Design Your Own Shoes
I can't tell you how many times I heard someone say, "You have some big shoes to fill." I could sit there and watch person after person fail as they attempt to fill a role and constantly question how their predecessor would handle a situation, or even ask the very question out loud, "Well how do you think XYZ would have responded in this scenario?". Why? They think those words somehow indicate that the shoes in question need to be filled in the exact manner as everyone around them is used to. This forces them into the shadows of their predecessor for the duration of their tenure. Let's see why:
1. It's not natural
When you are so insecure in your role that you are mimicking the previous actions of your predecessor and/or constantly questioning your team how the previous boss would have responded, you don't come across as competent ... or genuine. Why? To your employees and colleagues it can look as if you are trying to be someone else. In fact, that is exactly what you are trying to do, which could leave them thinking they should have hired someone else for the job. You weren't hired to be the predecessor, you were hired to do just as good of a job (if not better) than him/her. If you want others to follow your lead, then you need to be a leader, which you can only do by making your own decisions and confidently communicating the path forward to your team.
2. Embrace your own diversity
It's ok to be different - after all, that's how you were made. Make sure that you understand both how things were done previously and are confident enough to do them your way where you can. Just because you do things differently, doesn't mean it is wrong. Keep repeating that to yourself.
I can guarantee there will be a learning curve for the team, but they will get used to it. Just give yourself some time. When you show the team that you are confident and firm enough to push forward with your decisions, they will respect you a lot more for it.
3. You were hired for a reason
Your predecessor may have been successful, but I guarantee the interviewers saw something in you that they believed would make you successful in this position (outside of being an exact replica of your predecessor). You may never know what that reason is, but the team and others won't find out if you don't give them the chance to see the real you.
Are you coming from a similar department but different company? The knowledge of how certain processes are performed could benefit your new company. A thorough analysis of the department's practices could help you highlight any holes in the system. Or is it your glowing personality and technical skills that landed you the job? Whatever it is, don't allow others to push you out of the role before you ever get a chance to show how brightly you can shine.
Success can and never should be defined on how well you copy the work and methods of another person. It should be defined as the way you use your strengths and resources to achieve the greatest possible outcome for the department and, ultimately, the company. So don't try and fill anyone else's shoes, design your own. That way you won't be tripping over your own feet as you hit the ground running...
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