Dealing With The Ghosts Of My Predecessors

I shared about the ghosts of my predecessors I encountered… In the previous post on this, I stated that I’ve not always been the pioneer but a successor. Learning to deal with some of the things we encounter as successors has a significant bearing on what our leadership in the new team or organization will be like. It determines to a great extent the level of our effectiveness and subsequent success. Today I’ll share some of the lessons I’ve learnt dealing with them. (Remember to share your experiences and what you did to combat the ghosts of your predecessors. I’d love to hear them! )

  • Not That Way!: I’ve never taken over from someone who thought and did things exactly like me. It will be a miracle if ithappens! Where I’ve encountered methods being sacred I’ve magnified the vision. When you’re a successor at a place where methods are sacred, communicate the vision more than method.  Exalt purpose over process. In the context of vision, emphasize that it is not about the way but the destination.
  • Processes & Direction: Where I’ve had to be a caretaker of systems or process I either did not like or agree with, I’ve been the best caretaker I could have. When you come in as the new leader, people ask themselves whether they can follow you and expect you to give them the reason to follow. Managing processes and transition from what was before you and your new direction is a litmus test. Take it well! How you manage or leverage process you don’t like in the now is a great testimony to your leadership in the future. It is the resume your new followers will look at more than the accomplishments you have behind you. Don’t merely take down things from the predecessor before you, transition them. Remember: you don’t only manage systems but people and they are a more valuable resource than systems!
  • Important: In the instances where I celebrated different values from my predecessor, I’ve learned to celebrate my values without bashing my predecessor. Once some values are closely tie to an individual, any deemed attack on those values tend to be translated as an attack on the individual. Make what’s important to you clear and leave the guy before you out of it! Never use statements like, “I know John liked things this way, but I prefer this way”. When you do this, you train enhance the ‘comparison game’ that’s already going on. The comparison to your predecessor can be subliminal or otherwise. Don’t feed it! What you want to do as a successor build into the future and not destroy the past! Make sure you resist this!
  • It was your fault!: Where I’ve been ‘blamed’ as the reason for my predecessors leaving, I’ve done nothing in response. Instead what I focused on was proving myself. I’ve never been in situations where this ghost was escalated to an extent where I had to directly address the people. However, I have been aware of undercurrents… You magnify what you bring attention to. In the context of this blame ghost ignoring the ghost worked for me.
  • Problems!: For every successor there are problems waiting! One of the things at the core of leadership is problem solving. Problems are also a normal part of a leader’s everyday life. With this ghost, I’ve sought solutions. Rather obvious right? There is one mistake in this category that I’ve made. It is a good thing to be optimistic as a successor. In fact, coming in with fresh eyes and mind may just be what’s needed in the organization or team to solve some problems. However, one of the things successors need to put in place as soon as possible is mentors. Sometimes the best wisdom is seeking counsel. The worst thing you could do to yourself is expect to have all the answers. Sometimes it will be more beneficial to admit to your ignorance.

Your thoughts?

[illustration by Wallula Junction on flickr]

Author: Blessing Mpofu

just a guy changing the world

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