When you enter a new work setting and inherit an organizational structure with established systems, policies, and employees your skills of; inquiry, observation, listening and learning who to trust are key to establishing yourself in the first six months in a new leadership position. This is particularly true in situations where there has been a change in political leadership.
In the public sector, presidential elections and local elections bring leadership changes every two to four years with a growing number of political appointees to follow. The Plum Book, published after each Presidential election since Eisenhower, tracks the number of possibly non-competitive civil service jobs that the President can appoint. According to the December 2016 Plum Book that number today is roughly 9,000, meaning lots of potential transitions for career employees and new civil servant leaders alike. This level of political appointees associated with elections places the US at the top of the list for leadership transitions and turnover in the western world. What can new leaders do to make sure that their transition is successful?
Avoid existing power brokers who want to control what you see and hear. They will readily offer services but will often limit your access to other people and ideas. It is your job to be open minded and avoid the temptation to become dependent on a select few people and their perspectives. Healthy workplaces function on shared power and diversity so watch for people who seem to have excessive control over access to information, take on too many tasks to keep others from participation, or consume the time of others and their resources.
Harness the intellectual capital of your organization and create systems where responsibility and power are shared. By sharing responsibility and power you’ll be more able to hear the diverse perspectives in your organization and keep people in positions where they know their talents and skills are valued.
In some cases you may need to re-assign these people out of management positions because they are impeding the organization from collective learning and transparency. Today’s workplaces with knowledge workers at all levels requires employees and leaders who actively share knowledge and help others learn without the need for control and power. As a leader you will need to surround yourself with staff and colleagues who believe in the value of shared power, and organizational learning to produce high quality services.