The typical executive switches jobs 5-7 times during their career. How do you ensure a smooth and successful transition? This series compliments what others have written with fresh perspective and expanded time horizons. In the last post, we recommended actions during an oft-ignored time period: the 30 days prior to your start date. This post covers your first 30 days.
Welcome! The first day on a job is exciting and scary. You typically head straight for orientation or to your office and meet your manager. Be prepared for anything. A colleague arrived his first day only to have his manager inform him that he was leaving the organization. That afternoon! Another met her manager for the very first time. The hiring manager retired during the recruitment process. Whatever the circumstance, dress the part and take a deep breath! Extra. Enjoy the moment.
Manager. Your first priority is to connect quick and well. Some managers set ample time with you to engage. Some prefer to wait 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 communications: face-to-face meetings, texts, emails, etc. If you are unclear about something, ask. A careful balance, 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. The higher the role the less feedback you tend to receive. Be bold.
Assistant. Your assistant will make or break you. Treat them as 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 seeking growth opportunities.
Logistics. Hit the ground listening and running by clearing all logistic hurdles week one. Badges, supplies, parking, productivity tools, stationary, cards, etc. Make sure you carve out time to handle personal logistics that require weekday attention. With the right assistant, the majority of routine tasks will be already completed. Extra. Coordinate with your assistant days before your arrival to develop an onboarding checklist.
Teaming. Have your first team meeting by end of week one. Ditto with individual meetings with directs. Listen. As with your manager, it is crucial to bond strong. Unless circumstances dictate otherwise, 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, family-included cookout. 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 team relationships, you have an excellent start. Now for the next three weeks:
Peers. Your first obligation is to your peers. You share common management and goals with your peers. Directs are important, but they come second. It is key to develop effective relationships with peers. Connect on a personal and professional level. Find common interests. Learn from them. Ask their key to success. Seek candid feedback. Take copious notes. You will need these now and later. Extra. Digital note taking is hip, but not worth the potential misinterpretation that you are distracted. A meal out of office allows ample time for conversation and protects from distraction.
Listening Tour. Learn who comprise key organizational formal and informal leaders. Have your assistant make appointments in their offices. Visit all your divisional leadership, 2-3 layers down. Dependent on your organization complexity, this is a massive but important initiative. You must learn the voice of the customer. What you learn will help inform quick wins and 90 day objectives. While it takes material effort to make numerous visits in a short period, the listening tour never ends. Again take copious notes. Extra. Always send a same day, hand-written thank you card to the person you meet.
Quick Wins. Assuming no fires, develop quick wins with your team. Use information gathered from the listening tour. Low-hanging fruit is easily accomplished and shows leadership, listening and execution. It sets tone and reveals your division’s leadership and bias for action. Extra. Publish your teams’ quick wins initiatives and report progress, especially if imperfect. Here, showcasing digital prowess is a plus.
Observe. Watch carefully. Look for influencers. Look for leaders. Find allies who you can turn to for advice and insights. You will need them.
Execution. It is natural to want to do more, and more quickly. You have to balance the desire for achievement with precision. If you accomplish a bunch of objectives but do so sloppily, you dug yourself a big hole. Even when done well, ensure your level of execution is sustainable for you and your team. Does the organization have the capacity to embrace and digest all the change and at what pace? Save something for days 30-90 and beyond. While velocity is good, don’t risk being cast as a bulldozer. Build allies not critics. Extra. Communicate with your manager and agree on the appropriate work effort and priorities.
Execute at the intersection of speed, capacity and quality.
Balance. Pace yourself. This is a marathon. Don’t sprint so fast from the starting blocks that you have nothing left after the first lap. Do I or my team have the energy and time to sustain a sprint? What about families? They are supportive and understand increased work hours of First Days, but for how long? The last thing you can afford to lose at 30 days is your balance. Do not neglect your fitness. Your health. Your family. Extra. You gain little by being first in and last out. Take advantage of holidays and weekends to stay connected to family.
Execute quick-wins while planning long-term.
The Next 30 Days. While your focus remains on learning the organization and establishing foundations, you must establish 90-day goals. We will review key considerations next post.
Written by Ed Marx, CIO at the Cleveland Clinic, this is the second in a five-part series focused on how ensure a smooth transition when starting a new leadership role. Marx speaks from experience, having worked with a number of organizations, including Texas Health Resources, University Hospitals, and The Advisory Board Company.