Updated: Sep 14
Acting in a role, rather than being formally promoted into it, presents a set of unique challenges that can test your adaptability, interpersonal skills, and ability to make an immediate impact. Here are some of the challenges that individuals face when stepping into a role on an interim or temporary basis and how you can overcome them. Enjoy.
1. Lack of Formal Authority:
As an acting leader, you may not have the same level of formal authority as someone who has been permanently promoted into the role. This can make it challenging to make decisions and enforce policies, especially if team members perceive you as a temporary figure.
Start by gaining a clear understanding of your role's objectives, expectations, and responsibilities. Discuss these aspects with your superiors and, if possible, the outgoing leader to ensure alignment.
2. Team Dynamics: Existing team dynamics and relationships can be disrupted when you step into a role temporarily. Team members may be unsure how to interact with you or may resist your leadership if they are more accustomed to the previous leader's style.
Build trust by opening lines of communication with your team and colleagues. Be approachable, listen actively and demonstrate that you value their input and concerns.
3. Pressure to Prove Yourself Quickly:
There's often a heightened expectation that acting leaders need to prove their worth and competence quickly. This pressure can be intense, and it may lead to stress or the feeling that you need to constantly demonstrate your capabilities.
Remember that everyone is aware you are acting in the role - often the highest expectations are those we place on ourselves! Familiarize yourself with the specific challenges, projects, and processes unique to the role as soon as you can. Seek out documentation and resources to help you get up to speed and feel more confident.
4. Navigating Office Politics:
Acting leaders may find themselves navigating complex office politics and power struggles. Other colleagues might see the temporary nature of your role as an opportunity to advance their own agendas, which can add an extra layer of complexity to your position.
Given your temporary status, it's essential to maintain a neutral and impartial stance in office politics. Avoid taking sides or getting involved in power struggles that don't directly affect your responsibilities. Make it clear that your primary objective is to maintain stability and facilitate a smooth transition back or to the permanent leader. This can help deter others from trying to advance their agendas through you.
5. Balancing Stability and Change:
Striking the right balance between maintaining stability and implementing necessary changes can be challenging.
Carefully assess what aspects of the previous leader's approach should be maintained for stability and what areas require improvement or innovation. Be open to feedback and collaborate with your team on these decisions.
6. Managing Expectations:
Internal and external stakeholders may have different expectations of your role and tenure. Some may expect you to maintain the status quo, while others may look to you for innovation and a fresh perspective. Managing these varied expectations requires clear communication.
Clearly communicate your vision, priorities, and expectations to your team. Regularly update them on any changes or initiatives. Address concerns transparently and provide context for your decisions.
7. Team Morale:
The uncertainty surrounding your temporary role can affect team morale.
Address concerns and reassure your team that their work and career development are still a priority, even in the absence of a permanent leader. Empower them by delegating responsibilities and trusting them to excel. This not only lightens your workload but also builds their confidence and skills.
8. Knowledge Transfer:
Depending on the circumstances of your acting role, you may have to quickly gain an understanding of the specific challenges, projects, and responsibilities unique to that role. This can require a steep learning curve.
Seek guidance and feedback from mentors, colleagues, or HR professionals. They can provide valuable insights and advice on navigating your acting role.
Despite the temporary nature of your role, you are still accountable for the decisions and actions taken during your tenure. Balancing this accountability with the lack of long-term commitment can be tricky.
Take ownership of your decisions and actions. Keep a record of your accomplishments and contributions as these can be useful when transitioning out of the role.
Stopping self-care when in an acting role or any high-demand position can happen for several reasons. Some include perceived lack of time, pressure to perform, fear of showing weakness or workplace expectations. Neglecting self-care in a demanding role can have detrimental effects on both physical and mental health. Over time, it can lead to burnout, increased stress, decreased productivity, and even health problems.
Remind yourself that self-care is not a luxury, it’s essential to mental and physical health. Prioritise self-care by creating boundaries, effective time management and clear communication with stakeholders.
11. Transition Planning:
It's essential to plan for a smooth transition when your acting role comes to an end. This includes ensuring that the knowledge and responsibilities are seamlessly handed over to the permanent successor, which can be a logistical challenge.
Prepare for a smooth transition when your acting role ends. Document processes, projects, and any important information to ensure a seamless handover to your successor.
12. Continuous Improvement:
Acting in a role, rather than being promoted into it, presents challenges related to authority, team dynamics, pressure to perform, office politics, and the need to balance stability and change.
Use your acting role as an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Continuously seek ways to improve your leadership skills and learn from your experiences.
By focusing on these strategies and maintaining a positive attitude, you can not only meet these challenges but also make a meaningful impact in your temporary leadership position. And, always remember to Have Fun!
Hi, I'm Janelle Ryan and I love helping high-performing professionals expand their minds to new levels of confidence, create huge impact in their place of work, then lead and inspire others.
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