Launching into a High-Profile Role
By Janet Polach
You’ve landed the ideal job and been promoted to a senior leadership position. Congratulations!
Now, you’ve got to do the job. For most of us, while the job was sought out and satisfying once achieved, it can be fraught with challenges.
I recently queried a number of senior leaders who had either taken a role in a new company or were recently promoted within their current organisation. I asked them about the challenges they were facing, four or five months in, and their perspectives were consistent:
- Getting to know their team, not only what they do, but how they do it.
- Encouraging the workforce to return to work, while engaging rather than deflating them.
- Clarifying their functional priorities “while flying the plane”.
- Understanding what matters to the new boss.
These are the nuances senior leaders face. While leaders aspire to these challenges, you are expected to deliver quickly while working with multiple unknowns. In speaking with countless senior leaders, I’ve uncovered a few strategies to employ during the transition period.
Ask more than tell to establish credibility. Let new colleagues see why you were hired. Most likely you were selected over others. Take time to meet with your peers and understand the value they provide and how you can support. Listen and take notes. They will discover your expertise through quality questions, rather than puffing your expertise.
Take time to know what makes each team member tick. What matters to them? When are they at their best – morning or afternoon? What kind of assignments give them energy? Deflate them? These insights don’t come through twenty-minute check in conversations. They can be discovered overtime or can be uncovered in meaningful conversation with each direct, perhaps over lunch or dinner. Liane Davey offers her clients a questionnaire for employees to share with their new leader to uncover these details.
Gather feedback early. While it may be difficult for direct reports to share early concerns directly to their new boss, it’s critical for new senior leaders to understand very quickly how they are perceived, the headwinds they may be facing, and what they might be missing. Direct reports form impressions with a few interactions. Partner with an HR business partner or onboarding coach to gather and act on meaningful feedback 90 days into the new role.
Spend real time with your new boss. While you may have spent considerable time with your new boss prior to your offer, re-establish the relationship after you’ve been onboarded. Know that you aren’t your boss’ only priority, but take the initiative to share emerging priorities and check for agreement. Be open to adjust plans even though you did it differently (and successfully) in your former role.
Clarify and overcome resistance. As a new leader, there may be reluctance, either verbal or unspoken, to your ideas and points of view. Identify trusted colleagues early and “test” recommendations with them before going all in. Thank them for their insights and make a mental note to support them later on controversial ideas.
New roles are rewarding but can also be exhausting. Take time to get to know your team and leverage them early. Check in with peers on your progress and gather feedback early on to ascertain what you’re up against.
About the author
As a retired Marine Corps officer, Janet knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a great leader. She holds a Ph.D. in leadership development and has assisted hundreds of leaders across the globe, including major brands and government agencies, find their leadership voice in a noisy world. Her no-nonsense but lighthearted approach creates transformational results for even the most struggling leaders. She would be delighted to connect with you for a FREE 90-minute coaching conversation to uncover a key issue that is holding you back and create a plan to move you forward.