Learn About the Organization
Michael Watkins, former professor at INSEAD and Harvard Business School and author of The First 90 Days, says in his book, “When a new leader derails, failure to learn is almost always a factor.”
Learning about your new company is essential and can begin even before your first day. Give yourself a running start and read the company annual report, website and CEO letter to shareholders. Learn all you can: What is the company’s strategy? Who are the key customers? Which products have consistently met goals? Who are the competitors and how do they rate on service, cost and quality?
Once you start, schedule lunch frequently with as many peers and senior leaders as possible. Ask the following questions: What are the biggest challenges the company is facing? What are the best opportunities? What do you feel the company’s priorities should be? How would you describe the culture of the company? What gets rewarded? How do people get ahead? How are decisions made? What advice would you give me?
Michael Watkins also suggests that you assess the business situation for which you are given responsibility. Are you being asked to lead a Start-up [new business, group or project off-the-ground], a Turnaround [a troubled business, group, product or project needing to be back-on-track], a Re-alignment [a once successful business, group product or project in need of revitalization], or a Sustained Success [where goals are to maintain and grow the business]?
To succeed in a new role, you need to step back and carefully diagnose the business situation you are stepping into, and recognize that different types of approaches are needed. The situational leadership model by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey, for example, might suggest a highly directive style for Start-up, a highly coaching style for Turnaround, a highly supportive style for Re-alignment and a highly delegating style for Sustained Success.
Ask this question: What is the business situation and what leadership style is needed?