Changing the org structure can be stressful, especially for the direct report. Their new manager has to catch up quickly with their career goals and process. Reports could feel like a chess piece tossed away. They might even fear for their job stability. Over the years, I’ve changed manager 4 times. Each time, I’ve wondered questions like: What will happen to me with this new manager? Will they value my work? Will they challenge me to grow? Will I be unhappy and want to leave? Will they exit me? Even with a growth mindset, these doubts are there. One can easily lose focus on doing great work, and pay more attention to these changes.
While a bit of uncertainty, concern, and excitement are inevitable, we can mitigate the negative emotions. The clearer and more transparent the hand-off process is, the less uncertainty and stress will creep in.
Step by step: direct report hand-off
Inspired by Lara Hogan’s 1:1:1 manager hand-off, I’ve handled reporting hand-offs in the following way:
Communication. I communicate the upcoming change and the plan to the direct report, and why I think it’s a good idea or necessary.
Writing. I spend some time writing a document about the direct report in the organization, their performance history, their career goals. I share that document, along with the last performance review, with the upcoming manager, who should have some days to review them before the meeting.
1:1:1 Hand-off Meeting. I schedule a meeting with the upcoming manager, the direct report, and me. During the meeting, I go over the information in the document, giving opportunity for the direct report to clarify anything, and for the new manager to ask questions to the direct report. At the end of the meeting, the new manager and the direct report can discuss next steps, like scheduling their 1:1.
Follow-up. I schedule a follow-up with the direct report 1 month later, to check how things are going and get some feedback that could be useful to the new manager.
Other considerations when handing off a report
The bigger the change, the more the reports feel stressed and unsafe. I’ve seen this when transferring reports to teams using different technologies. Therefore, I needed to make more emphasis on the change being a safe one, and the new manager being there to support them and their onboarding.
Sometimes, a complicated situation requires swift action, a manager unexpectedly left, or some other situation makes it not possible to do a smooth hand-off. When that happens, I try to compensate for that however I can.
Finally, a new manager-report relationship should continue on the right track. Doing a mutual expectation setting exercise is very helpful. Thanks to Adrià Vallès for having showed me that!
In summary, we as managers can perform direct report hand-offs in a way that reduces uncertainty and stress, leveraging documentation, clarity and a 1:1:1 meeting, mitigating the risk of the direct report feeling unsafe or not valued.