Starting a new job? Adopt three important strategies for success.

Taking on a new job is exciting, especially if it is one that you have longed for.

Yet, the stakes are high! It is estimated that between 50 and 70 percent of newly hired or promoted executives fail to meet expectations in some way in the first 18 months in the role.

So, what causes highly motivated individuals to falter at senior levels? Perhaps, the strengths that made them successful in the past are no longer relevant and new skills are called for or they face unique challenges for which there are no obvious solutions or frame of reference.

Based on over ten years of experience in guiding leader onboarding, here are some strategies for success that we know make a huge difference.

1. Clarify the job that needs to be done

The first step toward establishing a clear agenda for your transition is to clarify precisely the job that needs to be done. Learn as much as you can, as fast as you can, about the business.

Start by thinking about the value chain of your business and your part in it. What are you bringing to the job from previous experience that will enable you to make a positive impact?

What do you need to know in order to act on the opportunities in front of you? Finding the right people and sources of information to fill gaps in your knowledge will help you fully understand the current realities of the business.

Pay attention to the enablers and restrainers of revenue and how value is created. Investigate prospects for growth and anything that may be holding the business back. A speedy assessment of available resources including people, budget, equipment, technology, will be the foundation for moving forward.

At the end of your first 30 days, meet with your boss to discuss your findings and realign on expectations and priorities. You may want to tweak the performance goals that were set when you arrived or discuss your resources given changes that you see need to be made.

Top tip! Use a journal to record your findings, reactions and ideas. By keeping all key information in one place, you will be able to reflect on what you’ve learned and how your thinking is evolving over the first few months in the job.

2. Meet and greet the people

You may have a full agenda arranged for you to meet key people in the business in your first week or two. If not, be proactive and reach out to connect with people. Take care to prepare yourself well. You know the saying, you only get one chance to make a good first impression!

First, you need a memorable self-introduction. People want to know about you – who you are, what you’ve done in the past and how you work. They are assessing whether you are going to be good to deal with. Remember, they have a new boss, colleague or associate, so they are in transition too.

Keep your initial introduction to three minutes, max. Then, turn your attention to them. Ask questions. Practice some good techniques for introducing yourself. Think about how you are going to create the impact you want.

If you are meeting a group of people in a more formal setting, you could create a short presentation, one or two PowerPoint slides to tell your story. Include some images, make it personal and tell an interesting story about yourself. Your staff will appreciate learning about you!

3. Identify your stakeholders and plan your approach

Along with business knowledge, you need to get to know your people and understand the formal and informal power structures and chains of command that exist inside the organisation. Draft a list of key stakeholders and highlight those who will have a significant influence on your success.

Organisations today can be a complex maze of people and practices. As you learn to navigate your way through them, it can be helpful to draw on established disciplines in the field of project management. In particular, the multiple facets of stakeholder management provide a useful framework for establishing productive working relationships.

Once you are underway with building your internal network, you can turn your attention to the external stakeholders who will be important to you. Depending on your situation, you may want to prioritise particular groups, customers, suppliers, government regulators, community groups, trade union officials, professional association members and others.

Last words

Think about the relationships you need to build in your new role. Pay close attention to the perspectives and interests of different individuals and groups. Are there any common themes among your stakeholders? What is this telling you?

Meeting the needs of multiple stakeholders is a balancing act. It needs a proactive approach to shape and influence their expectations and, above all, it needs a spirit of mutuality for the benefit of all. Go well and bring your best self to this new opportunity!

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Change Agility: a leadership priority in 2020

Little did we know when we started writing about Learning Agility in 2019 that we were soon to face a worldwide threat that would cause millions of people to dramatically change their daily lives.

We expected our next topic would focus on defining Change Agility and making a compelling case for it to be central to leadership development in 2020 and beyond.

Now, we find ourselves in the grip of a global crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has reached more than 2.5 million known cases, claiming over 177,688 lives across 210 countries.*

Revisiting our plan in this context, we quickly recognised that the mindset and behaviours associated with Change Agility are even more critical for leaders than before.

To explain, we initially called out the need for leaders to:

  • Understand the social needs of their people, especially during times of change.
  • Cultivate curiosity and scan the environment diligently for opportunities and threats.
  • Prepare for the future of work with strong growth in flexible working and remote teams.

Today, we are seeing these in a new light through our coaching practice as we talk daily with leaders dealing with the critical issues of caring for their people and safeguarding the future of their business.

Change Agility defined

Energy for the new and different is the essence of Change Agility. We see it in people who embrace change and seek out continuous improvement, from small, incremental enhancements to large-scale transformations.

As we look at the characteristics of change agile leaders, we see they:

  • Regularly scan the environment, inside and outside the organisation, for opportunities and threats.
  • Envision the future and project multiple scenarios to maximise their chances of success.
  • Like to experiment and use an iterative process in devising new methods, products and services.
  • Look outside the box to find creative and unique ideas they can bring to life.
  • Recognise that change is unsettling for many and take steps to deal with their own feelings and alleviate the anxiety and fear of others.
  • Encourage input from others, recognising that they themselves do not have all the solutions.

How many of these are true for you?

Take time to reflect on each point and ask yourself how much time and attention you devoted to practicing each one in 2019. What does this tell you about what you need to do differently in 2020?

Honest self-appraisal

An accurate view of our self and our capability is essential for leveraging strengths and managing weaknesses. Sometimes, we know what we need to work on for development, but don’t prioritise the action steps that are required.

At other times, daily pressures get in the way and we lose sight of the value of equipping ourselves with new skills, habits or the mindset that will make work easier and results more attainable.

If you need inspiration on how to strengthen your Change Agility in the current environment, seek input from two or three people who know you well. Invite their suggestions on how you can strengthen your impact as an agile leader.

Listen to their suggestions and decide which to apply to raise the bar for yourself, as you support people, lead change and ready your business for the future.

Leadership in a crisis

Leaders everywhere have faced accelerating disruption in recent years. No industry is immune and disruptive forces come in many forms, such as rapidly emerging new technologies, unexpected competitive threats and shifting social trends.

Right now, disruption has landed in the form of the coronavirus crisis at a scale and speed that the majority of people have not experienced in their lifetime. The reaction of leaders we know is an all-consuming urgency to find ways to manage the impact and fight for the survival of their businesses.

In this context, Change Agility is vital. We propose to amplify it with two critical behaviours identified though research at the IMD Business School in Switzerland:

  • Act quickly to execute decisions. Unfortunately, there are many barriers to speed especially in large organisations. Leaders need courage and determination to implement change promptly.
  • Be visionary, which means holding fast to a sense of long-term direction even in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty. Hard to do, but a clear definition of where the organisation needs to go is important for everyone as they work out how to get there.

In her book Forged in A Crisis, Nancy Koehn illustrated how five legendary leaders demonstrated a sense of urgency and unwavering resolve during times of great adversity. She described how each one navigated through the calamity they faced and was transformed as a result. You can see her latest blog post here.

Tips for increasing Change Agility

We put it to you that the way you conduct yourself during this time will be long remembered by those who work with you and for you. Here are some thought starters:

  • Help people adjust to the new and different. For many, resistance is a natural response. Be more available to your people, keeping them informed and letting them know you are there for them. Accept that this is going to take more of your time.
  • Keep things in perspective. Identify the issues that are of most concern to your people so you can address them. Tune in to any individuals or groups who seem to be having a greater struggle. Find ways to resolve their immediate challenges and act on them.
  • Be ready to disrupt your usual style of leadership. Human beings are creatures of habit. Formed in the brain, habits allow us to perform daily tasks without having to think about them. Reboot your approach to leadership by looking for what you can do differently for greater impact.
  • Create a safe place for yourself. Stress and anxiety can impede performance. When times are tough, establish a physical location you can go to regroup and do your best thinking. Find a trusted person who can act as a support for you.
  • Behave strategically. Leading through a crisis involves intense pressure to focus on day-to-day operations. As soon as you can, address the longer term by working with your team on future-focused planning with clear intentions and purposeful actions.

* Worldometer, 22 April 2020

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Developing your next generation of leaders

Do you have a model of leadership competency needed for your business to succeed? If so, you are probably using it to shape the development of your next generation of leaders.

If not, you may be putting your business and your most promising people at risk as they navigate their way to becoming the leaders of tomorrow.

Many organisations struggle with building the depth and breadth of leadership talent they need for the future. They may have identified their best performers, carefully chosen some courses for them and developed a list of promotion opportunities.

But, somehow it doesn’t all come together and there may be a nagging doubt on the return on investment in time and effort.

So, how do you create the conditions where the people who can lead your organisation into the future can be nurtured and developed?

This may seem a simple question, but the answer is complex. Your organisation’s culture and way of operating, existing development practices and the aspirations of your people need to be taken into account.

Adults are motivated to learn something if it has value to them. Therefore, a program that will equip aspiring leaders with the skills they need to achieve their career goals will have great appeal.

Learning needs to be as practical as possible, providing tools and techniques for leading and managing that can be applied immediately. If the learning is delivered in a modular format so they can try out the skills and report back on progress, even better.

Our suggestions for engaging your leaders of the future in meaningful development are:

  • Use your business goals and challenges to define the capability future leaders need to succeed.
  • Devise a program that communicates and focuses on building this capability.
  • Select the right assessments to help participants heighten their self-awareness.
  • Design learning experiences that integrate seamlessly with the responsibilities and work schedules of the participants.
  • Assign participants to projects of significance to the success of your organisation.
  • Turn up the intensity of the learning by involving senior leaders in mentoring participants.
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What will be your leadership legacy?

It would be hard to find a successful leader who is unable to point to a person or people who guided their path through good counsel and encouragement. As you read this, you are probably already thinking about your own experience. Who helped you get to where you are today? What did they say or do that made a difference?

Leaders are often measured on how they shape the capability of the next generation of leaders as well as their personal achievements. So, are you helping others as you have been helped yourself? What do you think people will remember in years to come about your impact on their success in their careers? 

How will they describe your leadership legacy?

Of course, everything you do in managing your business and your people speaks volumes about your understanding of the way leaders develop. People build capability at work by taking on different jobs and learning from others. And, who better to guide them than experienced leaders who know and understand the intricacies of what it will take to succeed in their business and industry?

There are compelling reasons for organisations to tap into this valuable source of expertise. They face generational change and successors must be prepared for leadership roles. Economic conditions, lean organisations and pressures to perform mean that fewer people are doing more work, so sharing expertise and best practices are critical.

This is where mentoring comes in – a powerful process where the leaders of today are preparing the leaders of tomorrow. From an organisational point of view, mentoring is instrumental in achieving higher levels of employee engagement in three key areas:

  • development opportunities
  • career advancement prospects
  • trust in senior management.

Organisations worldwide recognize these benefits and some actively encourage mentoring through formal programs.  A growing trend is “reverse mentoring’ where a junior employee provides guidance to a senior leader, typically in areas of technology.  A double benefit!

 

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Is leadership coaching for you?

A skilled executive coach acting as an objective and unbiased thinking partner can be invaluable if you are facing change or simply want to hone your leadership skills. Your coach can help diagnose the gap between where you are now and where you want to be, and be resourceful with ideas on how you can get there.

So how do you find the right coach for you?

An important consideration when choosing a coach is to understand a little more about them as a person, as well as their style and approach, so that you can decide if the coach is the right ‘fit’ for you.

Here are 7 things to consider when choosing your executive coach:

  1. What coaching experience and qualifications do they have?
  2. Can the coach provide you with testimonials?
  3. What examples of success can the coach share with you?
  4. Do they have experience in your industry?
  5. Have they coached leaders at a similar level to you?
  6. What types of assessment tools do they use to evaluate skills?
  7. What time frame are they allowing for the coaching assignment?

Research over the past decade clearly demonstrates the positive impact of coaching on people and on business results. You can expect to benefit in various ways:

  • Greater self-awareness
  • More clarity and focus on your role
  • New ways to build relationships with colleagues and other stakeholders
  • Ideas for overcoming difficult workplace issues
  • Improved business performance

Coaching is increasingly being recognised as a powerful partnership that inspires an individual to make changes to achieve fulfilling results, personally and professionally. And, with the right coach, that partnership can be a richly rewarding experience that gives you long-lasting benefits.

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