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.
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!