Q: The new VP of my group just cleaned house; several directors between her level and mine lost their jobs. I am not worried about job security but wonder how to ride out the change and get work direction when I need it. What do you suggest?
A: Stay level-headed, use your best judgment on getting your work done, and don't be shy about reaching out to the VP while the situation stabilizes.
The inner game
At your level, you likely have a good sense of what you need to do day to day. Just stay the course on that, so that everything that can be steady will run smoothly.
Do an extra layer of planning, thinking about the role each of the directors had with you in terms of both inputs and outputs. For inputs, look at the direct information you're accustomed to receiving from each, and determine possible new sources. If they were simply a conduit, identify the original source. In terms of outputs, consider which people or departments are affected by your work, and map out whether there is now a broken connection because of a director's departure.
Look up the ladder, and imagine the situation from the VP's perspective. What can you do to make her job easier? If she is giving you direct information about what she wants from you, so much the better. However, it sounds like that might not be the case, so it might be up to you to offer ways to help.
Then consider the situation of your direct reports, the level of anxiety they're showing and approaches you might take to ease their concerns. And, while it's not your direct responsibility, consider whether you can help with those in the affected departments.
Finally, think longer term about your goals, and whether this offers you an opportunity for advancement. If so, make a plan to explore the opportunities that may be available.
The outer game
Your VP's workload will have increased a lot with this change. She is going to appreciate someone who is willing to help, and who is able to solve most of their own problems with minimum involvement. So even though you may need to ask for her support, be sure that you have thought through some good solutions. If you see things that need attention, let her know — along with a recommendation for action and offer to follow through, even if they are not part of your regular role.
Be a positive voice about the change (if you think it was a terrible decision, at least stay quiet rather than bashing it publicly). The more reinforcement you can offer, the more able others will be to accept it, and the more quickly your company will be able to move forward. This will also set a great example for your team and help them settle down if they're disturbed by the changes.
Also develop a broader network of support so that you have thinking partners and other sources of counsel. It's good networking, too.
The last word
Know when to ask for help, and offer assistance to others as the situation unfolds.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.