Are You A New Leader? Four “Must Do’s” To Thrive! by Bill Zybach

Are you initiating a new design project, starting a new team, leading a department or organization? My favorite book for new leaders is “Lost in Transition: How Business Leaders Can Successfully Take Charge In New Roles”.  Using a holistic approach that incorporates well researched data, it provides concrete guidance and debunks the popular myths around transition, e.g., the notion of the 90 day leadership transition popularized a few years ago.  There are 3 key points, and I have added a 4th that is essential to successfully navigate the 3 phases of transition: Arriving, Surviving and Thriving.

A new leaders must:

  1. Get absolutely clear about what their boss wants them to do. Sometimes that is absolutely clear, but other times, the person that hired you is not even clear, and so  it is your task to ensure clarity. Also recognize that clarity is often momentary, and thus you must be vigilant in monitoring the evolving landscape of your boss(es).
  2. Get as clear as you can about he needs of your new organization without getting co-opted by the status quo.  Do this first hand only – practice management by wondering around, ride along or do your employees job for a brief period, maybe even go undercover if possible. Meet with all levels of the organization, learn the challenges of the front-line and the middle, as well as leadership.  Find out from your employees what delights and frustrates your internal and external customers.  And do all of this, as much as prudently possible, without reacting – you don’t have the full picture yet, and might not for 6 months or longer.  And of course take on emergencies as learning opportunities for your team(s), but don’t create unnecessary change until you know your organization intimately, and then create “safe emergencies” that test how people really perform, to authentically build your team/organization, rather than depending on what they say they will do when there are challenges or opportunities.
  3. Get as clear as you can about what skills/behaviors you must discard from your previous roles because they not relevant in this new role. Get clear about what skills you must bring forward and sharpen, particularly those skills which are missing or deficient in the organization. And finally, take stock of what things you don’t know that you need to learn, and learn them quickly.
  4. Actively seek three types of mentoring – in this priority order: 1. A senior mentor (if at all possible – in your current field of work ) who can provide wisdom and support without being patronizing. 2. A comrade that provides you with reality checks and lovingly kicks you in the rear-end when you are stuck.  3. Someone who you can trust to and who will simply listen to you without giving advice or suggestions.  And if you really want to challenge yourself to grow, consider analysis.

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