The views and opinions expressed are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
This is the first of a four-part series on key considerations and action items during your first 120 days in a new job.
They say the typical executive will switch positions 5-7 times during his or her career. How can you ensure a smooth and effective transition? This series is intended to compliment what others have written over the years with some fresh perspective. In this post, I will start with recommended actions during an oft-ignored time period: the 30 days prior to your start date.
30 Days Prior
After you have celebrated your new role with friends and family, you have to get to work. This is a challenging transition time, as you must first honor your commitments and obligations to your current employer while also carving out time to focus on your pending role. Your primary commitment and loyalty remains with your current employer. However, if you can find some time to invest in your pending gig, it will pay dividends.
I recommend incorporating a one-week break between the two roles to reconnect and refresh. This is an important to time to take a break and immerse yourself in family. Starting a new role is an intensive process requiring extensive start-up time. You will only regret the time you didn’t take off.
Work closely with your new organization’s corporate communications team to ensure that your internal announcement is pristine. The announcement establishes others’ first impressions of you, so it’s critical to make sure it is on point. Your picture should be in your Sunday school best. Your quote needs to be specific and visionary. Timing can be sensitive. Continue to show respect to your current employer by consulting with them on the timing of the announcement.
I prefer to enter a new role fully informed and armed with a plan. Leverage your network to learn everything you can about your new employer and role. While gathering information, you have the opportunity to strengthen relationships with your new team.
In my last transition, I was fortunate to have several weekly meetings in advance to have my new team bring me up to speed on everything from politics to history to challenges, strengths, and opportunities. Your vendor network can also provide a complimentary third-party external perspective. The more you know about your pending employer, the more effective you will be and the easier it will be to earn the respect of your team.
Leadership transitions can cause unnecessary anxiety for your direct reports and division. Conducting weekly leadership meetings will go a long way to addressing both. Spend more time sharing on a personal level versus business. Being transparent can accelerate the team development process.
Depending on the culture of the new organization, consider proactive communication to the broader team. You may want to send an email detailing your background and some personal information that they would not otherwise be privy to from the official corporate announcement. If timing works out, an introductory town hall type of speech with Q&A can be helpful. The more you communicate, the more accurate the rumors.
Between all the data points collected from interviews, related research, and information-gathering, you should have enough intelligence to make an accurate initial assessment of the organization’s strengths and gaps. Knowing what you are walking into helps to prepare.
For instance, if your new organization is based on agile philosophy, you better get up to speed before you show up. One of my employers embraced servant leadership, so I read everything I could on the topic prior to my first day. Once you have a draft assessment, run through it with your new team and manager to refine. You will need an honest assessment before you can develop an effective plan and recruit for any gaps.
As part of your assessment, you may learn of openings in key positions. You may discover skill gaps that will require you to bring in external talent. Much like football coaches who know that success depends on the teams around them, the successful manager ensures that she has the right leaders around her. Football coaches spend significant time recruiting prospects into open positions or where they require more depth.
This is not a human resources function. It is a leadership function. Begin the recruitment process immediately. This process can take anywhere from 90-180 days, depending on the organization and role, which is why I always encourage immediate action.
To set yourself up for success, you need to walk into your new role with your validated plan in hand. You have to hit the ground running and listening. Engage your team and have them help you create and execute your plan. This process will provide an additional catalyst for team building. Your staff will feel they’re included in the new direction and will be more engaged in the process.
Share your plan with your manager to make sure it is congruent with their expectations. Once codified, share it with your entire division. This promotes a culture of transparency and accountability. It demonstrates humility and openness.
The Next 30 Days
While the initial plan typically covers the first 90 days, your first 30 days on the job are the most critical. I’ll review some key considerations and takeaways in the next post.
What other considerations and action items should leaders consider 30 days prior to the start of a new role?