New Kid on the Block
Being a new leader can be quite stressful.Studies have shown that it takes a typical employee six weeks to feel comfortable in a new job. However, as the new leader of an organization, you can’t afford to take that long. You will be far behind the curve if it takes you six weeks to settle into your position. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to make sure you get off to a great start when you are the new kid who happens to be the leader.The actions you take during your first few months in a new role have a major influence on whether you ultimately succeed or fail. Transitions are pivotal times—everyone is expecting change. They're also times of great vulnerability. You don’t have much knowledge of the situation, and not too many dependable relationships. If you fail to build momentum during your transition, you will face an uphill battle from then on.So what do you do to enhance your chances of success?Leverage your pre-entry time. Your transition begins during the selection process when you're being picked for the job, not when you formally enter the organization. It's a great period for absorbing information about your new organization and beginning to plan. You can jump-start the process. Determine why you have been selected. Determine the perception that exists of the organization.Adopt the behavior of a leader. Here’s a great definition of leadership. Leaders respect the past, are realistic about the present, and are optimistic about the future. It will not help you to criticize the previous leadership. You can focus on issues that need addressed without blaming. You must focus on realism; having an overly optimistic or pessimistic view of your issues will hinder your efforts to move forward.As the leader, it is your job to recognize the great work that is being done and to paint a picture of a future organization that is much further advanced than the one that exists today.Get to know people. One of the first priorities is to get to know the team members and encourage them to get to know each other. Keep in mind people will be worried about the transition and their place in it, and if they don’t see much of you, rumors will circulate about what is going on. Get with the group right away, even if you don’t have many answers. One thing you could share is a list of the areas that you have been told need attention. It will be good for the group to know you are aware. One good exercise is having people share worst and best experiences. It helps everyone get on the same page.After all, the people in the organization have the answers to most of your questions, and as you meet with more and more people, you will see familiar themes that need to be addressed.Build a personal vision but not on day 1. Despite the need to paint an optimistic future, you do not need to provide details right away. You need to listen first. It seems arrogant and presumptuous to have a vision immediately without input from the people you need to carry it out.Put the right metrics in place. Metrics can make all the difference in moving an organization from "good" to "great." Metrics will change the behavior of an organization. They can help the organization focus on the important items and inspire the team to adjust when needed. Be careful with metrics, though, because we can derail true progress if we are only trying to improve numbers.Communicate, communicate, communicate. One great leader said,“Communicate three times as much as you think is needed, and even then, it might not be enough. Most of us communicate a couple times and assume the message has been heard and understood, but at this point, many people still see the ideas as "noise," and it requires communicating an additional five to ten times before the message is understood.”Communication extends to your boss as well. After a month on the job, write a report for your boss that shows what you have learned, what you intend to do about it, and where you need help. This may help with an ongoing partnership with your boss.Over-communicating is preferable to under-communicating. It’s better to start with more and cut back if necessary. No one ever says, “I wish my boss would quit communicating with me. I am sick of hearing from him.”Clarify what you stand for and how you want the team to work.Showcase your values. Explain what is behind your decisions, what your priorities are, and how you will evaluate the team’s progress and performance. Make clear what the team is working toward and how you plan to get there. You will communicate transparency and build confidence.Listen more than you speak. Get input on everything! It will often take you some time to understand the magnitude of the change that is required. Expectations for you are high and your time is valuable. You must organize to learn as efficiently as possible everything you need to know about your new role. Three types of learning are vital: technical learning--understanding products, markets, customers, strategy, and operations. Political learning—evaluating how decisions are made, understanding who is most influential and the key sources of power. Cultural learning--understanding the norms and values, the accepted ways of working and the habits that make the organization unique.Go for some early wins.It is crucial that people see momentum building from the start. Wins you can see motivate employees, encouraging them to try for more and better. Identify significant problems that can be tackled in relatively little time, and then go after solutions that can show tangible results. In those results, build a foundation that other wins can build upon.Build alliances.You can only transform an organization if you connect with people and groups that find it wise to cooperate with you. We achieve most when we are working with others. Early in the transition, look for those who are indifferent, and work to persuade them to join the effort.Manage yourself.Knowing and managing yourself is as important as knowing and managing the organization. You need to know yourself and take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You need networks of support for advice and counsel; people who will help you maintain a clear head and exercise clear-headed judgment. Stay focused.It's up to you.You are the new leader on the block. Getting people to work together and succeed is not easy. Your action in these first few weeks can set the team and you up for lasting success. Start it off right and enjoy the journey!