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Four Ways to Confront the Challenges of a Change in Leadership

06/12/2015 12:06 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2016

A client came to me recently after being with the same company for ten years. There was a change in leadership and she soon wondered where she was going to fit in or if her role would be valued. The insurance conglomerate then put her in charge of outsourcing her function. Panic set in as she, like many professionals, had lost touch with the job market and assumed she would be with the same company for many years.

Working at a high level for a pharmaceutical company, another client was at the top of his game when his division was wiped out. His challenge was explaining why such a top performer was let go. After many years in the industry, the strong internal relationships and contacts he had made had also been let go. He felt as if he were in a "professional car wreck."

Company mergers or acquisitions often lead to job loss for those who had no intention of leaving. This Forbes article touches on the issues of company mergers and acquisitions and acknowledges, "Employee turnover is usually high in the years after the merger."

Four major challenges that come with a change in leadership

When a mentor/sponsor/coach has left. When your champion, who has recommended you for special projects or promotions, is no longer with the company, you are left without support.

When you don't see eye to eye with the new leadership. Employees tend to hesitate under the change that accompanies new leadership, especially a change in direction.

When priorities have shifted. Leadership changes tend to present new priorities. Do your priorities align with theirs? For example, your priority was always to be home by 5pm, but the "new regime" prioritizes working late.

When you see the writing on the wall. If you have been put in charge of an outsourcing exercise, it is likely your position will be eliminated.

Four ways to confront the challenges of a change in leadership

Be flexible and listen closely to know how you need to change. While other employees hesitate to make the changes brought on by new leadership, be proactive by learning how you can fit within the organization. Be prepared to offer the new leadership what you bring to the table and how you are an asset to the company.

Connect with your mentor/sponsor/coach to find out why he/she left. Consider asking him if he imagines your role is still going to be important to the company. This interaction will also give you the opportunity for outside networking which may then align you better with your priorities.

Engage the new leaders to ascertain their priorities. Do yours align with theirs? Ask for a one-on-one meeting to find out what they imagine your contributions to be going forward. Seek to find out when decisions will be made on major issues that will impact your group. Use this time as a bit of a pitch. Be prepared to offer how your skills can align with their priorities and direction moving forward.

Polish your resume and start networking. Update your resume to make it a top-notch one that stays true to who you are while differentiating yourself from the competition. Do your research to know the culture of any future employers you may pursue. If you are leaving your current company because the culture is shifting, you don't want to fall into the same trap again. Begin networking and pursue opportunities where you will be happy working with the organization.

Another client who worked for a consumer product goods company just came to me with concerns about his "brand new leadership team." He had worked with the organization for a number of years and questioned what he was going to do now that the new leadership didn't deem his job as valuable. His cheerleaders, those who often recommended him for new opportunities, were no longer there. As a new father, the stakes were high, as he asked himself, "Do I stay and try to prove myself again?" or "Do I use this as a chance to leave?"

This predicament is all too common.

You must have a parallel strategy - one strategy working internally to proactively find ways you can work with the new leadership, while simultaneously networking and preparing your resume for future interviews and job opportunities. If you sense a recent change in leadership may lead to the removal of your position, it is important to be prepared.

What is your story? Have you been left behind by a change in leadership and are in need of support to help you move forward? Email me [melissa@melissallarena.com] so we can discuss the best next steps.