800 371 Kamal Karanth

I was excited about KLIA 2 airport, so I gave it a try in the first week of its operational launch in Malaysia. Was I in for a disappointment? The ground staff did not come for 30 minutes after the aircraft parked; the pilot was embarrassed but honestly admitted this fact. After we got off the aircraft, we were made to wait outside the aircraft for another 30 minutes as the hallway was not cleared for exit. It was 1 hour after landing when we finally got to leave towards immigration!

We then had to walk a few escalators; take some turns; literally climbed a few mountains before we finally got to our immigration, collected our baggage and sat in our taxi!

The experience left me exhausted! Hence when our cabbie asked me how was KLIA2, while my wife said ‘good’, I said ‘bad’. The cabbie smiled at our differing views. What he said next surprised me. He said, “Transition-lah. It’s just 5 days since KLIA2 opened and soon it will be fine.”

His experience of transitions seemed more mature than mine. And it also got me thinking that the differing opinion on the part of my wife and me on KLIA2 was because our expectations and experiences of the past were different.

I am as afraid of transitions as much as the people who receive me as their new boss. Transitions are touchy affairs and some of my old transition scars remain.

The 1st was 20 years ago when I replaced a successful colleague. Every customer and competitor I met talked always about him; customers who supported him reacted by taking away some of their business from me. I tried to rationalize it as much as possible but as a 22 year old, it was difficult to face lack of acceptance. I hated my predecessor for being so memorable.

Another experience was when I came to Malaysia 10 years ago. Most of the team members I inherited wanted me to return from where I came. They had no qualms shedding tears openly and telling me how devastated they were to have me as their new boss. In fact there were only two excited people in that town hall that day – my boss and I 🙂 It took me a long time to get business off the ground to speed as we were battling lack of trust in a in a turnaround business situation in a new country!

During Leadership transitions, It’s only natural to have a hundred (and one!) questions – “will the new boss give me continuity?”; “is he a change freak?”; “will he bring his followers here?”; “will my committed increments/promotions be protected?”; “will he give me space?”; “would I need to start over with him/her?” etc..etc..etc.. Regrettably, there are times when some people would choose the devil they don’t know over an angel they do – that is to begin anew with a new organization rather than remain with the existing simply because of a new leader.

People have their own experiences; call it “past baggages” about how they perceive transitions. Some of them are bold and confident about the organisation or their own abilities hence they give it a fair chance and quit a few months later when their professional relationship with the new leader does not go the way they want it to. But I am inclined to point out that confidence and relationship gets built over a period of time with some real time situations when the true character of a leader emerges.

My take is that everybody wants to be successful and a new leader who displayed sincerity in wanting his people to be successful, gets over the transition phase faster. A piece of advice given by one of my past boss comes to mind – “do not hire your best friends till you have gained the confidence of your new inherited team”. True!
Experience has taught me that leadership takeovers are easy when there is a vacuum as there is a minimal chance of being compared and people greet you with hope.

I continue to use KLIA 2 , all the long walks in this mammoth airport have become normal to me. I have become used to it as fast as I get used to new boss myself. Do you hate transitions or a ‘cat’ in dealing with them?

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