3 min read

6 Pitfalls to Avoid in New Leadership Transitions

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If you are a “next level” leader who is rising up into a role with higher levels of leadership responsibility, you are likely experiencing some significant challenges such as:

  • Increased expectations regarding performance deliverables
  • Intense business pace and numerous competing priorities; increased complexity
  • Numerous stakeholder relationships to manage – high visibility
  • Limited focus on leadership development vs. focus on basic management principles i.e. delegation vs. strategic leadership
  • Coaching your team competes with consuming need to prove your value early in the role; drive for results trumps relationships
  • Cultural norms and leadership norms are not well defined and communicated by senior leadership
  • Limited or no behavioral measures of what to expect in the new role or ‘preview’ of what to be aware of
  • Boss has only personally experienced sink or swim transitions; not equipped to provide more strategic transition support or worse, doesn’t believe support is useful
  • No one “safe” you can trust to be a sounding board

Unfortunately, “sink or swim” unmanaged role and leadership transitions are still the norm in most businesses today.  With challenges described above, this contributes to high stress, career and reputation risk, slower progress, damaged relationships and a lot less enjoyment by not following a structured leadership transition process.  You are missing out on the early days in a new role, which means missing out on valuable learning and increasing the likelihood your transition may be marred by the fallout of highly public trial-and-error learning and lost productivity.

The Research Is Daunting

The failure rate among newly hired or promoted executives has stood at 40 percent for the past 15 years.  McKinsey research

Often, transitioning leaders have an underprepared (or non-existent) support community: more than 70% of executives are not effective at supporting new-to-role peers and managers.  CEB Global

A significant number of transitioning leaders will encounter difficulty and be at risk of derailing.  RHR International

For almost 20 years, I have coached hundreds of leaders to succeed in their transitions, each with their own unique challenges.  And I’ve seen many leaders struggle and some actually fail.  Over time, I saw patterns that differentiated successful leadership transitions from those where leaders succumbed to common pitfalls and minefields. 

6 Pitfalls to Avoid in a New Role Transition 

  1. Inadequate early and detailed discussion of expectations.
    • Derailers: Lack of alignment with boss leads to poor evaluations, loss of trust and credibility, wasted time and energy on irrelevant tasks, lack of sponsorship
  2. Neglect to create an effective communication strategy to influence others and gain followership
    • Derailers: Loss of credibility; resistance, confusion, ineffecincies,  mistakes, damaged relationships, poor first impression
  3. Assume the demands of new role will be solved by the strengths and experience that worked in the past
    • Derailers: cultural missteps, underperformance, high stress, imposter syndrome, loss of credibility and trust
  4. No systematic method to monitor and measure progress; operate in a vacuum and under your own assumptions
    • Derailers: vulnerability to failure, slow to course correct, too easily swayed by louder voices; over attend to minority opinions, inability to track trends,
  5. Inattention to aligning and developing your team toward your vision of success
    • Derailers: diminish desire for contributions, under utilize valuable resources, slow or impede rate and quality of change, under develop talent
  6. Super Hero syndrome:  Fall into super-doing with lack of prioritizing;  unrealistic appreciation for your capacity of what you can accomplish
    • Derailers: burn out of self and others, lack of credibility, missed opportunities to contribute most strategic value, unable to get important things over the finish line, poor performance

Help is on the Way!

You don’t need succumb to sink or swim, go-it- alone transitions and the pitfalls they bring.  If you are sponsoring a transitioning leader, or are rising to a new leadership role yourself, I invite you to contact me for a complimentary session to step you through building a strategy for activating these 6 transition accelerators.  I have developed a wide assortment of tools and a consistent set of practices that have set leaders up for success, and mitigated failure in their new roles. 

What pitfalls of leadership transitions have you avoided? Tell us below!


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