Solution Saturday: I’m a Boomerang

Dear Dan,

I am returning to the same leadership position at a company I previously left a few years ago. This means I’ll be going back to the same employees who may be a bit wary of my return as they are wondering how my previous reasons for leaving have changed.

They have also been following leadership in between that lacked vision and are a bit scared of what is to come.

How can I inspire and foster growth, unity, and excitement with a team and group of people that has, for the most part, not changed since I was last there? How can I make the most of this return in order to maximize the best potential for growth and momentum possible?

Thank you for any wisdom you have to share!


Dear Returning,

According to a study by Workplace Trends, organizations are more open to hiring former employees.

Don’t worry:

Don’t worry about employees who may be, “… a bit wary…” You must view boomeranging as an opportunity for you and the organization. Focus on the positive reasons you returned.

You might adopt language like, “I’m excited about this opportunity because ….”

Optimism trumps pessimism as long as people believe you understand reality.

Send a clear consistent message:

Craft a standard answer to give when someone asks why you came back. Provide personal and organizational insights. What are the personal and organizational advantages for your return?

When you give personal reasons for your return, include how it benefits others, as well as yourself. Leadership always focuses on bringing value to others. Just don’t come off like a hero.

Provide stability and vision:

You wrote, “… they are a bit scared of what is to come.” How might you answer concerns and turn toward the future?

Turning toward the future is one way to answer fear. What short-term wins might you help the team achieve? Honor effort. Celebrate imperfect progress. Set new goals.

You might ask, “If things were going perfectly, what would it look like?” Seek behavioral responses. What would people be doing? Bring the conversation to something they would be doing.

When you ask, “If things were going perfectly…,” people often turn their attention toward things they want others to do. It’s important to listen. It’s more important to circle back and ask them to explore what they would be doing.

Helplessness goes up when we expect others to solve our problems for us.

Feeling powerful centers on taking action.

Forget the past:

  1. Don’t bring up past successes or failures.
  2. Don’t say, “When I was here last time…”
  3. Explore relationships with people who were on the fringes with you last time.
  4. Realize that former friends may have moved on. Old relationships may take a new shape. Don’t force it.
  5. Stay humble. Repeat to yourself, “I could be wrong,” even as you press into the future.

Treat this opportunity as a new opportunity, not an old one. What would you do if you were new? For the most part, do that.

Best for the future,