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“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” ~John Wooden In last week’s post, I shared the news that I’ve accepted the position of President of Toledo St. Ursula Academy and Junior Academy. My start date is October 1st. I’m excited to jump right into my new role and hit the ground running. But as a leadership development coach who has worked with many leaders during their transition into new roles, I have to remind myself to practice what I preach.
What do I mean? According to research and best practices on leadership effectiveness, the first days in a new position are critical because small differences in a new leader’s actions can have a huge impact on long-term results. Whether you’re a hire from the outside, as I am, or an existing employee who has been at an organization for a while, it’s important that the new leader take the time up front to quickly diagnose a your situation, understand its challenges and opportunities, establish priorities and manage the key relationships that will help you succeed.
So my real start date was the minute I accepted my new position. There are two resources I have utilized with my coaching clients who are entering new roles. The first, Michael Watkins’ The First 90 Days, provides an excellent roadmap for a new leader. The second, The New Leader’s 100 Day Action Plan by Brandt et. al. offers a similar blueprint that includes practical tools to help you implement your plan.
Here’s a very brief summary of the concepts that Watkins shares in The First 90 Days. He outlines 10 key transition challenges that will help you navigate your road ahead. They are: Promote Yourself — get yourself mentally ready to step into your new role. Shift your mindset and perspective and embrace your new position. Accelerate Your Learning — figure out what you need to learn and identify up front your best available sources of insight and information and learn what you need to learn in the shortest amount of time.
Match Strategy to Situation—not every situation is the same. This transition challenge requires you to assess just what you are facing. The book outlines four different business situations that will allow you to match the appropriate focus and response to needs of the organization. Secure Early Wins—in this step, the new leader tailors early initiatives to build personal credibility, establish key relationships, and identify and harvest low-hanging fruit-the highest –potential opportunities for short term improvements in organizational performance.
Negotiate Success—proactively work to understand with your new boss just what success looks like. You will have greater clarity and a sense of focus for your efforts. Achieve Alignment—this step requires a focus on analyzing the architecture of your organization. Assess alignment among strategy, structure, systems and skills. You will likely not be able to do this immediately but it should be included in your 90 Day plan.
Build Your Team—begin by assessing your team, looking for congruence with strengths and needs of the organization. Then work to build team trust and cohesion. You will also need to put in place goals, incentives and performance measures that will propel your team in the desired direction. Create Coalitions—consolidate existing sources of support while developing relationships with those whose resources or connections you need to succeed.
Keep Your Balance-- build your support systems and keep your personal disciplines. Starting new is challenging and stressful. It’s important to remember to keep this important balance. Expedite Everyone —if there are other new leaders in your organization, share these steps with them. Share your plan as well. Regardless of the tools or resources you use, if you are anticipating a promotion or a move to a new assignment, planning your first three months in your role is a must.
I’ve completed a first draft of my 90 Day Plan and have already accomplished some of my action steps. What do you think? What has worked for you when you transition into a new position? I’d love to hear about strategies you have used in your first days and months in your new job. To your success, Mary