Much has been written about successful job transitions and the importance of, for example, the first 90 days. The detail is expertly covered in other texts. We won’t do justice to the details here, but let’s summarize the key areas of early focus, at least in our experience. And if it helps you remember, we simply propose you L.E.A.R.N.
Listen to Stakeholders. A mentor of mine told me he wouldn’t take any major decisions in his first 90 days in a new role. This time was dedicated to listening. When he subsequently makes decisions, they are quality decisions grounded in the business and his stakeholders’ views. In an effort to “hit the ground running”, we can jump to conclusions, make assumptions or rely on what has worked for us in the past. There is no quicker way to fall over the culture and politics of organizations than proceeding too fast. Speak less. Listen more.
If you have listened well, then you can take the next step: Evaluate the Opportunities. Here we have chosen our words carefully. Nothing is more likely to alienate colleagues, members of your team, and even your new boss than identifying a catalog of inefficiencies, waste, redundancy… that is the way things are being done. Identify opportunities, by all means, while deeply respecting what came before. Opportunities build on the foundation that others provided.
Next, you will want to Assess The Team. As you identify opportunities, you will decide whether you have the capabilities within the Team to deliver. Team assessment has two components: does the team have the skills and experience needed, and are they organized in the right way? When we think about skills and experiences, we include technical and managerial skills, but also the behaviors and attitudes that you need. Identifying opportunities directed your strategy. But even if the team has the skills to deliver it, those skills need to be structured to reflect your strategic priorities.
The next step is to Reset Expectations. With a new strategy, and as you start to align resources, you need to reset expectations. Put more aspirationally, this could take the form of communicating vision and purpose. But no matter how it is marketed, you make your mark when you set direction as to the focus of the work, but the standards of performance and behaviors you expect as a leader.
Perhaps the most critical of your short term priorities is Navigating the Culture. Even with the right analysis, resulting in the right team members in the right roles, your ideas may or may not gain traction, depending on your ability to navigate the new culture. How will you know how you are doing? You need guidance. There are many sources of trusted guidance available. You aren’t in this alone. The previous incumbent may be a source of advice. So could your team members. They’ll know what’s worked, or not, before. Peers can help you navigate boundaries. Getting guidance takes time, but it is an investment, not a cost. It’s how you’ll ensure you don’t fall over in the short term, before you have had the opportunity to deliver.
Our colleague, and executive coach, Linda Rodman, guides those new in their role to be cautious about selecting sources of guidance. While in her extensive experience it is unusual for new starters to be intentionally sabotaged, she frequently sees new starters gravitate to those who are openly helpful and genuinely interested. Unless you know that person's reputation and performance, the guidance you receive could be dangerous. So calibrate any guidance you have, using multiple sources. Navigate with care.
So remember, in the short term, you are there to L.E.A.R.N:
Listen to stakeholders
Evaluate the opportunities
Assess the team
Navigate the culture
A Final Word…
It isn’t about landing a new job …. It's about crushing it! And not only in the short term.
We define “crushing it” as using the new role as an opportunity for transformation. You can turn over a new leaf. Transition is the opportunity to intentionally build new behaviors and habits, and have those form part of your skills. It is the time to build your reputation, often without the baggage that often exists when we stay in a role.
Take transition to the next level. Transform!