By Stephen Bruyant-Langer
The first 100 days in a new job can be more than challenging for you as a leader.
Therefore, it is crucial that you prepare yourself thoroughly, and especially you must remember to listen to your new colleagues. Here are 7 points to be aware of when starting a new job.
1. Understand the assignment
Of course, when you are new somewhere, you want to make the best impression possible. Therefore, you must be aware of what task you are required to perform. You must understand that you have been hired to solve a task. As a leader, you must have the end game in mind when taking on a new job. Results and direction are the two most important success criteria when you start your new job. Get a good sense of the mission-critical issues and be able to define the direction needed. You probably have not come to revolutionize the business in the first 100 days, but you’ve probably come to send things in a new direction. Keep that laser focus.
“If the terrain differs from the map, follow the terrain!“
2. Prepare well
Solid preparation is absolutely essential for your success in your new leadership role. However, arriving with theoretical models and a big vision for where the people and the organization should go is not always the best way to come across. You must have a plan that is solid enough to allow you to deviate from it. For a modern leader it is crucial to be well-prepared and at the same time adaptive: If the terrain differs from the map, follow the terrain. You must work according to a blueprint while at the same time being in an observational state – listening to clients, partners, and colleagues. As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.
3. Be yourself
You should never change your fundamental characteristics as a leader just to fit into a new organization. Instead, you should take yourself completely into the job. You must always be yourself and weigh authenticity and integrity highly. But of course, you need to remain flexible in order not to appear as a bull in a china shop. Remember, you are the one joining their team, not the other way around. You need to find your own way around the organization and create your new structure of support. There is no need to know everything from the start, and you can always ask for help. Empathy is a critical 21st-century skill. A little vulnerability doesn’t hurt!
4. Communicate clearly and precisely
You must have the whole story you want to tell in place right from the start. The story to your new colleagues is important if you want to align them to work towards a common goal. You should draw a picture of the future that identifies where you will go together as a team. And be sure to prepare a visual image of the destination for yourself. Because if you do not fully believe in the mental picture, your colleagues will not believe in it either. The story should be concrete and have an individual or personal twist. There must be emotion, and there must be both drama and turbulence – and some surprises and some humor. Ultimately, it is about connecting with your new workplace. This is best done through emotions.
5. The job is about the future
Your new colleagues do not want to hear about your past, but about what you can do together in the future. What you’ve done in the past is not what counts. Who you are and what you will do for them in the future is what is important. There’s nothing more annoying for new colleagues than having to listen to stories about what you did when you worked somewhere else. You should expect that your new colleagues will be a little skeptical of you in the beginning. But you can conquer this skepticism by talking about where to go in the future and by asking for their visions, expectations, and wishes. It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting. Keep that lighthouse in front of you as a guidepost.
“Keep the big picture in mind!“
6. Be open and trustful
You must be clear in your mind and communication and have a clear plan, but you must also be open to integrating the input you receive. There can be a big discrepancy between the organization and yourself if you do not communicate honestly and regularly with the team. Transparency is of the essence and the best way of getting things done is very often trusting your colleagues and delegating as much as possible. Spend your time on what only you can do. Many of my clients have doubts and bad conscience when spending time on simply thinking. But that is exactly where you create value. By doing stuff that is important and not urgent. By keeping the big picture in mind.
7. Be realistic and penetrating
If you are to be successful as a leader in your new job, it is imperative that you are realistic in your approach. In the end, good leadership is about how good you are at using your network and helping your team create sustainable solutions. Many people have sharp elbows – especially early in their career – but you must not become too much “me, me, me”. Senior executives are often better than their younger colleagues at giving responsibility and sharing public praise. You have to get into the business. But you must also impact the business logic instead of simply following the workflows that exist at your arrival.
You are in a hurry, and you need to focus. Because after the first 100 days you will have lost your penetrating laser vision and have become partially blind. You will no longer see the workplace with fresh eyes. Together with my executive coaching clients, I have made many plans for their first 100 days, always ensuring that the new leader is able to keep a “beginner’s mind”.
Work on the business, not in the business.
In this video (in Danish) made for the Danish Association of Managers, I give more tips to get started safely as a leader in a new workplace.
Please feel free to share your own stories or ask for advice. I will do my utmost to help you.