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How New Leaders "Hit the Ground Running"

Leaders call us at Value Drivers when they have problems with growth, profitability, recruiting and retention. But they also call us when they are in a new role of leadership and don’t know exactly how to push for change.

Let’s say you’ve been promoted to a very visible role - the head of the entire company. Not long after you get settled into your new office, you feel as though somebody’s watching you. And in fact, they are - everyone in the company is looking at you and your new hires to see if you’re going to be successful.

Feeling more eyes on you than ever, you’re more conscious about your moves than you have before. In many cases, one of two subsequent things often happen here – you’re:

  • Too afraid to make the moves you need to make


  • Too bold in making the moves

Rather than these extreme ends of the spectrum, there’s a fine line and balance that a new leader needs to find. So how and where do they start?

You don’t want to come into a company and say, “When I was at (former company), this is how we did things.” You haven’t listened first to a range of people and understood the biggest problems in the environment.

You’ve got to show some action, but it’s important to resist the urge to do anything dramatic in the first days you’re in the role. That’s because you haven’t spent a great deal of time getting to know the people around you. You haven’t learned very much about their challenges. How can you prescribe a solution when you haven’t examined us? Imagine going to the doctor and before you describe your symptoms in full, he’s telling you which medications he prescribes!

There’s a lot of pressure on leaders to make change. You have to set expectations with your key stakeholders on how fast you’re going to make change. Do make it clear that the changes are absolutely going to come. But before you do anything significant, talk to key stakeholders, customers, clients and employees. Understand their most challenging situations.

How long should you wait to make change? When is the ideal time?

While every company’s situation is different, you probably aren’t going to wait 6 months to make your first significant moves. This is the problem with many people in a new role. They wait too long, they overanalyze and by the time they really should be doing something, they have another reason not to move forward. This is the “paralysis by analysis” syndrome.

So don’t make drastic change on Day 1, but you’d better not keep them waiting months on end for it either.

The best way to ensure you’re moving forward in a steady progression with your plan is to have a coach or someone on the inside who can give you honest feedback, challenge you to move more quickly when needed or slow you down when needed too.

With our “Hit The Ground Running” program at Value Drivers, we have a caveat that says we’re providing you with a strategic landscape – but that’s really just the beginning of the journey. We show leaders where to start looking for problems and how to get constructive feedback – because making big changes on Day 1 is no way to earn trust. You still need a profound understanding of the people within the company.

How can a new leader make a positive impression quickly and raise credibility in the eyes of fellow managers and employees?

Get Their Buy-In Early

In those first few months, the people getting used to you in your new role are still in an impressionable state. Now is the perfect time to get them involved with having input on the potential changes you could be making.

For example, you might consider holding a series of focus groups with employees to understand their unmet needs – as long as these groups are facilitated by someone other than you.

How else can you make an impression on people quickly when stepping into a new management position? Here are three more easy and effective steps:

  • Follow through

When you say you’re going to get back to them in a month, actually do that. It sounds simple but you’d be amazed by how many managers just don’t do things when they say they’re going to do them. Hold yourself accountable.

  • Don’t just sit in your office and ask what’s going on.

Get out there and actually work in the business. I worked on the 3rd shift on the Windex® line because I wanted to see how the process worked. You have to experience it for yourself. And even though they may have some suspicions for why you’re there at first, your people will be more likely to trust you. It’s not to the extent of the show, “,” but going to the operations to see things in motion can build a rapport.

  • Remember their names. ALL their names.

I always had an organization chart with pictures so I could recognize people. I had my reports create an organizational chart with pictures so I could remember everyone’s name on the chart. And when you do remember their names? People LOVE that. That’s a good way for employees to trust you in short order.

Speaking of what an impact that remembering a name can have on an employee, I'll give you a story that illustrates this quite well:

When I was based in Europe, I was traveling to London around the holidays. Coming out of Harrods department store, amongst a sea of shoppers, I ran into the President of our European Division. When he saw and greeted me before I could see him, the very first thing he asked me was, “How’s Elizabeth?” Elizabeth is my wife’s name. I was completely shocked because he’d only met her once! I had to ask how on Earth he could remember a spouse’s name after just one time. His response was classic: “I always remember the names of the spouses of my friends,” he said. He didn’t even have to think about it.

That happened to me 17 years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. A leader can leave that powerful of an impression. And that kind of thing goes an awfully long way with people who can be your allies when you advocate change.

Management can get too focused on client or customer rather than people. So don’t forget your other huge asset – besides customers, it’s employees. If you find yourself in a new C-level position of authority and are concerned with how you’ll connect with people in this new position, there’s no better way to make your transition a smooth one than engaging in our “Hit The Ground Running” program from Value Drivers.

In 6-8 weeks, we’ll give you the roadmap to accelerate your impact on the business, align relationships among your management team and gain a better understanding of the challenges in front of you. And, we can do it before you start in the job. Give Value Drivers a call to learn more about how you can Hit The Ground Running at 312.827.2643.

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