Today's Challenge: Leading in a New Environment

Here’s the context for today’s question: “I am a new leader in my organization. However, I am not a new leader – I have leadership experience in a previous company. Unfortunately, my experience doesn’t seem to count here. I’m having trouble getting traction in my new role. What advice do you have for me?”
First, I want to be careful not to undervalue the challenge you face. Navigating the situation you described can be extremely difficult.
My experience in this is limited. I’ve been with one organization for many years. But, I have changed roles and departments in the company and been faced with a similar challenge. Based on this experience, here are three tactics that may help.
Listen – Ask great questions. Listen. Ask follow-up questions. Listen. Find a different person and repeat the process. Then, do it again. Context matters. If you’re new, you do not fully understand the context. You’ll get it much quicker if you listen. You’ll have plenty of time to talk later.
Learn – Learn all you can as fast as you can about your new situation. Learn about the people, the product or services your organization offers. Learn about your competitors and your industry. Learn about past successes and failures. Learn about the leaders who preceded you. Learn about people’s hopes, dreams and fears about new leadership. The more you learn, the better you can…
Lead – You are in a position of leadership because someone in your organization believes you can. Be sure to prove them right. Yes, a season of observation may be appropriate, but don’t be slow to act. If you want respect of the people you want to lead. I would suggest a new vision as a potential starting point. Leadership always begins with a picture of the future.tweet_bird Your new team may be testing you. If you can’t talk about a preferred future, you’re not leading, you’re pretending.
Change is hard for most people. Often the reaction you get when you’re new in a role is more about change than it is about you. As a leader, you may never make people love change, but if you and I lead well, we can help people get comfortable with change. A big part of that is their comfort with us. The ideas above can lay the foundation for that comfort and ultimately trust.
If you are new in your leadership role – good luck and have fun![GLS_Shield]

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Lou Kerestesy

6 years ago

Excellent advice! Those Three Ls enable new leaders to weave a great deal together in the conversations they have. Questions such as who are our customers, what do they value, what are we providing, what should we be providing surface critical information about the organization one is assuming command of.
They also enable new leaders to talk about their vision and get feedback on it, in the same conversations. What if we…what would happen if…kinds of conversations flow from the customer questions.
Even resistance to change can be explored because resistance is a sign that someone is protecting something. Those issues will surface in these conversations and can safely be explored.
Taken together, there is can be a tremendous amount of listening, learning and leading that occurs. These Three Ls provide that framework.

Mark

6 years ago

Thanks for your feedback! Because I’ve changed roles several times during my career, I’ve had numerous opportunities to field test the three Ls. They seem to work for me 🙂 I appreciate your additional questions. The more questions leaders ask, the better we lead. Thanks for joining the conversation! Mark

Steve Morgan

6 years ago

Hey Mark. Great post. Learning is important. I have made the mistake of learning about a new situation, but not learning with and learning from direct reports. Humility I think goes along with learning and listening.
I found Watkins, D. (2003). The first 90 days: Critical success strategies for new leaders at all levels. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing to be helpful and provide great insights into transition to a new job or ministry:
Transitions, like swimming can be taught. A leader entering a new job or culture does not have to get thrown into the deep end of a pool and either sink or swim. Watkins outlines practical strategies for ten key transition challenges: a) promote oneself mentally and emotionally, b) accelerate one’s learning, c) match strategy to situation, d) secure early wins, e) negotiate success with your boss, f) achieve alignment in strategies, systems and skills, g) build the team, h) create alliances internally and externally, i) maintain balance in personal and professional life, j) help everyone in the organization accelerate their own transitions.

Mark

6 years ago

Thanks, Steve! I love Watkins’ steps to successful transitions. It looks like a winning formula to me. I also agree with the spirit of the first 90 days. Historically, I’ve challenged leaders to think carefully and strategically about the first 100 days. Either way, strong beginnings matter! Thanks joining the conversation and sharing resources! Mark

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