It Starts Now – 5 Things to Consider Before You Begin a New Role

Forget the first 90 days for now – let’s focus on the first 2 weeks.

Go slow to go fast.

Be cautious not to over commit and find yourself stuck at your desk doing “stuff” or trying to solve problems you do not yet fully comprehend. You will have a lot to learn, new people to meet, logistics to navigate, and the list goes on. Stay focused on building a solid foundation in these first weeks.

  1. Your leadership brand starts now. How do you show up?

The adage that you only get one chance to make a first impression is true, yet too many people miss this critical opportunity. Take a moment to consider:

  • How do you introduce yourself?
  • What do you want them to know about you?
  • What is your leadership style and how does it motivate and empower others?
  • How does that come through in your initial interactions?

It does not matter if it is the CEO or the receptionist, if they were on the interview team or not, you have an opportunity to make a great impression as the newest leader on the team.

  1. Invest your time in building rapport.

It is critical to spend time getting to know the team and understanding how the organization runs. Congratulations – you have the job. Time to move out of interview mode and get to know your co-workers. Have fun with it!

  • Build a list on the first day of people you want to meet.
  • In addition to your list, ask your direct manager for their suggestions as well.
  • While you will want and need to spend time with your direct reports and their teams, do not fall into the trap of focusing exclusively on them.
    • Consider setting up time with your peers for a meet and greet. You will begin to get a sense of how the organization runs.
    • Make sure you minimally introduce yourself to the support team members. Let them know you look forward to working with them.

As a side note, you will have a lot of desk work to do in the first few days: paperwork, online learning modules, etc. If possible, set up your workspace so you can at least peripherally see others as they walk by. This gives a sense of permission to stop for a quick conversation.

  1. Shift into learning mode.

The truth is you are about to receive a tsunami of information. Unless you have superhuman memory, there are a few best practices to consider:

  • Space your meetings. Avoid back-to-back meetings which put you in a position to all but dump what you learned in the previous meeting to take in added information. Give yourself the time to review your notes; capture any follow up questions or action items; type a quick note thanking the person for the time and looking forward to working with them, etc. Adding this time between meetings will allow you to be fully present for the next wave of information.
  • Be curious. Ask questions. Listen to learn. Enjoy the freedom of not needing to think through how you are going to respond – you can actively listen! Prepare a few questions to take with you to each meeting. After a few meetings, you will pull from the information you have learned to develop additional questions. Avoid using names of the individual who shared the information but use a more general, “in an earlier conversation….”
  • Do not try to solve anything. I will say it again, as insightful as your idea is, do not move into problem solving mode. Several reasons for this but to start with you do not fully comprehend the nuances of the issues and it can go wrong in so many ways creating an unforced error on your part. Instead, ask a few questions and if it is yours to be part of the solution, set up time to talk about it further. This gives you the opportunity to gather your thoughts and have a well-informed discussion with additional data and perspectives.

As best practice, review your notes at the end of the day or the following morning (or both).  With the amount of information you are taking in, this will give you a second shot at absorbing more of the content.

  1. Stay Organized.

Have you ever sat staring at your email, Dropbox, neatly stacked piles on the corner of your desk or other random ways you try to stay organized and wished for a do-over? Here is your do-over.

  • Find out early on if there is a corporate filing system? If so, what are the rules of the road and adjust accordingly.
  • If you are using a new email system, search YouTube or other learning channels for core functionality and best practices BEFORE you start to set up a system.
  • Are there regularly scheduled meetings you will be attending? If so, put them on the calendar now. Block time on your calendar the day before to prepare for the meeting, reread notes from prior meetings, be prepared.
  • Do you want to have a standing one on one meeting with your direct reports? Monthly team meetings? Now is a good time to put them on the calendar.
  • Is there a best practice you always wanted to implement but never have? If so, put it on your calendar now! Something along the lines of 30 minutes at the end of the day to wrap up loose ends and prepare for the following day? I personally try to block 15 minutes mid-morning and 15 minutes mid-afternoon to give my brain a break and let it naturally refile and assimilate all the data points I have encountered throughout the day.

You can learn and adjust as you go. It does not matter what your system is, but it is important to think about it now.

  1. Prioritize and secure an early win.

While I emphatically suggested that you should avoid going into problem solving mode during your initial meetings, you should have your radar up for items to explore and prioritize as well as where you can secure easy, early wins.

  • Keep a running list of opportunities you uncover as you work your way through the initial conversations within the organization. I suggest keeping this list for at least 6 months as some items that are more complex, or you do not have the background to understand the nuances early in your role, may work their way to the top of your list.
  • Pay attention to inconsistencies and discrepancies that may appear in the conversations. Once you have your foundation built, go back to these, and dig deeper as inconsistencies and discrepancies are clear signs that there is minimally a communication gap if not a larger issue that could get in the way of future growth.
  • Review the list, looking for adjacent opportunities that may have a single solution to resolve.
  • Listen for key challenges your team mentions that may deliver an early win. It does not have to be a big item – it shows you were listening to them.
  • Think strategically of the initiatives, talent, or technology you need to build your division for the future. Add these to the list as well.
  • Take note of what is being said but also what is not.

This methodical review will pay dividends in the impact you will have on the organization.

In Summary

You are starting a journey of a thousand races, not a quick 10-yard sprint. Give yourself the gift of building a solid foundation for the future.

Great people do great things!