Six Steps for Succeeding Without a Handover
Transitioning Blindly Into a New Role
As the elevator rises, Abigail's heart is pounding. She tells herself, "Whatever you do, just keep looking confident."
Abigail feels proud and excited about her sudden promotion, but it came after her predecessor abruptly walked out, for reasons that Abigail is still unclear about. As a result, there's been no handover, no guidance, and she feels completely "at sea."
Taking on a new role or responsibility can be tough at the best of times, but doubly so if you start with no transition process, and no communication or overlap with your predecessor.
In this article, we'll explore the challenges of starting a job "cold," and we'll look at practical tips and advice on how to succeed without a handover.
The Challenges of Starting a New Role "Blind"
Realizing that you're "in the dark" can be a worrying, disorienting experience. You'll need to take action quickly to nip potential problems in the bud. Here are some of the issues that you may encounter:
- New or unfamiliar processes: even routine tasks and activities, such as filing or approvals, may take you longer to complete if you haven't been briefed on what to do or who to involve.
- Unresolved problems: you may inherit an inbox full of queries and complaints. These could take a long time to sort out if you don't have any background knowledge – and who knows what else is brewing?
- Unknown goals and targets: you may not have been given clear instructions or information about your or your team's objectives, so you're at risk of failing without knowing it.
If it appears that you're not coping with these challenges, your new team members or seniors might jump to unfair or inaccurate conclusions about your competence or ability.
Also, if you're caught in a cycle of constant reaction and fire-fighting, you could lose sight of your team's primary purpose, and performance and morale will likely suffer.
Six Steps to Succeeding with No Handover
It may take time to see results, and to build respect and influence, so don't expect success overnight. Nevertheless, here are six things you can do to help bring about that success!
1. Be Honest
Do you remember your first job? You probably spent the first few weeks asking question after question, right? Well, now's the time to do that again. Some people think that admitting to not knowing something is a sign of weakness, yet often it is quite the opposite.
Being honest, and acknowledging that you're on a learning curve, can demonstrate confidence. It can show that you understand how your value (at least for now) is not your in-depth knowledge, but your ability to develop.
Pretending you know more than you do, or trying to muddle through and being caught out, is much more likely to come across as false and incompetent.
2. Analyze Your Situation
It's vital that you bring yourself up to speed quickly on the most important aspects of your role. First, ask your manager whether there are any essential deadlines that need your immediate attention, and scan your inbox and notifications for urgent alerts.
Then, ask for and study the job description, which should explain clearly your key duties and responsibilities. You should focus on these and, if necessary, set appropriate boundaries so that others don't distract you from them.
You could also conduct a Job Analysis to help you to understand your priorities and what constitutes success. If these are not included in your job description, ask your boss to define your and your team's key performance indicators and critical success factors.
3. Review Your Skills and Competencies
If your organization offers relevant formal training opportunities, take them. And don't be too proud to ask a colleague to share his or her knowledge. You'll likely need a mix of learning methods to progress quickly.
4. Keep Communicating
From your first meeting onward, listen actively to what your team needs, and be clear about what you expect from members, in terms of behavior, attitude and performance.
Set up regular one-on-ones, but also get up from your desk and talk to your people every day! This will help you to get to know one another and enable you to catch any issues early. (You can learn more about this approach in our article, Management By Wandering Around.)
5. Be Culturally Alert
You'll want to put your mark on your team, but you should also be aware of, and respond to, the organizational, team or departmental culture. There may be ways of working that are unfamiliar to you but that you can accommodate easily, such as particular email or meeting etiquette.
You should also identify key stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, senior colleagues, and members of other departments, and plan how you'll work with them most effectively. You'll need to avoid causing offence or letting someone down to be sure of acquiring a good reputation.
6. Build Team and Personal Networks
You can boost your chances of success by creating effective relationships and networks within your team and beyond. Focus on building trust by stressing to your team members that you will give them the support and the tools that they need to perform at their best.
Our article, Finding Your Allies, can help you to build a personal support base by identifying the people you can call on for advice, expertise, contacts, and knowledge. However, in creating your network, beware being drawn into office politics, and be sure to treat everyone fairly, to avoid accusations of favoritism or bias.
Call on the support of those who had the confidence in you to appoint you in the first place, and consider establishing a mentoring relationship with someone at a higher level or in another department.
Supporting Effective Handovers
As a manager, you'll likely need to support team members who are taking on new roles: to cover for unexpected absence, for example. And you'll want your own hard-won responsibilities to be covered effectively if you move on yourself.
You can help enormously with a smooth handover process. Essentially, this means giving the new post-holder all the information and support that you coped without. So, provide them with up-to-date, detailed job descriptions, set up a proper induction, and plan their first few days or weeks carefully. You can explore this in more detail with our article, Successful Handovers.
Starting a role when there is no handover can pose serious challenges, such as having to find your own way around unfamiliar processes, inheriting unresolved problems, and not knowing about goals and targets that you'll be measured against.
But you can make the most of a bad situation with these six strategies:
- Be Honest.
- Analyze Your Situation.
- Review Your Skills and Competencies.
- Keep Communicating.
- Be Culturally Alert.
- Build Team and Personal Networks.
And you can support your own successor, or team members who have to cover for one another, by not expecting them to struggle as you had to!