It's always wise to take time to build relationships
Now that Brian Bowman has taken his oath of office, all attention is focused on his accomplishments during the first 100 days as our new mayor. He came aboard with a clear plan that outlined his priorities for building an effective council, tackling the crumbling infrastructure and bringing accountability back to city hall. As you can expect, some individuals have already criticized his efforts and accomplishments, yet from a career perspective, his determination to focus on concrete goals and objectives in the first 100 days is a very wise decision.
Why is the first 100 days so important to someone transitioning into a new job? It's important because there are multiple career transition challenges. For instance, most people entering a new job are quite vulnerable because they don't have established relationships. And often, they don't have a detailed understanding of their new organization and/or their new role. This forces an individual into a stressful situation where they need to learn quickly and seek early wins that help to build personal and professional credibility.
As well, most research about transitioning to a new job indicates the behaviour you exhibit early on in a new job will directly impact the opinion others will have of you. Not only that, since first impressions, good or bad, are hard to change, it is sometimes said your first 100 days will determine if you succeed or fail.
The following career tips not only apply to our new mayor but also to any individual who is transitioning into a new job role and in particular a new leadership role.
Do a mental shift -- As with the new mayor, you will often find there isn't much time between being a candidate and winning the new job. And sometimes people will be doing both an old and a new job all at once until the transition is complete. You need to discipline yourself and consciously let go of your old job and job title. Identify what is different and how this will impact how you think, feel and act.
Tackle the learning curve -- When you arrive at your new job, believe me, you don't know what you don't know. Therefore, it is important to learn as much as you can and as quickly as you can. In doing so, it is important not to criticize but to listen and learn. Set up a specific plan for how you will learn and be sure to avoid providing answers too quickly particularly because what works in one organization may not work in your new organization. Pay good attention to identifying and understanding the organizational culture.
Identify challenges and opportunities -- As a new leader, you may have had specific goals and objectives as you entered the new job but it is critically important to understand what can and can't be accomplished. Pushing through your specific goals when the resources aren't there will only cause problems and damage your credibility. So, be sure to diagnose what's going on in your new organization, what you are being confronted with and align your goals and objectives with the reality of the situation.
Use effective process -- Every organization has processes for getting things done. Find out what they are and how to use them effectively. Going over, above, and/or around process will alienate people and cause them to view you as underhanded, manipulative and/or inconsistent. If you are unhappy with the processes in place, investigate them, understand them and change them slowly and carefully.
Clarify expectations -- Spend time to build a relationship with your new boss and work together to develop specific goals and objectives. Be careful not to "trash" past actions and be sure not to create any surprises. Learn to understand how your new boss thinks and works and keep the boss informed at all times. Apply a problem-solving approach to every issue and if a problem needs to be elevated to a higher level, be sure to offer solutions instead of just complaints.
Build your team -- In spite of the fact you will inherit an established team, you have to assess individual team members and then rebuild your own team. Set up your selection criteria, assess your people and evaluate how your team is working. Restructure the team when you are ready, set the parameters for ongoing team work and then engage in team building activities to begin building a new team culture.
Friends in the right places -- If your job requires the support of a lot of people, then you need to take time to build relationships throughout your organization as well as externally. Identify which individuals interact with your organization, draw an influence map, create a list of priority relationships, make contact and get to know them. At the same time, identify individuals who share your vision as well as individuals who may resist any change. Develop a strategy to bring resistors on side if you can.
Pay attention to family -- Even when you are the person with the new job, the job change will also impact your family. Your work hours may change, you might have to travel more and/or be out and about with or without your spouse. Be sure to stabilize your home front by setting boundaries on your family and personal time. Be disciplined so that you don't overcommit yourself. Take time every day to evaluate your schedule and make sure your family is given priority.
Like it or not, that old well-known saying that suggests you only get one chance to make a first impression still rings true. This means when you are moving into a new job, especially a leadership role, you need to pay attention to how you build your professional credibility. Follow the lead of our new mayor and develop your own 90-100 day transition plan. This will help you to successfully confront the multiple transition challenges and stressors you will surely encounter and enable you to quickly build your credibility and set you up for long-term success.
Source: The First 90 Days, Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at all Levels, Michael Watkins, 2003.