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The First 90 Days

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Mike Jacoutot, Managing Partner

So, you are in a new management role; congratulations on the assumed promotion! How do you maximize your efforts while not alienating everyone that works for you? It is a real challenge and one worth taking on. I will adapt a few things from author Michael Watkins best seller "The First 90 Days". Having been in this position thirteen times in my thirty-three year business career across four industries with two CEO experiences, I thought I would share the critical success factors to being effective in your new role:

1. Meet with customers. After all, you’re in the customer business, right? I don’t care if you are VP of Sales, HR, Accounting or IT, ask to meet with your company’s customers. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that is true, then meeting with a customer is worth 100,000 words. Everyone will tell you why it can’t happen. Do not accept excuses.

2. Seek to understand before asking to be understood. This is directly from Stephen Covey. Too many times we move into a new role and want to have all the answers. Don’t! Too many times we want to impress our people with our overall knowledge in an effort to justify why we were hired/promoted into the new position. Don’t! You were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason: you should be doing twice as much listening as talking. The most flattering thing you can do with another person is to listen. What you are actually saying to them is this, “your thoughts are more important than mine,”

3. Accelerate your learning. Learning is an investment in your people, your new company and your new role. Plan to learn. Get with your key players and customers and figure out the best sources of insight.

4. Let go of what you know. I know this is a tough one but you need to avoid the danger of only one “best way” of thinking. Ask Robert Nardelli, CEO of both Home Depot and Chrysler. Don’t be a hammer looking for a nail!

5. Shared diagnosis leads to mutual engagement. Achieve alignment. Your new role includes that of an organizational architect. Engage your people in the process of diagnosing the problems. After all, they know what they are as they have had to live with them!

6. Secure early wins. Do not do this at the expense of your predecessor! Avoid the common traps of getting sucked into the drama or knocking your predecessor. Determine your “A” priorities and build a compelling vision. You know what your customers want (#1), you know what your people need (#2) and you have put 2+2 together (#3). Now what is it going to take to achieve some early wins?

7. Effectively manage your new boss. Your boss is going to want to know what you are seeing. Keep s/he informed of what you are seeing. Agree on the diagnosis of the particular situation. Seek confirmation of your findings.

8. Build your team. Inheriting a team and changing it. Managing the tension between short and long term goals. This is no easy task, but if you do #1 thru #7 correctly, it will be much easier to justify the changes you want to make.

9. Create coalitions. Having the “authority” is never enough. Have you heard of the term “civil disobedience?” I have seen many managers fail because they did not align themselves with key influencers. Newcomers need an alliance of people to support their vision. No one does it alone!

10. Balance. Don’t try and boil the ocean. Don’t try and change everything even if you are in a turnaround situation. You eat the elephant “one bite at a time.” A company can only change as fast as their people can learn. Respect the old, build off of it for the new.

At Butler Street, what we have learned by observing thousands of people in business over the past 30 years, is that most people enter a new role the wrong way—almost immediately trying to justify why they were chosen for the role and thus, causing unnecessary friction and ultimately, turnover. While some people are indeed born leaders, there are many where the potential for “made” leaders lies. And therein lies the opportunity. Most people who start out with a degree of innate leadership capability can actually become very good, even great leaders. Click on the CONTACT button to learn more about how Butler Street can help you develop leaders.

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