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on a question of trust

I have been reading a lot of political commentaries lately, not as a form of self-flagellation, but out of interest. A common thread has emerged from this that brings to mind parallels from my business experience down the years and I will call it The Curse of the New Broom.My recent reading has encompassed changes of government, both here in the UK and abroad, where an incoming team have formed a small inner court that has frozen out all of the experience that is available to them. I’ll not comment further on who or when, but there have been mixed results and a lot of unexpected consequences from such an approach. The reason why it has happened is not so much ideology as a lack of trust. The new team are pumped up to make things happen and see what is around them as against them; they are in a hurry and feel that they can trust each other, but not the machine of government.

I have been on both sides of this in my professional life. There have been times when I have been the new broom and others when I have been on the receiving end. My experience of the latter has very much shaped my approach to the former.

Moving into a new post at senior level is always a challenge; that’s why it pays the big bucks and you want to make a good impression for the people that have invested in you as well as looking out for your own career. You are confident in your own abilities and have a clear vision of where you are going. You have your 100 day plan, but you need other people around you to get there. An easy option is to bring in some of your old team or those that you have worked with before, people that understand you and your ways and that you know can deliver. It does have advantages, but you run the risk of alienating your existing team.

One of my resignations followed a take over where the incoming team moved what had been their bid team for the buyout into the business as the new board. Only the FD from our previous regime survived and that was only transitional; he was gone too within a short period and then they began a cull of the next layer. The new board did not seem to trust us and we found it hard to trust them. Rather than promote from within new signings were made from outside, but few lasted. I kept the faith and hung on for about three years before walking. The company was sold on again and no longer exists. Not a success, but it could have been so different.

It sometimes is necessary to bring in people that you know can make change happen, but it has to be done in a way that integrates the team that you have inherited. There is no other effective way of doing it because it is the only way that the whole structure will buy into the changes that you want to make.

Leadership is about trust and unless you can show that you deserve that trust then you will not lead. It may be that you find that you need to make changes in your team over time and you can do that as and when necessary. The key is to demonstrate trust and it will be reciprocated along with building loyalty. If you do have to bring in one or two of your own gang to help then do it on the basis that the will coach others in the skills that they bring.

At the end of the day you want to succeed and whilst you are setting the direction and leading the way it is the rest of the organisation that will dictate whether or not you make it. If they do not trust you they will not follow.

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