Have you ever attended an event, meeting, or day at work in which the leader of that organization was absent and someone else was there to take their place? Me too. One recent Sunday morning we discovered the pastor of our church was speaking off-site, so someone else from the staff was there to fill in for him. She did a great job, and I let her know that after the service. It got me thinking about how others might be able to benefit from some specific strategies to utilize in such a situation. Many of these I learned while substituting for principals in public schools, and I now teach to some of the clients I coach:
1) Be Yourself: You are not the person you are (temporarily) replacing, so don’t try to be. You’ll only come across as a phony and others will see through the act. Since there is only one person you can truly be (You!), be that person. The others in the room will relax a bit when they sense you are comfortable in your own skin, and this will also build trust with them.
2) Seek to Help: Don’t know exactly what to say or do since you probably aren’t working with this team everyday? No problem. You are capable, otherwise you wouldn’t be there. I recommend practicing a healthy portion of servant-leadership, with the emphasis on servant. The act of helping others is a quick way to become involved in the work, and is also an effective way to learn some of the specific methodology of the team you are now working with.
3) Lean into the Role: While you are stepping-in for a leader, you will probably be expected to lead in some capacity as the person would you are substituting for. So, bring your leadership toolbox and be prepared to use some of your tools (e.g. listen, collaborate, display vulnerability, trust others, and be courageous). A role is a part, or function, someone is expected to play. While stepping in for someone, fill the role you are expected to perform. That’s why you’re there.
4) Have Fun! Often, people substitute for others as either a professional or personal courtesy. Enjoy the opportunity to work with new people and learn new skills. Chances are, if you don’t take yourself too seriously you’ll actually be more effective in the position since it’s only for a limited time. Take your job seriously, of course, but remember this isn’t your team. Do your best, and leave it at that.
All the Best,