How To Get Your Startup Team On Board With Leadership Change

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Leadership change can be both exciting and difficult for a startup.

Change is usually not something employees like to think about.

We all get comfortable in life and the idea of change scares us.

We think, “Change?! Come on! I just figured out how to handle things the ways things are!”

When you’re managing your business you have to think about your team, but you also have to think about what’s best for your business. And if you have a vision to grow your startup into something great then you’ll have to go through many changes.

And that usually means leadership change, which can be difficult for employees to get on board with.

Two Stories Of Leadership Change

The first story is about a company that’s been around for many decades. When you work for a stable company you’ll notice that there isn’t much turnover and people often stay for their entire careers.

But often groups of people in departments will start at the same time and they’ll also retire at the same time. That’s what happened at this company. The leader of the department retired and there was a leadership opening. The CEO hired the best person for the job who wasn’t the senior person on the team.

That didn’t sit well with the rest of the team and some left shortly after and the others trickled out over the next few months.

The second story is about a startup. One year the company had about twenty employees. A few years later they had hundreds. Those that had been there in the early days reminisced about the good old days when the company was a startup.

Now there are more procedures and standards. There is a different change of command and to those that loved the early setup it was difficult to accept the new reality especially when the startup had to hire people from outside the company for leadership positions.

One On One Sit Downs

When your startup is growing it’s good to have one on one meetings with your team. You probably have a small team and this shouldn’t be an issue with logistics. You can sit with them in person or have video conference calls with them to discuss what’s going on.

One on ones are intimate. It’s a two-way conversation and you can fully understand each other’s perspectives. So the first step when leadership changes are coming at your startup is to plan to have sit downs with your team.

Focus On The Company And The Employee’s Best Interests

When leadership change occurs such as when your company takes on investment or when the founder steps aside to hire others to hold some of the load with managing a growing company, the team often wonders what’s in it for them.

It might seem obvious to you – the company is growing. That’s good for everybody on the team.

But you have to communicate this each individual on your team. From their perspective, they’re having to re-learn things and do more work in some cases for about the same compensation while you get to enjoy more money in some situations while maybe not doing less or doing different things.

That can be a perception even if it’s not reality. You have to talk to your team about the reality.

The reality is that your focus is on growing the business. You make decisions in the best interest of the business. And because the business will do well that means everybody will do well.

For the employee, it should mean more compensation, more stability and more opportunity to work with new customers and on new projects as the company grows.

Look, everybody is selfish to a point. We’re programmed to survive and part of survival is trying to plan our future. We look out for ourselves and our family.

When changes are happening at your company you have to communicate the benefits for your employees.

Cutting Ties

Unfortunately, when change occurs you may need to cut ties with some people. It’s better to recognize this early and make the divorce so that things don’t turn poisonous down the road.

Feel people out about the change. Have your sit downs with them. Then do it again if necessary. Try to feel out emotions and if some aren’t going to be able to deal with it then it’s probably best for you and for them if you agree to part ways.

Final Thought

Leadership change can be an exciting development for your startup. But headaches often come with leadership change. Your team might not be open to any kind of change and leadership change almost always brings challenges.

Follow the steps above to give yourself and your company the best change of succeeding. This is the process I’ve seen leaders use and it seems to work well.

The same steps should work just as well for your growing startup.

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