You’ve landed yourself a new leadership role – congratulations!
If you are like most successful people I know who have a great track record in their careers and have just landed the perfect new job… you might be filled with a mix of emotions.
On one hand…
• You’re excited about the new opportunity and a chance to prove your worth.
• You’re up for the challenge and opportunity to learn in this new role.
• You like what you’ve seen of the organisation culture.
At the same time, you might be secretly saying to yourself…
• Yikes! I’ve sold myself into a job that’s more than I can do. I’m sure I’m going to fail.
• I’ve got way too much to do to get up to speed and do my job. I’ll never be able to get it all done!
• They’re going to find out that I don’t know as much as I’ve told them I know.
• I have no supporters where I’m going. I’ll be ALL alone.
If any of the above sound familiar, it is time to take your professional game to the next level by developing a 90-day career engagement strategy.
Your 90-day career engagement strategy will provide you with a strategic framework and timeline to follow during your first 90 days with your new employer. An effectively executed 90- day career engagement strategy will help you being perceived as a high impact performer and valuable organizational asset. The choice is yours, you can drag through the “first year blues” of trying to “fit in,” or starting off with a career engagement strategy that will enable you to fully maximize opportunities, effectively build networks, and “own the place” after your first year!
The first 90 days is a particularly critical phase for the newly appointed executive, so how do you step up to the challenge?
Take time to learn
In the first 90 days you are expected to do three key things; establish credibility in terms of professional competence, show a discerning ability to establish priorities for delivery, and demonstrate leadership. The temptation is often to dive in and deal with immediate demands. While this may be necessary, one of the most common mistakes executives make is not setting aside enough time for reflection and planning for longer-term gain.
Understand the business
In the very early stages it’s crucial to size up the organisation and its people. Failing to understand the business and failing to develop the right relationships can undermine the position of any new executive.
I recommend asking the same questions to each group you meet with. In his book “The First 90 Days” Harvard Business School Professor Michael Watkins suggests that you ask six questions to everyone you meet.
The one that is most relevant is, “If you were me, what would you focus attention on?” The questions you ask should provide you with a starting point for prioritizing the things you need to do and the things you want to do. For example, in a Wall Street Journal article Carol Hymowitz quotes Kevin Sharer as asking the following questions (to the top 100 executives) after he became the CEO at Amgen:
1. “What do you want to keep?”
2. “What do you want to change?”
3. “What do you want me to do?”
4. “What are you afraid I’ll do?”
5. “What else do you want to ask me?”
The questions you ask need to give you the knowledge that will enable you to create the strategy that will make you successful.
Take a step back and absorb
Unless there are urgent issues to deal with, it helps take some time to acquire the information you need, to gain a real sense of the organisational culture. Identify what is important and what isn’t, and differentiate between the signals and the noise.
Good communication is vital
Every conversation that you have will be of value in providing insight into the company and its culture. You should be able to define the prevalent management style, identify the individuals who you need to build relationships with, and ascertain what the organisation expects of you.
At the earliest stage, a new director makes his or her presence felt but in a subtle way, by engaging with the organisation. It’s important to ensure that you are visible and to communicate with key stakeholders.
New leaders will benefit from proactive support in deciding how they form effective relationships at this level and what behavioral changes they may need to make to ensure that they are effective in their new role. The impartial of an external coach can help.
Hold regular meetings
During the first hundred days it’s important to meet regularly with those who report directly to you, as well as their own direct reports. This will help you understand what each person does, what their skills are and what views they hold. Keep the meeting groups small in order to build rapport and trust with those who will be working closest to you.
Listen & observe
Getting the right balance between analysis and action is crucial. Some senior executives make change for the sake of being seen to be doing something and make decisions without thinking things through properly. Unless the situation calls for urgent action, use your first few weeks to listen and observe.
Plan your transition
Used well this crucial period will help to establish a base for the longer term when you will be scrutinised and judged by what you can really deliver. There is also much to gain by reflecting on one’s own personal style and presence and adapting this to fit into the new culture. This may need to be adapted in order to hit the right note, taking into account new individual and organisational preferences.
Modern day organisations are complex environments where operational necessities intertwine with matrix structures, spoken and unspoken corporate cultures, office politics and interpersonal considerations. A planned transition will help to ensure success in the new role.
You can’t hope to successfully meet these new challenges without understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, and more importantly, knowing how and where you can get support for some of your weaker areas, possibly through executive or leadership coaching or mentoring.