Helping Sustainability survive a change in leader
Well, the UK and the US are currently in the process of changing their political leadership. Many commentators are trying to second guess the implications for the low carbon economy, but I’m keeping my powder dry until the dust settles. It did, however, get me thinking about change at the top.
The best organisations at Sustainability almost always have an inspirational leader. So what happens when they come to the end of their tenure and somebody else steps up? It is a real risk that the new leader doesn’t have the same commitment as their predecessor and progress will tail off.
This happened to a client of mine some years ago and we dedicated a coaching session to managing the transition. While most of our discussion was company specific (and confidential) some of the generic principles were:
- Don’t be defensive – your outward attitude must be that Sustainability continues to be core to the business and there is not reason to change. If you aren’t confident in what you do, it will come across as unimportant to the organisation.
- Translate Sustainability for the new incumbent’s worldview – ie Green Jujitsu. New leaders generally like to get ‘up to speed’ before they change anything, so make sure you can explain Sustainability in terms they will understand (eg $ for someone from a finance background, technical innovation for an engineer, market opportunities for an entrepreneur).
- Find an excuse to involve the new leader – engineer a speaking engagement for them on Sustainability, or a new opportunity for consideration.
In other words, don’t give them a chance to question Sustainability before they’ve experienced the benefits!