Congrats! You’ve landed a new leadership position. While it is an exciting time filled with opportunity, it can also be stressful and pressure-packed as you look to acclimate yourself to a new organization and begin making a positive impact as quickly as possible.
You know what you’ve signed up for and that honeymoon periods are short, typically not more than two or three months. You also know what you need to do: apply your experience and talents, start building relationships with the executive team (as well as your own direct reports), and drive home a couple wins in the first few months to demonstrate your value.
But in today’s dynamic and fast-moving workplaces, successful career moves aren’t as easy as they once were, even for the most qualified and diligent among us. Hybrid work environments mean it often takes longer to build solid relationships with colleagues; our instant-gratification culture leads to others’ impatience in wanting to see real results from your work; and there will surely be initial hurdles to clear in the business that you weren’t anticipating.
For the above reasons and several others, many new leaders struggle to live up to their organizations’ expectations. So, how can you best ensure your success in a new role? Here are some tips:
- Ask your boss what you can do to make their job easier
One of the fastest ways to add value is by discovering and understanding the challenges faced by your boss and offering solutions. With that in mind, work to solve as many problems in your domain as you can without leaning unnecessarily on your boss.
You don’t need to fix everything in your early days, but your fresh perspective could lead to process (or other) improvements and some quick wins. Taking a proactive approach should serve you well.
2. Focus on short-term deliverables (that shape long-term outcomes)
Every day before you log on, ask yourself if you’re doing the right things that day to deliver on your team’s commitments. Be as clear as possible on what needs to happen today, this week, and this month, in order to achieve agreed upon goals. It’s okay if peripheral stuff – speaking and networking engagements, for example – fall off your calendar for six months so you can focus on delivering and building momentum for your team.
3. Know when (and how) to take a stand
Being a trusted advisor to your boss and executive team means you have to push back sometimes. Whether it’s an unreasonable deadline, a flawed process, or something else, as a senior leader, you have a responsibility to voice your concerns.
But there is a key thing to keep in mind when choosing your battles. Make sure you have built enough credibility within the organization. That credibility comes mainly from you and your team consistently performing at a high level and getting stuff done. If that’s the case, people will take EVERYTHING you say seriously and you’ll have a ton of credibility. Anyone can be a critic, but not anyone can build and lead a high-performing team.
4. Pay attention to culture and foster it
Culture means different things to different people, but few would argue its importance. A good culture will help you motivate your team and retain them, too. A bad one will do just the opposite.
But one person alone can’t create a culture, so ask your direct reports and peers what they like and what they would change about the organization. Then look to partner with your HR team to develop ways to improve the organization’s culture. Even if it is already strong, efforts to make the culture even better will reflect well on you and benefit everyone – a rising tide lifts all boats.
5. Read about management and leadership
Yes, you are busy with a million things at work and probably have little free time. But try to commit to reading one book on leadership or management every six months. If you can’t make that happen, find a few online sources on those topics and carve out 30 minutes each week to read them. You will almost certainly learn best practices that you can implement with your team.
6. Be conscious of how your attitude affects others
As a leader, you should aim to be open, authentic, and trustworthy. But be aware that your mood and demeanor WILL have an effect on your peers and team.
That said, don’t be afraid to let people know when you’re frustrated or need help, but try not to pull down everyone around you. Balance negative emotions and comments with positive ones. The glass doesn’t have to be half empty or half full. It can just be a glass. A steady outlook and consistent behavior will instill confidence in those around you.
7. Find a peer support group
Peer support groups can be valuable for many reasons, but mainly because people will be more candid privately than they are publicly (on social media, for example).
Look for either formal peer groups you can join through organizations like Renaissance Executive Forums, or build your own group by connecting with leaders in your functional area that work for companies of similar size in adjacent industries. Most will be happy to connect with you.
Now, go forth and stride confidently into your new leadership role knowing that you are going to make a tremendous impact on your new organization. Godspeed!