Posted by Hays UAE, May 2015
There are many schools of thought about what you should do when you start in a new leadership role. But, if there’s one piece of advice I could give you — start planning how you are going to make your presence count well before you arrive. The clock starts ticking from Day 1, but you can work on your change plan well before you walk in the door to ensure every one of those first 90 days counts.
I’ve seen some newly installed business leaders adopt the “watch and learn” approach, assessing their environment, talking to customers, suppliers and employees extensively while keeping their powder very dry until they are ready to move, weeks or months later. Others arrive and treat every waking hour in their new position like it is their last, seeking to make maximum change within the shortest timescales. Firestorms of change.
Every organisation and situation is unique, of course, so there’s not necessarily any right or wrong answer. The wait and see approach might work for some businesses, whereas the immediate action approach could be right for others.
In practice, though, my experience is that adopting elements of both routes works best. I have always sought to make sure my business understands early on why I am there, my agenda for the business and the issues that need resolving. While I may not have the answers on Day 1, at least people should know what I see as the priorities to sort out, when by and what I intend to do about it. That doesn’t mean high-level waffle about bringing a business “closer to its customers” or some such platitudes either. It means a more detailed insight into the real issues at stake and what I intend to spend my time on. Get those messages out early and consistently, and try to do as much of it face to face as you can so you can better start the dialogue that will lead to the necessary changes you’ll make. Leaders by definition have followers and now is your chance to start building the following you’ll need.
Above all, recognise that your first 90 days are your honeymoon period. It is during this time that you will receive the most amount of latitude for any actions you take. It is also the period when the organisation you are now leading will be most open to — and even expecting — significant change. Remember, you are dealing with human beings who want to know what is in store. They expect you to do something that places your stamp on the business, and they are watching and interpreting your every move. Make their lives easier and just tell them, and then deliver your changes while they are still expecting something to happen. Delaying too long and they’ll lose interest, and you may miss the opportunity to experiment with potentially radical and beneficial change. This doesn’t mean, however, just charging in and forcing change without any analysis and consultation. Unless the business is on the brink and you know the issues intimately, this could be counter-productive and even destructive.
You can get a head start on this busy period by thinking about what changes you need to make well before you arrive. If you are an external candidate, you should already have gained detailed knowledge of the organisation and its challenges during the selection process. Use the interview process to test out your potential solutions and ideas. This will do no harm at all to your prospects. If you land the job, try and make the space before joining to at least meet some of the key stakeholders, customers, suppliers, employees etc so you already have a strong hypothesis on your agenda when you turn up.
So, when you are next moving into a new leadership role in any organisation, do everything you can to map out how you can make your honeymoon period count. As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Until next time,
...and remember to always lead others through your example