How long does a leader in his or her new role have to lay that initial groundwork for success?
Many experts will say you have between 90-100 days. The reality is, you only have 30 days to get that process solidified, if that. While the push is for new leaders to make a sudden impact with measurable results, there is an undercurrent of expectations from your people to establish a tangible blueprint for success. The quicker trust and knowledge can be established, the faster people will be able to engage and support the mission that is laid before you. Here are some key reasons why your first 30 days are so critical:
The Process of Habits
If you and your new team need to make any critical changes to workflow and mindsets, they need to be established in a timely manner in order to get those habits started. If no new habits, processes, or systems are implemented, then the same old results are likely to occur. This includes personal habits as well as team and corporate work habits and systems. Get them implemented quickly so they can start to show results.
Addressing the White Elephants
Every organization has expectations for a new leader to address right out of the gate. If the critical items are not acknowledged, researched, or mitigated, the perception of your ability will start to diminish each week afterwards. Most of the time a new leader knows why they were installed in their role, but you’ll need to be aware of hidden elephants that you weren’t informed of and be able to understand and address their impact to your team. Don’t back down but start to size up and draft a plan to attack them in those first four weeks.
Build Connections With Your Team
What do new world leaders, sports managers, pastors, and teachers have in common? They make meeting their cabinet members, players, congregation, or students a priority right away. They establish a benchmark for who they interact with and what their needs are. Business leaders who fail to connect with their entire team will foster disconnect in their people as time goes on. Take the extra time to meet people individually, and if your team is too large to reasonably do so, have a group meeting that enables them to meet you and get to know who you are.
If you are new to the industry, or the geographic location, or even the facility, you have much to learn and little time to do it. You were no doubt hired for skills needed yet every leader has things to ultimately learn and incorporate. Identify what you need and get learning right away. Find those critical components and use your new and already established resources to get the information and learning you need. In addition, be able to ask your teams about what you’re missing for knowledge while keeping your character as their new leader; many times they will be more than willing to help someone who is learning in order to do the right things.
30 Day or Month Cycle of Results
One month affords a cycle of many things, such as a monthly budget, a production cycle, a schedule rotation, and so on. Usually after this period, some measurable metric will come back to show your initial report card that starts your track record. Be aware of this and make sure you know from the start what your numbers are, where you stand, and what plans you are making to improve on those first metrics.
From the very first hour you start your new role, your people are scrutinizing your every action. As you know, employees want trustworthy leaders - people who actually walk the talk and know how to help them. Maybe even more than your performance, your integrity and character are being watched for consistency. Establishing this quickly will help you forge strong working relationships and a solid platform on which to motivate and achieve buy-in with your people on the changes and work needed ahead.
Make Needed Successes and Small Wins
New coaches may not have a winning record after their first month, but it’s usually within that period that the team gets a sense of whether they can win or at least compete. Having a few small and achievable successes will allow your people to know they can accomplish bigger things with your leadership. Set smaller attainable goals and that low-hanging fruit in your sights and attack those goals with fervor and confidence.
Assess Talent and Address Your Skill Gaps
A critical and often overlooked strategy used by great leaders is learning their people’s skill sets and determining what training and development needs are present. Whether developing a training plan, bringing job expectations into line, or identifying a need for new or additional team members, your assessment of your people will tell you if you can make your initial goals or not. In addition, if you spend those first four weeks on training your people and giving them the resources they may not have gotten before, this will sell them to who you are and help them become more engaged in your efforts to achieve the goals before you.
We all would love the needed time to make elaborate plans for long-term success. But in much of today’s turnaround work culture, that luxury is not even there for tenured leaders. Understand what you’re facing and make the most of those first 30 days. You’ll set a solid basis for your career and your company’s success.
If you have a first 30 days success story, share it in the comments below.
More From Paul LaRue
Paul LaRue is the creator of The UPwards Leader and Instigator for Lead Change Group. His background in senior leadership,. strategic planning, culture change, and people and organizational development gives him unique insight into the workings of successful organizations. Paul has given speeches and training sessions for many public and private entities and stresses the virtue of a culture that centers around core values and character in leadership.