Five Tips for Managing Leadership Transitions

By Isaac Rowlett

As more than 1,000 new political appointees assume their positions across the federal government, career officials at all levels are coping with the uncertainty presented by changes in leadership. Here are five tips we’ve gathered from our clients for making the most of a political transition:

1.Update your message. Incoming politicals are scanning your website right now to learn more about your mission and programs, and you can make a good first impression by providing them with accurate information before they even step through the door.

2. Over-communicate. Nothing feeds the rumor mill quite like a leadership transition. It’s important during times of change to communicate frequently with your staff to convey accurate information and monitor subjects of particular concern. One of our clients recommends distributing (and regularly updating) FAQs to keep everyone on the same page.

3. Get ready to educate. Prepare materials to brief appointees who have varying levels of familiarity with your agency, mission, and programs. Be ready to share this information in person, virtually, and in writing. Be sure to highlight all of your programs instead of focusing only on those that are most visible to external stakeholders.

4. Package quick wins. Politicals are keenly aware of the time-limited nature of their positions, so they are thinking about their legacy from day one. Help them see your success as their success by highlighting quick wins associated with your highest priority efforts. Foster shared ownership of your priorities so that they will have a better chance of long-term success.

5. Keep on keeping on. A client of ours who has worked under many administrations cautions that, “The worst thing you can do is to slow down while waiting for all of the political appointees to settle into place.” Staying focused on executing your mission to the best of your ability will keep your team motivated and ready to cope with any changes.



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