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How to Fit In

How to Fit In

It’s the cultural and emotional intelligence that can blindside leaders entering new roles. This is what happened to George who found himself out of a job after the first 15-months.

George is a hard charging, passionate, results-focused executive. He’d worked at many prestigious companies significantly growing their business portfolios.

When Nancy, a long-time friend, and business colleague, asked him to join the organization as the chief operating officer, George jumped at the opportunity.

George’s marching orders were to turn around the recent dip in sales. He came in and quickly reorganized the sales force to operate more like one of their competitors. The implementation hadn’t gone smoothly. George had misread the vast differences in the two company’s cultures.

There had been some tough conversations and he’d rubbed some people the wrong way. At the time he chalked this up to their resistance to change so he kept driving ahead. Isn’t that what the CEO and the board had told him to do?

Had George paid more attention to his assimilation, could he have avoided this situation? What can we learn from this misstep?

Assess the Cultural Fit – Many executives get so excited by the business opportunity; they end up joining an organization that isn’t a cultural fit. Before getting all excited about the offer, take a hard look at the culture of the company. Look beyond the business and delve into the company values and culture. Ask yourself, “Do I see myself working and thriving at this company?”

Set Mutual Expectations – Busy, action-oriented leaders can shortchange these conversations. Work with your boss and set expectations and goals. It pays to discuss your 90-day transition plan before you accept the role. Even if there is a prior working relationship, don’t assume you are in lock step in this new situation. Schedule regular check-ins to review the business and how the assimilation is progressing.

Gain Knowledge About the Business – Don’t miss this opportunity to get a fresh look at the business. This includes the cultural, political, and emotional aspects of the business. Assess all the business levers to understand how the entire business ecosystem works. Stay objective and avoid making hasty assumptions based on your own preconceived notions.

Foster Key Relationships – Knowing the people and how they work makes it much easier to make business changes. Take the time to build meaningful relationships both inside and outside the organization. Understand the needs of others and treat them with respect. By building credibility, trust, and respect with colleagues, it will be easier to navigate through challenging situations.

Gel with the Team – High performing teams are critical to an organization’s success. The entry of a new leader changes the dynamics of a team. Accelerate the assimilation by facilitating open dialogue using a New Leader Assimilation Exercise. Discuss goals, objectives, purpose and preferences to build mutual understanding. In a short time, the leader and the team can get to know one another.

Enhance Your Leadership – It can be a mistake for leaders to assume they can lead the same way they did in the last role. What may be a “normal” way of speaking in one organization may be arrogant in another. Leader transitions are a great time to make enhancements and establish new leadership behaviors.

Prepare to Lead Change – Both the timing and approach are critical to making strategic changes. Start by understanding the organization’s culture and history with implementing change. Assess the implications and risks associated with making the change. And clearly get others agreement, alignment, and commitment before charging ahead.

Leaders can avoid career missteps by managing how they assimilate in the new organization.

Please share your comments on the best practices you use assimilating into a new role.