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CIO Unplugged 1/10/18

January 10, 2018 Ed Marx 6 Comments

The views and opinions expressed are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

First Days

This is the second 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. This post will begin where the last left.

Below are some ideas to consider from Day 1 to Day 30. A shout out to several peers whose experiences are reflected below.


The first day on a new job can be nerve-racking. You typically head straight for orientation or to your new office and meet your manager. One of my colleagues arrived his first day only to have his manager inform him that he was leaving the organization that day. Another met her new manager for the first time since the one who had hired her retired during the recruitment process. Whatever the circumstance, dress the part and take a deep breath.


Your first priority is to connect well, connect quick. Some managers will wait for your first day to interact. Some prefer to wait days to let you settle. Either way, be proactive to make sure time together is scheduled.

Seek to cover several topics, ranging from performance expectations to preferred routine communications – face-to-face meetings, texts, emails, etc. Ask how they will know they made the right hire.

It’s a careful balance, but I recommend sharing on the personal side, also. We are all human, and the more you know about one another, the better the relationship is likely to be. 

Extra — ensure you have a regular meeting cadence in place and ask for feedback.


Your assistant can make or break you. They are a key partner in your assimilation. Your assistant is your front line, the first person your manager, peers, team, and subordinates engage with. Your assistant sets the tone.

This relationship is a partnership. There must be mutual respect and appreciation. If you’re an external hire, an internally-hired assistant who knows the organization well is key. They have in-depth understanding of local politics and know back-channel communication pathways.

Extra — ask human resources to look for proven assistants who are seeking growth opportunities.


To hit the ground listening and running, clear all logistic hurdles Week One. Badges, supplies, parking, productivity tools, stationery, cards, etc. Make sure you carve out time to handle personal logistics as well that require weekday attention. With the right assistant, the majority of these mundane tasks will already be handled.

Extra — coordinate with your assistant days before your arrival to develop an onboarding checklist.


Have your first team meeting by end of Week One. Ideally, have your initial one-on-one meetings with your directs. As with your manager, it is crucial to bond quickly and well.

Unless circumstances dictate otherwise, move slowly and spend a good deal of time getting to know team members. There is plenty of time for work. Schedule ample get-to-know-you opportunities.

Extra — arrange for a voluntary cookout with families included. This provides an informal way to learn more about one another and to meet partners and children.

First Week Check-In

If you establish a robust manager relationship, select an awesome assistant, complete logistics, and begin developing team relationships, you have an excellent start.

Now, the next three weeks.


Contrary to common belief, your first obligation is to your peers. You share common management and goals with your peers. Your directs are important, but they come second.

It is key to develop effective relationships with each peer. Try to connect on a personal and professional level. Find common interests. Learn from them. Ask their keys to success. Ask for candid feedback.

Extra — a meal out of office allows ample time for conversation and protects from distraction.

Listening Tour

Identify key formal and informal leaders. Have your assistant make appointments. Visit with all of your division leadership, 2-3 layers down. Dependent on your organization complexity, this is a massive but important initiative.

You must know the voice of the customer. What you learn will help inform quick wins and Day 30-90 objectives. While this is a turbocharged effort to make numerous visits in a short period, the listening tour never ends.

Extra — I always send a same-day, handwritten thank-you card to the person I met.

Quick Wins

Assuming nothing is on fire, develop quick wins with your team. Use information gathered from the listening tour. Low-hanging fruit can be easily accomplished and shows leadership, listening, and action. For you, it also reveals your division’s leadership and bias for action.

Extra – publish your teams’ quick wins initiative and report progress, especially if imperfect.


Watch carefully. Look for influencers. Look for leaders. Find allies who you can turn to for advice and insights. You will need them in the coming days.


In a new job, it is natural to want to do more and do more quickly. You have to balance the desire for achievement with precision. If you accomplish a bunch of objectives but do so sloppily, you’ve dug yourself a big hole.

Even when done well, ensure that your level of execution is sustainable for you and your team. Does the organization have the capacity to embrace and digest all the change? At what pace? Execute at the intersection of speed, capacity, and quality. Save something for days 30-90 and beyond.

Extra — communicate with your manager and agree on the appropriate work effort and priorities.


Pace yourself. This is a marathon. Don’t sprint from the starting blocks so that you have nothing left for the race.

Execute quick wins and also think long term. Do the team and I have the energy and time to sustain a sprint? What about our families? They are supportive and understand the increased work hours of First Days, but for how long?

The last thing you can afford to lose at this point is your balance. Do not neglect your fitness, your health, or your family.

Extra — take advantage of holidays and weekends to stay connected to family.

The Next 30 Days

While you are learning the organization and are in relationship development mode, during Days 30-59 your thoughts crystalize and your foundation begins to be laid. I’ll review some key considerations and takeaways in the next post.


What other considerations and action items should leaders consider in their first 30 days of a new role?


Ed encourages your interaction by clicking the comments link below. He can be followed on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. “Contrary to common belief, your first obligation is to your peers. You share common management and goals with your peers. Your directs are important, but they come second.”

    So misinformed. This is the old hierarchical management model. Shame.

    • Exactly. That thinking is an anachronism. Ed must come from highly politicized organizations that value “face-time” and meetings over customer centricity and execution..

    • Wouldn’t it be nice if you shared your own perception rather that use the word “shame”? I think that’s unnecessary.

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