Securing a new executive role is exciting, especially when it offers career advancement and professional growth. Planning for success before diving into the position can give you a significant advantage.
With 15 years of experience coaching newly hired or promoted leaders, we recognise some common mistakes and the challenges of recovering from them in the early days. Here are five crucial tips to consider before embarking on your first day on the job.
1. Get to know the business
To what extent do you already know the business?
Regardless of your prior knowledge or research, there will be much to learn once you begin. Be curious and open to gathering diverse insights from various people on the business, its operations, opportunities and challenges.
Take detailed notes and use them to analyse the job and its context to understand fully what you are dealing with. If you discover any overlooked but problematic issues, address them promptly to create a positive impact in the short term.
Newly appointed leaders tell us that documenting their findings has been invaluable for deciding how they would make a difference in the new role and for drafting an initial business plan for their manager or the board. Keep these objectives in mind; they will help you shape the questions you ask and filter the information you are given.
Top Tip: Maintain a journal to record what you learn during your first 90 days.
2. Audit your leadership capability
Do you view this new job as the next step in your leadership journey?
Orient yourself quickly to the job’s needs by identifying the responsibilities you feel confident and well-prepared to handle. Next, explore any challenging areas and consider seeking guidance from a mentor or support from an executive coach to fast-track your learning.
Reflect on how best to present yourself and your capabilities to your new colleagues. Some incoming leaders create and share an engaging story about their background, values, and priorities, allowing others to get to know them immediately. However, others neglect this incredible opportunity to make a positive first impression.
Remember, when people first meet you, they are eager to learn about you and what it will be like to work with you. You can help them by establishing a warm, optimistic tone that promotes productive working relationships.
Top Tip: Reflect on your personal brand to find an authentic way to describe yourself.
3. Connect with your manager
How well do you know your new line manager?
To establish a strong relationship with your new line manager, you must build on the rapport you developed when you were selected for the role. Observe their actions, communication style, and decision-making process to adapt effectively to their leadership style.
You can expect to meet initially to discuss expectations, goals, and priorities. However, we have seen situations where this doesn’t happen because the manager is preoccupied with pressing business matters or travelling. Occasionally, a manager may have such confidence in the selected candidate that they expect them to get right into the job with minimal direction.
In such situations, finding a way to align with your manager is essential. Remember that your manager has critical goals to achieve, and knowing how to support them will help you succeed in your role.
Top Tip: Providing proactive support will help your line manager achieve critical business goals.
4. Assess the talent in your team
Does your team have the skills to support you?
Knowing your new team’s abilities is crucial for effective leadership. Familiarise yourself with the current team before implementing any changes. These three steps will help you build a strong team:
- Identify whether each team member has the required skills for their role.
- Consider whether the roles are structured in a way that will help you deliver the right results.
- Address any skill gaps as soon as possible.
Collective progress depends on recognising and leveraging each team member’s unique strengths. Consult your human resources partner to evaluate and improve individual capabilities if necessary.
A common regret among senior leaders reflecting on their first executive role is that they should have managed their team talent sooner. Developing a high-performing team requires thoughtful planning and investing time in professional development.
Top Tip: Act swiftly to assess and nurture talent to achieve results.
5. Expect and plan for change
Are you an inspiring leader?
Leaders who inspire others typically have a compelling vision for the future of their business. This means envisioning what’s possible and being able to communicate and drive change – simple to say but harder to do.
We are noticing that more newly appointed leaders than ever face business transformation initiatives that are already in progress when they assume their roles. Leading change and making decisions on restructuring in the early days of a new job can be incredibly challenging.
They have reported that polarity management is a valuable communication framework in these circumstances. This involves celebrating past successes, sharing all available options for future success with the team, and settling on the best way forward. Acknowledging the challenges ahead gives people time to process the implications and prepare to adapt.
Top Tip: Embrace change constructively and demonstrate courage in driving it forward.
To learn more on best practice leadership transitions for individuals and organisations click here.