In these transformative times, the status quo can be a death sentence to a business. Change is essential for any leader looking to advance and deliver top performance.
I have personally led and experienced both successful and failed initiatives. I have been honored to work with top leaders of global companies and iconic brands, each trying to create a “secret sauce” to bring products and services to market. Through my own experiences and significant strategic engagements, I have learned some consistent truths about change, regardless of the type of company, the industry, or location. I want to share these truths with you.
Truth: Leaders who know how to navigate and lead change have a competitive advantage that enables them to reap the rewards in increased revenue and profits. Unfortunately, most leaders, while constantly initiating change, admit they are not very good at actually leading change.
Truth: If you want a different outcome, you must change what you and your people do. Everyone – from the C-Suite to the person in the field – has a role to play. But often people want the benefits of the change, without being changed. People rarely agree, accept, or adopt a new way merely by being told to “do it.”
Truth: Change requires people who are ready, willing, and able to make the change. If you want the business to achieve its full potential, you need to find ways to engage your people and your organization quickly in working in the new way. You can spend millions on a business solution, but if you can’t get people to use the system or deploy the strategy, you will not achieve the results you want.
Truth: Change initiatives are people intensive, and learning a new set of behaviors takes time. You can accelerate the change with the right reinforcement systems and behavioral engagement plans. Regrettably, too many leaders shy away from the human side of change; they find it easier to focus on the business plan tactics.
Truth: Leaders talk about what others need to do differently, but often don’t realize that change starts with themselves. It’s easy for you to forget you’ve been working on the strategic initiative for weeks and months, familiarizing yourself with the design and business plan. Once the initiative is announced, you expect people to jump into action. Too frequently, the people don’t understand the change or know what they should do. They feel overwhelmed and undersupported; they may do the wrong things, or not act at all.
At a loss of where to start?
Change starts with you. Knowing what needs to be accomplished, why it’s important beyond just the dollars and cents and how you plan to engage the hearts, hands, and heads of your fellow colleagues to want to change versus merely complying with your request.
For more insights about leading change, pick up a copy of my book “The Truth About Change” on Amazon and visit my website at www.HilaryPotts.com.
The adrenaline rush and sense of urgency of a new role can be intoxicating. Others are counting on you to deliver results. It feels like the clock is ticking and you must do something fast.
If you’re not careful, that same passion can blur your vision of what’s really needed to achieve results. The need for speed can drive leaders to make unwise decisions. Without full knowledge of the business or alignment from colleagues, initiatives will surely stall.
The problem is, most incoming leaders aren’t fully prepared, thus the reason for an onboarding period. In fact, Carucci & Hansen’s research of incoming leaders found that nearly two-thirds of leaders admitted that they lacked sufficient understanding of what was required of them and they weren’t fully prepared for what they faced in a new role.
So why is it that new leaders jump so quickly to make decisions without fully assessing the situation? The very onboarding strategies and due diligence that could help a leader are abandoned for action.
The drive for performance and need for speed sometimes lures leaders in the wrong direction. It’s easy to convince yourself that the solution you implemented in your prior role will work just fine in this new situation.
Now hold on for just a minute.
Too many initiatives fail to meet their intended outcomes. Could it be that you are moving too quickly? Is there agreement and alignment to move things forward?
Instead of abandoning your onboarding due diligence, use it to your advantage.
- Get others engaged with you in gathering the facts, and assessing the situation.
- Find the time to get to know the business, people, customers, and culture.
- Build the credibility, trust, and respect of your colleagues.
- Let go of your paradigms and preconceived notions.
- Assess the overall situation to determine what’s the best solution for the business.
- Develop clear plans that help people ‘want’ to make the change versus resist the change.
- Get everyone committed and engaged in implementing the solution.
- Take time out to celebrate your successes and learn from your failures.
Sometimes to go fast requires slowing down just a bit to make sure you are heading in the right direction. When we go slow, others are able to get on board and help with the solution. All of this could actually save a ton of time and aggravation on the back-end.
In a new role, making changes too quickly is just one of the mistakes incoming leaders make. In a recent ExecuNet Masterclass, How to Bring Your Best to a New Role, I shared the 10 common mistakes executives make entering new roles. You can access William Flamme’s article and the video excerpt of our discussion about making changes too quickly.
Are you interested in learning about the other ten mistakes?
You can receive the 10 Mistakes Executives Make Entering a New Role here
Are you so focused on the end result that you are charging ahead, assuming everyone is with you?
Before you find yourself all alone, here are simple steps to lead through even the trickiest situations:
- Help others see “why” the change is important to make
- Set clear direction and get buy-in for what needs to be accomplished
- Prepare yourself for the change and know what it will take to enroll others
- Map out an implementation plan so others can own the solution
- Be consistent in your own actions
- Keep people in the know with open lines of communication
- Provide frequent feedback and remove obstacles in the way of progress
- Celebrate even the smallest of advancements and people will begin to move in the right direction
When leaders enable others by gaining agreement and buy-in, the momentum of the change begins to shift from the actions of one to the actions of many.
Change requires leaders to be at the top of their game. It means completing the current work while shifting or adding something new.
The numerous acquisitions, mergers, and general business changes occurring in the marketplace today create an opportunity for new and interesting assignments. Leaders can forget to prepare themselves for the change while putting all their attention into the business strategies and logistics.
Use these five questions to determine how best to serve the organization and prepare for the challenges that will surely lie ahead.
1. Do I understand what’s at stake?
What’s the situation and am I committed to leading myself and others through this change? What are my pre-conceived notions about how the change will impact myself, the business, organization, culture, process, or people?
2. Am I willing to do what it takes to make this a success?
What does success look like? Am I willing to make the commitment to lead the change, even if it means standing alone? If so, what are the three to five specific goals I wish to accomplish during this transition?
3. How will I get others committed and engaged to make the change?
Who is important to implementing the change? How will people react to the change? What will it take create a sense of urgency to get others engaged? What’s my plan to build the relationships and trust to execute the change?
4. What do I need to do to lead this change?
What are my leadership strengths and vulnerabilities in leading this change? What leadership skills and behaviors will be necessary to perform at my best? How will I approach this change while juggling the other aspects of my role?
5. When the going gets tough, how will I motivate myself and others?
How will small victories be celebrated? How will I provide feedback and inspire others as they work in a new way? How will I remove obstacles and impediments when they get in the way?
These questions can help you assess the situation and determine where you are headed. Then develop your change goals, and engage others who can help you make it happen. Be sure to pay attention to the impact your leadership has on others and make the appropriate adjustments that lead to successful outcomes.
7 Ingredients to Start Your New Role Strong
As you enter a new role, your expectations and those who hired you are high. Are you adequately prepared to lead yourself and others through this change?
Over 67% of leaders when polled by Carruci and Hansen (Rise to Power) said “they lacked sufficient understanding of what was required and were unprepared for what they faced, which explains why 50 percent of leaders fail within the first eighteen months.”
All too often leaders feeling the pressure to contribute, look for the easiest and fastest path to enter a new assignment which sometimes means abandoning the transition period. While it may be tempting to jump right in, over time, the lack of a transition plan is a disservice and a risk to you and your company.
Extraordinary leaders know their role is to serve the people and the business. These leaders take the necessary actions to ensure they are fully equipped to support the business. It starts with what they do and say within the first 90-100 days in the new role.
Over the years I’ve noticed consistent themes in successful transitions and learned to be wary of the common missteps leaders fall into as they short circuit the entry into the role.
In this article, I will share seven key transition ingredients to get your transition into a new role headed in the right direction.
1) Establish Your Transition Goals and Strategy
It starts with assessing and understanding the business situation and getting ready to handle the challenges that lie ahead. Before moving forward use the following questions to identify your transition goals and strategy.
- How much do you know about the business? What are the pre-conceived notions you have about the business, organization, culture, process, or people?
- What are your transition goals? Name 3-5 specific goals you want to accomplish as you enter this new role.
- What is your strategy to get-up-to-speed over the next 90-100 days?
- What are your leadership strengths and vulnerabilities? What leadership skills are necessary to effectively perform in this new role?
- Who are the key people you need to get to know? What is your plan to make these connections?
- What will colleagues be saying about you after 3 months? How will you know you successfully transitioned into the organization?
Refer to your strategy and goals throughout your transition and make adjustments as you uncover more information.
2) Enhance Your Leadership
Entering a new role isn’t the time to get complacent or assume your current approach will fit the new position. As roles change, so should your leadership behaviors. A job transition is a good time to assess your leadership and make the necessary enhancements.
Use tools such as a Personal SWOT Analysis to assess your strengths and weaknesses, as well as potential threats and opportunities for growth.
- Which skills and characteristics do you consider to be your strengths?
- What are your vulnerabilities or tasks you usually avoid?
- What trends do you see and how can you take advantage of them in this new role?
- What obstacles do you face and how might the changing work environment intimidate you? Could any of your strengths or weaknesses lead to potential threats?
Your words and actions can have a significant impact on what others say and do. Every step into more senior roles requires new leadership actions and approaches. Often leaders get stuck working in the same old ways only to find that the approach is no longer effective.
Critically examine your new role, the business situation and the necessary skills needed to be successful. Ask yourself:
- What leadership behaviors do I need to start doing?
- What behaviors or actions no longer serve me in this new role?
- What should I continue doing as I move into this new role?
Communicate Your Personal Brand
When colleagues are clear about what you bring to the role, it’s easier to work with you. Knowing what you want to say ahead of time also allows for more meaningful conversations. Keep your messages short and simple and stick to relevant aspects to build credibility and respect.
Personal Branding statements can help you talk about yourself. Sharing your background doesn’t mean recounting your whole life. Yes, I have heard seasoned executives go on and on regaling their life stories leaving little time for anything else.
Develop and articulate your personal brand using the following:
Value Proposition – Describe your personal brand and the special value you bring to the business. What can you say about yourself in two to four short inspiring sentences that differentiates your unique talents?
Professional and Personal Background – People will be curious about who you are and why you were chosen for the role. Your background gives people some context and acts as a good conversation starter. Again, it’s not your life story, just the nuggets that help people get to know you. Be sure to include stories about what you like to do when you aren’t at work.
Leadership Values – One of the best ways to present your leadership approach is through sharing examples and stories about what you value. Then back up your conversations by walking your talk. Choose three to five core values that demonstrate your approach to leadership.
Mutual Expectations – During your initial discussions set mutual expectations for how you will work with others. Focus on mutual expectations for the first 90-100 days and re-adjust at the end of the transition period.
Share Your Message – Finally pull together the relevant stories and messages you will want to share with others to start to build the foundation of where you will lead the area.
3) Create a Learning Environment
“The capacity to learn is a gift. The ability to learn is a skill. The willingness to learn is a choice.” Brian Herbert
The first 90-100 days gives you the unique opportunity to fully review the business, culture, people and customers, which is something you may not have the luxury or time to do later. Before jumping to conclusions, listen to all sides of a topic.
Go broad and deep in reviewing all aspects of the business, even the areas that aren’t of particular interest to you. These areas when missed can cause challenges down the road. In the early days of a new role you have permission to get into the details, ask the stupid questions and really explore how the business operates.
Each area of the business may have a slightly different perspective of how things should work. So go beyond your own area and look cross-organizationally to pick up information about how the business operates.
I advise clients to talk less and observe more. It’s easy to get caught up on the technical aspects and fail to see the emotional and social aspects of how work gets done. The “softer” aspects of the business can actually be the harder areas to navigate especially when leading changes in the future.
Prepare a list of the areas and topics you wish to learn more about as well as the individuals and groups who can help you with this learning. Create questions to prepare for the many discussions. Compile your notes and documents as you go along so you can assess the business.
4) Incorporate Healthy Practices
Times of transition can be hectic and stressful as leaders move out of their comfort zones. Stepping into a new role and plowing through really isn’t a smart option. The new role requires stamina and energy to get up-to-speed.
Below are ten Daily Healthy Practices to keep you are physically, mentally and emotionally ready to make the most of the opportunity you have been given.
- Exercise at least 20-30 minutes a day
- Get up early and plan your day
- Eat healthy foods
- Stay hydrated
- Sleep at least 7-9 hours per night
- Regain balance through deep breathing
- Show gratitude and provide positive feedback to others
- Find a few minutes of silence and quiet time through meditation and other mindfulness techniques
- Capture your thoughts and ideas in a journal
- Take regular breaks from electronic devices
5) Make First Impressions Count
Whether you know colleagues well or not at all, use the entry into this position to cultivate solid working relationships.
Too often I see leaders “wing” conversations and lose the opportunity for more in-depth discussions with colleagues.
For each conversation develop a conversation preparation plan just like you would for a customer meeting. Better conversations aid to quickly build credibility, trust and respect which lead to better business decisions.
Do your homework using the following five steps to cultivate better relationships:
Know Your Audience – Do some research ahead of time on the people, their backgrounds and interests.
Identify Key Topics – Know what you wish to discuss ahead of time.
Prepare for Questions – Make good use of the brief face time with well thought-out questions and answers.
Assess Reactions – Get prepared to handle the interpersonal and emotional aspects of conversations. How will people react to what is going on around them? What can you do and say that would help them get focused and working productively?
Prompt Follow-up – A conversation is a terrific first step. What kind of follow up actions will help to advance the discussions?
6) Assimilate with the Organization
High performing teams are critical to an organization’s success.
As the new player on the team, get acquainted with how the team currently works before making changes. This knowledge allows you to know where, when, and how to make adjustments that can be owned by the entire team.
Use a Team Assimilation Work Session to facilitate a group conversation. Ask your HR Professional or an objective coach or facilitator to help you develop and deliver this session.
7) Communicate Strategically
Your new role signifies a change — staying in touch becomes a key element to focusing and engaging others. People will want to know where they stand, what is expected of them and what happens next.
Don’t leave your communication to chance. During times of change, people need more information, not less. Unfortunately, leaders can fall into the trap of not communicating enough thinking they don’t have anything definitive to say.
Communicating “nothing” is communicating something. When smart people lack communication they chart their own course, while others make up their own stories, which most of the time they are wrong. Without proper communication, people lack clarity and productivity suffers.
Create a Communication Plan to communicate with others, and don’t be shy to communicate the same message several times. It can take an organization time to hear and process the message. Consistent, well thought out communication keeps everyone moving in the same direction.
Get Started: Pre-Day One Checklist
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” — Alexander Graham Bell
Get organized and started well before your first day in the new role. I suggest developing your Transition Playbook prior to day one. Below is a checklist of actions you can take to jump-start your transition and be ready for your first day on the job:
- Complete the previous assignment — leave it better then you found it
- Find out everything you can about the company and the business — begin capturing questions, and topics to review when you are in the role
- Incorporate Healthy Practices into your daily routine
- Start developing your Transition Playbook. This includes goal setting, calendar blocking, and mapping out your transition plans
- Craft your Personal Branding Messages
- Assess your leadership and determine how you will approach the new role
- Seek advice and rally key resources that can support your entry
- Map out your approach to learning and assessing the business
- Develop a list of key stakeholders you will want to meet
- Map out your Communication Strategy
I wish you the best in your new role and hope these practical ideas and tools help you with your transition.
For more information and ideas, please visit our website www.HilaryPotts.com or pick up a copy of The Executive Transition Playbook: Strategies for Starting Strong, Staying Focused, and Succeeding in a New Leadership Role. In the book, I share a five step process to create and implement an Executive Transition Playbook that guides executives through the first 90-100 days.
If you found this article helpful, then be sure to leave a comment. And if you know of someone else who might like this, be sure to pass it on.
To your success!
About Hilary Potts
Hilary Potts, founder of The HAP Group, is a leadership strategist who advises some of the world’s most prominent organizations to create solutions that transform business results through leadership. She is the author of The Executive Transition Playbook: Strategies for Starting Strong, Staying Focused, and Succeeding in Your New Leadership Role.
Prior to founding The HAP Group, she served as CEO and President of Continuous Learning Group. She spent the first 15 years of her career at a Union Carbide, where she held a variety sales and business management positions.
Hilary is available for workshops, speaking engagements and one-on-one coaching. She works with organizations as well as individuals to achieve results through leadership.
To learn more about how to successfully transition into a new role and how Hilary works with clients, visit www.HilaryPotts.com.