Many executives face the excitement of a new role and feel a strong sense of determination to succeed in it. It is easy to get carried away with the thought that your knowledge, skills and capabilities will launch you into the new role and you should be ready to espouse the direction, strategy and method for achieving that vision from the moment you arrive. Whilst it is appropriate that you have thought about opportunities and have some ideas about where the business/division needs to go be careful as you may be leading with no one following.
In the first 90 days I would counsel any leader to hold that rough draft of a plan loose and spend the first 30 days seeking to develop a better understanding of the business, its staff, clients, markets, strengths and history. A future state is always set in the context of a current state. You need to deeply understand the current state and why it has evolved in order to understand what you can leverage to the future state.
If the first ingredient is success you need to have listened, understood and acknowledged what has gone before – be it people, products, markets, clients or locations. The ability to respect the past whilst explaining the “why” for the changes needed is a key skill for a new leader.
Existing staff and customers will already have ideas about changes that need to be made and these are a great source of opportunity. Use these ideas to help shape your strategy and by listening to your staff and showing respect for the work that they and others have undertaken prior you will start to build loyalty and commitment to the changes you need to make.
Involve your direct reports early, work with them one-on-one and as a group to build their trust in you and your intent to preserve the core values and ethics that staff want from their leader. Where you are unable to shift individuals to the new direction required see it first as a passion for what they believe is right and listen more intently and show you understand their perspective. If they are stuck in the past and unable to accept (these should be few and far between) then your handling of their situation (changed role, reduced responsibility, exit) will be closely watched by the staff to ensure it is fair.
This building of trust and understanding of what is important to staff will provide the foundation to build in your next 30 days the project teams, initiatives, research and analysis to build the case for change. More on that in my next post