You’ve attained the height of your career in a brand new senior executive role and lucky for you, your new job is in a business for which you have strong passion. You are not only familiar with the industry sector but you have encountered members of your new team at various conferences and industry association meetings. It’s an exciting time. However, since this is your first senior role, you are apprehensive and anxious.
Although you know you need to quickly learn the company’s culture, its politics or its organization structure, you aren’t sure where to start. At the same time, you know that you need to create a good impression and hit the ground running. This is what it’s like for many new managers; successfully navigating the first 100 days of a new job. What can you do to ensure this transition is a success? The following guidelines will help.
Scan the internal environment – Take time to get to know the lay of the land. Get out and meet as many people as you can. Ask questions about every area of operations and identify organizational strengths and areas of challenge. Meet individually with senior and middle management and assess their levels of expertise and readiness for change; study annual reports and review operational statistics. Focus on listening as the key tactic to gain comfort that you understand the history and vision of your new employer.
Scan the external environment – Customers are the bread and butter of your business and so it is important to get to know them. Identify key customers, go and meet them. Learn about their issues and confirm why they want to continue to do business with you. Learn about the trends and issues facing your industry sector; determine the strength of your new company as compared to industry benchmarks.
Create a new future – More than likely your management team has been settled in their own way of doing things for a long time. You need to work with them to help create a new, jointly developed future vision. This helps to create energy and support for your leadership. Ask for their input, listen and learn.
Make change slowly – Typically, I recommend that you don’t make any changes for at least the first three to six months. My experience shows that it takes that long to get a good feel for what is going on. At this point, you can judge not only what changes you will need but also how change can be effectively addressed in your new company. Determine pockets of resistance to change and develop strategies and a plan for overcoming them. Keep in mind that haste makes waste.
Avoid a “one size fits all” approach – Just because one strategy worked in your old company doesn’t mean it will automatically work in the new one. In fact, if you simply try to transfer these ideas, not only will people resent your imposed solution, you will alienate them when you need them the most.
Establish consistent meeting schedules – Meeting face-to-face with your management team will help to set expectations. Establish a formal agenda and organizational goals and then ensure that your team understands your expectations. In the first few months, pay special attention to those managers who appear to be resistant; make every effort to bring them on board with your strategic direction.
Work with an executive coach – The old saying, “it’s lonely at the top” has a lot of truth to it because as senior leader, certain situations arise that cannot be shared. As well, you should not be sharing personal insecurities but rather you need to work confidentially with a good executive coach. The coach will understand your dilemma and provide a safe environment where you can test out ideas and develop strategies to go forward.
Successfully transitioning into a new executive leadership role is a bit of a paradox because you need to move out of your comfort zone while at the same time exuding personal confidence. Taking a strong and strategic approach to managing this journey will help to secure success.