Have you recently been promoted to a leadership position? There will be doubters and critics out there who believe you will fail. In fact, they will be waiting for it. They will doubt your ability to lead; they will doubt your ability to carry the torch of success.
Your own mind is a whirlwind of excitement and doubt.
- The opportunity
- The challenge
- To prove yourself as a competent leader
- Your capabilities to do the job
- You being the right choice
- Having supporters; you’ll be all alone
Make a grand entrance on your first day by showing up in a bigger way. Surprise the doubters, quiet the critics and tame your own doubt. Here are my recommendations for a new leader’s entrance plan.
Dress to the nines
To the nines is an expression from the 18th century used to indicate perfection or the highest standards. It is believed that nine was chosen because it is the highest single digit. Whatever your dress was before you walked through those doors raise the standard and dress better. Your appearance is the first thing that people will notice without you having to utter a word. A transformation occurs when you show up dressed differently in that you stop being that same old person they were used to seeing. Dressing differently will also give you a different mindset.
Know your vision and mission
Before you walk through the doors you have to know what you stand for and what your goals, strategies and objectives will be. Without this foundation you will fumble through different tests that your new team will happily put in front of you. If you aren’t prepared for their tests you will end up being led and shaped by the group. The dangers of this happening include: losing control of the ship, being an absent leader and a meltdown of the current culture.
I have seen leaders make their entrance one of two ways. They come in with a change mindset or they come in with an assessment mindset. Arriving with the mindset of change should only be done if you are being brought in to fix something. If it isn’t broken you need to arrive in assessment mode. This means that for a certain period, nothing changes. Spend the time assessing what is happening and why it is happening then identify the positives that should be maintained and the things that could be improved upon. Making your grand entrance with the intent to change something that isn’t broken more than likely will result in a drop in performance from the team, employee disengagement and lower morale.
Know who you are there to lead
The higher you go on the leadership ladder the more people you have lining up under you. You need to clearly understand who you are there to lead. If you have a line of managers reporting to you they are who you should manage and get to know first. Choosing to get to know and manage the people who report to your managers will alienate your management team. New leaders especially struggle with this concept because they have managed the lower level for so long and are more comfortable interacting with them. Show up with the intent to work first with your direct reports and after rapport and trust is established with them get to know their direct reports.
You want to be visible with key stakeholders but in a subtle way. Engage with the organization, especially the departments that your new team serves. Put the stakeholders of those departments at ease that there will be continuity during your transition and that your deliverables to them will be maintained. If there are urgent items that need to be addressed work out a viable plan for improvement with them and check back frequently to ensure they are seeing positive change.
Ask six questions
In the book The First 90 Days Michael Watkins suggests that you ask six questions to everyone you meet. Again, I suggest limiting these questions to your direct reports and the departments that your team serves.
- If you were me, what would you focus on?
- What do you want me to keep?
- What do you want me to change?
- What do you want me to do?
- What are you afraid I will do?
- What else do you want me to ask?
Asking these questions enables you to refine your entrance strategy to further your chances of success. This tactic will also put those who now report to you at ease because it signifies that you are seeking to understand over creating unnecessary disruptions.How you make your entrance as a new leader matters. You can choose to drag through your transition and potentially disrupt a high-performing team or you can have an entrance strategy that will enable you to fully maximize your opportunities, effectively build relationships and be the person that takes a good team to greatness. How will you choose to proceed?