Within the military, it seems like every 12 – 24 months a leader is transitioning with someone new. This is often due to the individual being promoted, career development, or occasionally, a relief for cause. Either way, it is almost always the case that when someone is heading out, their replacement is heading in at the same time.
This transition period can make or break an organization. If it is performed well, there is a nearly-seamless transfer of authority and responsibility from the outgoing party to the incoming one. If performed poorly, the changes cause emotional backlash from the subordinates, and the incoming party fails to maintain or achieve the same level of continuity, resulting in failures in the future as well.
There are a few ways to provide the greatest opportunity for success, and thoughts to consider for the future.
Step 1: Embrace It
Transition is a good thing. It means you are moving forward in your career. Unless you aren’t; in which case, it is still probably a good thing for those around you because you are being transitioned out of your position. Either way, accept that it is happening, own it, and be excited for it. This will prevent you from taking it out on the incoming person and therefore causing the organization to suffer. It isn’t their fault that they are moving into your position. Remember, you did the same thing previously!
Step 2: Reach Out Early and Often
The person who is replacing you may have different priorities than you did. Communicate with them early. Ask them to clarify on what they want to focus on. If you do this early enough, you can start to shape your department or organization to match their vision early on. Then the transition really is smooth. When I was getting ready to take command, I emailed the captain I was replacing about two months out. I let him know my priorities, how property should be prepared, what I was concerned about and so on. This enabled him to forward my priorities and the company to posture itself accordingly.
Doing this will also create a relationship – albeit professional – with the incoming person. This relationship is important because no one should ever feel as though they are on their own in the process.
Step 3: Be Open and Transparent
So what if you never got around to fixing something or your systems are not perfect? That is to be expected. What shouldn’t be expected is for you to hide the truth until after they take over. That is like buying a car, only to find out it is a lemon later on. Show the good and the bad sides. Show how your priorities focused on key elements and what they can expect to deal with in the next few months. Prepare them as you wish you were prepared.
Step 4: Be Available Before, During, and Afterwards
The transition has a checklist of necessary things, but that does not mean that issues will not come up afterwards. For the outgoing person, they will likely have ample experience dealing with specific issues and can be an incredible point of reference. For the incoming person, it is all new and confusing after the transition is complete. Keep your phone on you, check and answer your emails, most importantly, inform them that you are not truly gone, just transitioned. Be a mentor until they actually do have their feet under them and are able to stand on their own.
Step 5: Enjoy
What began as an adventure likely became frustrating at some point along the way. Feelings of frustration, that you became a babysitter for soldiers, or simply being burned out are all to be expected. Enjoy the break, the feeling of adventure again, and the ability to learn new things as you move on yourself.
The transition process should be successful for both parties. Working together with each other will help to make that possibility a reality.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.