Bottom Line Up Front: There are many ways to succeed. This approach has worked for me. I offer it to you in the hope that it may benefit you.
Three of the keys to getting off to a good start in a new organization: Accept Reality, Earn & Strengthen Trust and Demonstrate Competence. Do these three things well, with brisk authority, without being pretentious and you’ll increase the likelihood you’re on solid ground, setting yourself up for success.
In Part 1 of this series, learn how to accept reality. For the purposes of this example five managers report to you. If you’re managing more than five managers you’re probably short-changing someone. Try to get it down to five or fewer.
Congratulations, you’re in charge, but people spot fakes so don’t be one.
Congratulations, you’re in charge.
A lot is going through your mind.
There are many ways to succeed when you’re new.
Each scenario will be different.
Each one of us must be genuine—you might even say authentic– in his own way.
So, before reading any of the following, commit first to being yourself.
Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
This doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate all the advice I am giving into your own style.
Change the words but not the messages because the messages are good and they work.
Here are three key principles to taking charge of a new organization:
Establishing Trust and
All of these three work together.
Demonstrate to the people you lead that you seek to do these three things right off the bat and you’ll be off to a good start.
However, let’s not kid ourselves.
Leadership is complicated.
All the different components of a good leader reinforce each other.
How you do all of the things a leader does will communicate who you are to your organization.
We are only focusing on three in this series of short articles.
Today, it’s all about accepting reality.
A leader’s first responsibility is to accept reality and then deal with it or improve it.
Anthony Robbins and others have said this means you see things as they are, but not worse than they are.
See things as they are, and you can start to formulate a plan with your team to improve things.
But before you can accept reality you must know what it is.
Finding out what reality is in a new organization is a little tough, but you can earn trust while determining reality. By so doing, you demonstrate competence.
Learn what reality is objectively, but also subjectively through the eyes of your subordinates.
Then, interpret it correctly. Help them lead your entire organization to better solutions to the problems you face together.
Sounds easy, huh?
Say this to your managers first thing in the morning on the first day.
In the first hour of the first day tell your management team 3 things after exchanging a little light small talk (so they don’t think you’re a psycho):
First, “I’d like your assessment of our organization by the end of the day. 1 page, hand-written, top 3 strengths of the organization, 3 most pressing problems, and a brief narrative on your general assessment of how we are going to get where you think we should be in 18 months.”
Second, “I’ll be meeting with you as a group in 30 minutes.”
Third, “I’ll be meeting with each of you individually by the end of the day.”
Doing this shows you have a plan, that you’re willing and able to communicate it clearly and that you’ll take action. Taking action is important, but only if it’s not disruptive. Don’t be disruptive early on. Taking action also makes you feel better and that’s important. It’s hard to steer a parked car, so get things moving.
Never underestimate how important your own well-being is to the organization you manage and lead.
Remember, too, that nobody is qualified for a new job on the first day unless he’s sandbagging (sometimes it’s smart to sandbag, but we will assume you’re not sandbagging); he is only qualified in varying degrees to learn that job.
You have told your team you’ll meet with them individually.
You expect their assessment of the organization at that time.
So far, so good.
Now you meet with them as a group.
The first meeting with your subordinate managers or close advisors as a group
At the first meeting you should lay out the ground rules.
Here’s what has worked for me.
Say, “I’m happy to be here. There are some things I feel strongly about. Here’s what they are:
First, I don’t ever want to hear you criticize, condemn or complain in front of other employees.
If you want to do that or the business case demands it, you and I will do it behind closed doors.
Second, if you’re on my team I assume we are working together, so I won’t speak ill of you.
Likewise, don’t speak ill of me or this organization.
Third, never bring me a problem without at least one solution. Three solutions is better. I don’t care how outlandish the solution is, just bring me something to get the solutions flowing.”
I think it’s accepted wisdom that you have to discard 20 bad ideas to get one good one.
Seems about right.
Get your team in the problem solving mode right out of the chute.
Let that all sink in, and then say,
“I have heard good things about each of you. I won’t be making any major changes for at least 30 days. Also, I can handle any reality, so don’t be afraid to tell me any news however bad. It’s what I don’t know about that concerns me, and finally, in addition to your assessments of the organization and where you think we should be in 18 months, let me know soon what your own professional and personal goals are. If there is any way I can help you attain them I will. That includes positioning you to move to another organization from a position of strength at this one on your own timeline, if that’s what you want. My assumption is good people are always looking and always being scouted so let’s be up front with each other on that score. Now, what questions do you have for me?”
Wait a respectful amount of time and close the meeting.
Say something like, “Thank you for your time. I’ll see each of you shortly.”
Stand up and walk out of the room.
We will be covering your first one-on-one meeting with your direct reports in a later series.
Next Week: Earning trust.
Call to Action: Review this email, go over these steps, and make them your own. Re-write them using your own words but do try to stay close to the spirit of what this advice offers. It has served others well and will serve you well, too.