The Chairman of Nokia on Managing His Replacement
The danger of being promoted is micromanaging your replacement.
What if you feel more skilled than your replacement? What if your replacement doesn’t do things the way you would do them?
To make matters worse, you may feel threatened when asked to manage a highly skilled replacement.
Managing your replacement:
Leaders face the extremes of pulling away too far or micromanaging when they manage their replacements.
The current Chairman of Nokia became the interim CEO of Nokia for two years. After two years he returned to his position as Chairman. Upon his return as Chairman of the Board, he managed the CEO who replaced him.
Here are his thoughts.
“You never find the perfect balance exactly. You’re always off in some direction. But if you do it together – you talk about it frequently enough – you adjust and you correct.
And you are happy even if you are off balance. Both parties are happy because you know that each person is doing his or her best to re-find that right balance and adjust and take feedback.” Risto Siilasmaa, Nokia Chairman
- Reflect on the last time you let go of a role.
- Over-correction is normal. Admit past over-corrections. Monitor new ones.
- Discuss challenges and opportunities openly and frequently.
- Adapt and adjust.
- Keep organizational interests in the forefront.
Balancing involvement with your replacement is a collaborative process that’s never perfectly achieved.
What tips do you have for managing your replacement?
Read Siilasmaa’s new book: Transforming NOKIA: The Power of Paranoid Optimism to Lead Through Colossal Change.
Connect with Risto:
Facebook: Risto Siilasmaa
In his own words:
Risto Siilasmaa on moving from Chairman to CEO and back to Chairman:
I am very interested in this topic.
Risto said,“You never find the perfect balance exactly. You’re always off in some direction. But if you do it together – you talk about it frequently enough – you adjust and you correct.
And you are happy even if you are off balance. Both parties are happy because you know that each person is doing his or her best to re-find that right balance and adjust and take feedback.”
Does anyone have any additional insights and ideas as to what you can do to find your sweet spot or perfect balance in situations like this.
Paul B. Thornton
Thanks Paul, I’m with you. It’s an interesting and important topic. I notice in my conversation with Risto that he felt he had pulled back too far on his first experience with managing his replacement.
However, he said the space he allowed for two years made the relationship more natural when he stepped in more closely.
Perhaps it’s best to lean toward less involvement to make space for your replacement to find their own way?
I’ve taught managers to simply ask how much help do you like? And, when are the best times to help? To be honest people might not know, but it brings up the topic and it lets people know you care.
Another tip might be to watch for nagging frustration in your replacement.
Just some ideas… what do you think?
Yes–I agree. it is probable best to start by leaning towards less involvement. That may help or give space for the relationship grow.
If you simply ask your replacement -how much help do you like? They may or may not give you an honest answer.
I like the idea of watching for nagging frustration in your replacement.
Per Risto’s–You never get the balance exactly right–so be open and willing to change. Building trust and having open discussions with your replacement are critical.
Finding the sweet spot is an iterative process. You need to be aware and open to the clues that indicate some tweaks are needed.
This is the ART of being an effective leader!!
Stepping back creates space for the replacement to become a “leader”, and not just a “replacement”….! But stepping back doesn’t mean “stepping away”, eh?
Thanks Betty-Jean. Step away…stay available…ask questions about performance. Perhaps it’s important to withhold advice until it’s asked for, unless someone is going to do irreparable harm.
For me, it always starts with being real clear the person isn’t “replacing me”. What they are doing is “taking on leadership of the role”.
That then helps distinguish the help you offer someone. Focus becomes “how can I help you in your new role”, and less about “this is how I did it”. And as a senior executive, I’m always looking to help a counterpart be successful in their role, especially when they are new to it. That ensures this is a normalized activity, and not just as a “transition” activity.
That’s brilliant, Alf. It’s helpful to rise above the idea that you’re filling someone’s shoes.
Bring YOUR best self. Don’t try to be someone else.
I have had the pleasure of choosing my replacement (that ended very well) and a challenge when someone else chose my replacement and I had to train them. To make it even harder the difficult person ended up being my supervisor later. I had so many opportunities to grow during that 2 year event. I know I am a much better leader because of both of those time in my career. In every situation there is an opportunity to grow, its your choice what you do with it.
Thanks Walt. The growth mindset solves so many problems and helps us avoid dangerous pitfalls.
I find your comment encouraging because it doesn’t matter the situation…the point is grow through it.
While C-level transitions may be different, IMO leaders should try to work closely to build the relationship, the trust (take the time), and set the expectation that it’s not micro-managing to expect it to move in stages/steps.
Paul Van Dyck
Thanks Paul. I’m not sure, but I think the idea of having many conversations might align with your suggestions. Thanks also for leaving some added resources.