Is it fashionable to blame our Predecessor?

17 Aug , 2016  

When you take on a new role do you hate your predecessor for what he left you?

It was a day filled with euphoria and as I read our annual report, I was elated. There I was leading the winning team in a photograph that screamed of pride and success. I felt great!

However, back home on the very same night, I begun to feel that something was amiss. It was my first year into the role and the team was considered a runaway success. While as a leader I obviously enjoyed the limelight, I could not help but ask if luck played a major role in me being at the right place at the right time?

You see, most of my team members were in the biz unit for about 2 years and had toiled to construct a platform for which building blocks were set by the previous leader before he moved on to a new role within the same organization. Hence, on reflection, the success seemed more like a legacy to me rather than something I deservedly earned. Nevertheless since humility was not part of me those days, none of my thank you emails went out to the previous leader!

But Karma comes after everyone eventually. From there on, most of the legacies I’ve inherited have been at the very least, challenging. I either silently or openly complained about my predecessors for every role I took. To make matters worse, most often my immediate team members either deserted or resented me as they disliked the savior tag I gave myself  to say I was in midst of a turnaround. Let’s be honest and hold a mirror up to our face. Every time we get a new assignment that requires more effort and time than necessary for delivery, we’d call it a cleanup/turnaround but have no qualms taking all the ‘credit’ when we inherit a biz which ‘clicks’ from day one? Sounds familiar? 🙂

It wasn’t long before I came to realize that organizations are made up of people who become heroes of convenience. While it is the ecosystem of an organization which provides a multitude of support ranging from branding, culture blueprint, teams, sales and operational sustenance, and time to boost people’s runway to success, time and again without fail, we end up going overboard in crediting ourselves when success happens!

Think about the things we tell ourselves when we take up a new role

  1. Customers are unhappy
  2. Team is not motivated, everybody is complaining
  3. There is no process, everything is adhoc here

I will connect this with an assignment I landed where no one was willing to work with me as I had replaced their favorite boss. I complained to my HRD that the biz unit was financially sick and that the job had too many lows. “Shouldn’t I be paid more or given some sort of bonus to keep me motivated?” I questioned at a time when my “asking” nature was at its peak.

Her response has stayed with me till today, “this opportunity would have never come your way if all was well!” She went on to say that the role was in line with my aspirations and I had accepted it with great pride only to end up complaining about the “negatives”?

Did I learn from these experiences? Nothing that you might not already know – that the best opportunities in our career are almost always accompanied by mighty challenges which sometimes make you feel like you’re being taken for a ride. When I handed the mantle the last time around, I told my successor that while he will lose sleep in the role for the next 6 months, he should still be coveting for it as the title should rightfully come with challenges! There is no such thing as a good or bad legacy. Good legacies mostly don’t need succession while troubled legacies always creates new career opportunities for you and me!

The congratulatory Bouquets and calls for success are mostly courtesy good legacy! Don’t take yourself seriously!

The congratulatory Bouquets and calls for success are mostly courtesy good legacy! Don’t take yourself seriously!

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