The following article was written by School for CEOs Managing Partner, David Sole OBE.
You have just landed your dream new job. All of your due diligence has been done on your new organisation and you have arrived at your desk on day 1, full of energy and enthusiasm and eager to make a difference. So what do you need to be aware of and how do you ensure that you make a success of the role? What are the pitfalls and how do you avoid them? Here is a list of things that I think will help you transition into the new job and succeed:
- Clarify expectations up, down and across. It is really important to ensure that everyone is clear about what is expected of you and what you expect of them. Spend time with your boss or the Board to clarify expectations so you can translate these for your team and the rest of the organisation. You then need to be crystal clear with them about the direction of travel and also, how you like to operate as a leader. Making assumptions around expectations (whatever those expectations are) is the most common reason as to why people fail in new organisations. Your peer group also have an important role to play – they can help you to succeed in your new job or can contribute to your failure if you don’t engage properly with them.
- Be wary of the shadow you cast. As a new leader in an organisation you will be scrutinised from the very first minute. People around the business will notice everything – from the way you greet the receptionists, to the type of car you drive….and where you park it. If you have a bad day, your emotions and feelings will ‘leak’. Your colleagues will notice your mood state and that will set the tone around you. This effect is amplified in the early days in role, so you have to be aware of it and, where possible, manage it positively. Be open about how you are feeling and why – that will help to build trust early.
- Under promise and over deliver. As trite as it may seem, don’t say you can conquer the world in the first 6 months of your tenure in the new role. If you make a bold declaration, someone will hold you to account and expect you to achieve that. Making conservative promises, without ‘sandbagging’ is a far more sensible approach and will ensure that you don’t trip up on unwanted surprises en route to delivering.
- Think about your key relationships. At the School for CEOs we talk about our Dimensions framework, which looks at relationships up, down, in, out and across and this is a very helpful way to think about your stakeholder map. It is important to develop good, strong relationships with your stakeholders, but don’t ignore the people who can influence your key stakeholders indirectly. And don’t forget the extent to which informal influence gets things done in organisations – you must learn to play organisational politics (with a small ‘p’) in an ethical way.
- Select the right team. If you are inheriting a team, it’s not your team. You have to select the right people to support you in your journey in the new organisation. Building a team with former colleagues that you know and trust isn’t the right way to go about things either – you need to start afresh. Some of your new team may be in the team already but some may not be part of the future…..and that’s OK. If you have to change people, do it sensitively and quickly – they will appreciate and value that. Picking a great team is key to your success.
- Be aware of the organisational context. Is this a turnaround or is the business in a good place already? Creating a ‘burning platform’ for change in an organisation that is mature and performing well could be highly disruptive and damaging. The opposite also applies – unless you create a sense of urgency in a business that needs change, nothing will ever be different. Your own leadership style and approach will need to be adapted to suit the organisational situation. Figure this out early and then adapt your agenda and style accordingly.
- Get to grips with culture early. Understanding how things get done in an organisation is a key priority. You will need to get a feel for the culture of the business quickly, so that you can adapt your own style to ‘fit in’ without compromising your own values and beliefs. If your own values and beliefs are at odds with those of the organisation, you’re probably not a good fit and things may not end well. Hopefully you will have established this during your due diligence as part of the selection process. Cultural ‘fit’ is often what makes or breaks new appointments.
- Manage the paradoxes. You will be faced by lots of demands in the early days from people around you and you’ll be under all sorts of conflicting pressures. You’ll need to exercise the right judgement regarding how to manage these challenges and it’s not easy. You want to be consultative, yet if you’re too consultative you can be perceived as being indecisive – go the other way and people will think you too directive. You shouldn’t make decisions too early as you’ll get a reputation for being impulsive but in doing nothing you could be seen as procrastinating. You want to show humility as a leader but you don’t want to be seen as lacking in confidence. Getting this right is tough and your judgements will be under scrutiny at every turn.
- Get your balance right. It’s only a job after all and it is essential that you retain perspective. At the end of the day, what’s most important is you (if that doesn’t sound too selfish) and you need to ensure that you are happy and fulfilled. Make sure you make time for partners, loved ones or whatever is most important to you so that you don’t become overwhelmed by your new organisation. It shouldn’t place demands on you that compromise what is truly important in life.
- Hire a coach to support you. OK, as an Executive Coach I would say that. But the value that a coach can bring as you make a transition into a new role and support you as you navigate your way into a new business, seek counsel on how to form great relationships, assess the strength of your team, clarify expectations, pilot a course in a new culture and help you make the right judgements is invaluable. Compared to the cost paid to the headhunters to hire you, de-risking your induction is a very small price to pay!
To find out more about how the School for CEOs coaching panel can help you transition into a new role.