing Director, Eric Stutzman, would become our CEO. With this change, he will provide regular support to the rest of our leadership team and actively manage our day-to-day operations. I will transition to a less hands on role, but dedicate my energies more broadly to projects that support our vision of creating workplaces where people like to work, particularly through keynote speaking and overseeing the book projects of our division, ACHIEVE Publishing. See our full press release of these leadership changes here.
The public announcement earlier this month didn’t come as a surprise to anyone in our organization. Our transition and the communication of it had been thoughtfully planned and well-executed. The public announcement was more about a statement of what had already become, and less about what was to come.
The key with any change is to start early so you have enough time to do things right, communicate often, and be mindful of the question on everyone’s mind: “What does this mean for me?”
About three years ago, I started to think more seriously about these changes and knew that it would be critical to our success to do so with intentionality. So we thoughtfully put together a plan and first introduced it to our staff two years ago. The great benefit of a long timeframe was that it gave staff time to “settle in” to the idea and get comfortable with it.
Throughout this process, I learned that the most frequent cause of employee concern was “What does this mean for me?” When transitions are announced, people are most nervous about the direct impact on them. As a leadership team, it became clear that this was the question we needed to pay most attention to as our transition happened. Along the way, we gave regular updates and made sure to notify employees of any changes to our plan.
As one of the big impacts on employees would be reporting structure, we made sure to provide opportunities for teams and their new manager to get to know each other. For one team, this included sending them to a two-day conference in order to intentionally get to know each other without me. As a result of this type of intentionality, over the months leading up to our formalized leadership transition, employees and leaders had already settled into their new reality.
The summary of my learning from this experience is equally applicable to transitions and changes that are not about leadership. The key with any change is to start early so you have enough time to do things right, communicate often, and be mindful of the question on everyone’s mind: “What does this mean for me?”
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