Editors Pick

Why you need to have a happy workforce

29th October 2021

Stuart Thomson: New Teams, New Opportunities

Stuart Thomson

When a team around you changes, it can feel threatening.  New people coming in can change established dynamics and ways of working.  But instead of worrying, the emphasis should be on grasping the opportunity.

Worries can often be heightened when the change takes place in more senior leadership positions, especially those directly managing you.  But instead of worrying about yourself and what the change may mean for you, a more constructive approach is to shift from the inward to the outward.  An outward approach considers why the change has happened and what you might, to be frank, be able to gain from it.

The recent Government reshuffle provided a very practical example of the need to understand why teams may need to change; it can have a number of drivers.

Change or adaptation? – the core drivers of an organisation could be changed but often it facilitates a refocusing on them, a coming back to basic principles.  For Government, a reshuffle can help refocus on those policies that help get it elected in the first place. Boris Johnson’s government has had to deal with COVID-19 so this latest reshuffle meant it could ‘get back’ to what it really wants to deliver, such as ‘levelling up’.

Unpopular positions can be conveniently jettisoned – new team members, especially leaders, can look again at the way an issue is dealt with and make their own mind up. In brutal terms, a new person could have the ability to make wholesale changes.  So for Government, a reshuffle means it could dump reforms least liked by their voters. A reshuffle enables the unpopular aspects of policy to be removed just as unpopular ministers can be removed.

Space for new thinking? – on a much more positive note, a change can open up the space for new ideas. Any new team member wants to make a positive impact and preferably sooner rather than later.

So, a new appointment should be seen as an opportunity for engagement which should be grasped.  Rather than waiting to be told what the new arrangements mean, look to proactively engage. 

Adopting a positive attitude recognises that a different learning experience has opened up, that new ways of working could be available and the opportunity now exists for learning from different experiences.

In the recent reshuffle, Nadhim Zahawi MP was appointed as the new Secretary of State for Education.  There is no doubt that he has many immediate issues to deal with, not least those caused by Covid-19.

But if we found ourselves working with him, or any other new leader, what should our approach be?

  • Do your homework – find out what you can about them so you make your approach to them relevant.  In the case of the new Minister, he was recently featured in Finito World.  This type of background is extremely useful.
  • Immediate engagement – try to get in first, before others.  Lots of people should want to engage.  The more tailored the engagement, based on your homework, the more likely it is to stand out and be effective.
  • Have something well considered to say – based on your research, knowledge of your role and experience, be constructive rather than taking just problems to them.  Solutions are always going to be received more warmly than just another moan.
  • Be prepared to ask them questions – the engagement should be about listening to them but that does not mean you can’t shape the discussion.  Ask about what their priorities are, what they expect from those around them and it can also be fascinating to find out what their bugbears are so you can avoid them!

Adopting a positive outlook with proactive engagement will put you in the best position to make the most of what might otherwise be a daunting prospect.

The writer is the Head of Public Affairs at BDB Pitmans

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