06th Dec 2011

Case Study: The Internal Appointee

The Present

Recently we started working with Martha, the newly promoted director of a financial services company. As an internal appointee her case is interesting – and her challenges unique to those of an external hire.

The Past

Martha had held her previous role within the company for over four years. During this time she had single-handedly transformed a dysfunctional department into a strong, forward-thinking one. As a result, she had established her reputation as an impressive leader. Key to the effectiveness of her department was the team, whose relationship to her was built on mutual trust and respect. Because of this, aside from the usual workplace relationships, Martha had formed emotional ties with her team – a couple of these people were now her friends.

Martha was understandably overjoyed when she was promoted. Her hard work had paid off and she had earned her dream role. However, after the initial high prompted by the news of her promotion, the realisation of the challenges she was likely to face became apparent.

On the foot of these realisations, and at just the right time, Martha contacted First100 – during the final weeks in her previous role. We got to work. At this time, her successor had not yet been found, and it became evident that Martha was expected to straddle both roles until a suitable candidate was chosen. In a new leadership role, it is crucial to accelerate performance from the very start, Martha would have already compromised her ability to do this had she tried to overlap two jobs. We advised Martha to negotiate a clear finishing date for her old role, and to appoint an ‘interim’ – to whom she would handover over the position fully. The first step in accelerating performance in the first 100 days is to detach from the old role as quickly and cleanly as possible. Furthermore, we suggested a minimum of two weeks off between roles, and we encouraged her to be strict with herself and not start the new role until the date agreed upon.

It is understandably tempting to stay involved in the previous role, it was within Martha’s comfort zone, and she had emotional ties to her team and department – with the feeling that nobody else could do the job she had done. However, despite the relationships formed and the reputations established, Martha needed to detach 100% from the old role, and focus 100% on the new role.

This clean break would help Martha gain a clearer perspective on her new position. As an internal appointee she was already a known entity within the company, and was in a way ‘institutionalised’. For herself, and for her new team and old team, it was imperative that the break was distinct in order for her to start afresh. We encouraged Martha to be assertive, and to recreate for herself the same context that an external hire would come into.

The Future

Our work with Martha will continue over the coming months. We will meet her again and review her progress @ 30 days, @ 60 days and @ 90 days to ensure she is on track, and accelerating performance in the first 100 days.

Hilda Goold

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