This Dashboard Confessional is a short story about a leader who regrets how they managed an interim leader and a significant project.
Due to a transition in leadership, I recently had to make an existing employee an acting manager. I had a feeling from the outset the they would not necessarily end up in the role permanently, both because of their talents and the fact that I had already identified an outside candidate that was a better fit for the role. During this interim period, I asked the acting manager to resolve a global scheduling issue that we had.
Unfortunately, this did not work out well. First, there were issues with the final scheduling program with unanticipated results. This was probably my fault for asking them to take on this role when it was not in their wheelhouse, and I did not have the bandwidth to closely manage the project.
My lesson here is not to make major system changes when you have an acting leader in an organization who you don’t anticipate will be the permanent leader. The biggest problem I created was for the new manager, as they came in and had to fix the problem I created. It was extra work for them, and it created an environment where multiple major schedule changes made it harder for them to develop trust with the team.
This is a great introspection on transition leadership. We often want to “fire and forget” with projects, at least as much as we can. This pressure is even more acute when we are understaffed after key personnel leave. Despite our impulse to move fast, this is when we should actually slow down and pay more attention.
There are a few other great lessons here to take home. Be careful about asking someone to fill an interim role when you have doubts at the outset of their capabilities. You risk the bad outcome, but you risk hurting their long-term longevity by burning out their trust in the organization. It’s easy for them to end up a scapegoat. Also, now the new leader has so much more work to do in order to build trust with employees, and by correcting the initial mistakes, it further risks undermining the original interim leader.
Use the link here to tell us about a decision or action that you wish you had handled differently.