It’s a time of new beginnings: a new academic year, new seasons of sports and entertainment. Some executives are also starting a new job around this time of year, either because they’re changing companies or switching positions within the same company. If you’re in this situation, or are planning to make a move sometime in the future, we’ve got 10 tips to start off on the right foot in your new position, based on research by IESE professor Guido Stein.
Be social and listen
When you start at a new company, or even just change divisions within the same company, it means a whole new group of people. Get to know the people and make yourself known to colleagues and subordinates. It’s a good idea to make the most of any occasion for casual conversation with those who are affected by your arrival. Chance encounters in the elevator, corridor or cafeteria are a natural opportunity for this. Small gestures matter – a lot – and can help you integrate into the group.
Paying attention to those around you lets you know what’s going on, find out how people are adapting to the change that your arrival represents and gauge whether they are accepting it. One of your priorities should be to take the pulse of the corporate culture, both formally and informally. Remember that people are key in any change process and there are no short cuts to establishing quality relations: they take time.
Establish a contacts network
Executives depend as much if not more on the different stakeholders as on their own strengths and weaknesses, making the management of these relationships fundamental.
Work on personal alliances and build a network of contacts allowing you to broaden your horizons, compare your ideas and open your eyes to trends and new opportunities. And, if it’s possible, don’t neglect relations with your predecessor – before, during and after you start your new position.
It’s obvious that you can’t do everything yourself, so it’s essential to identify what talent you need. The sooner you make a list of the challenges you’re facing and the people that you have, the sooner you can take decisions about the team and the need for any new hiring.
Don’t forget that replacing key people can weaken the company in the medium term, since they know how the business works and are familiar with its organizational structure. Carefully selecting your team is key to obtaining results, while getting it wrong can lead to disaster.
Unlearn and learn
When you take up a new position, whether you’re coming from inside or outside the organization, you usually bring with you a series of preconceived ideas and acquired behaviors, or habits. It’s a good idea to check their validity against the reality of this new responsibility.
It’s very common to think that the skills that helped you succeed in the past will be sufficient for success in a new position, but don’t fall into that trap. Identify what you don’t know and what you need to learn, letting go of what you thought you knew that turns out to be false.
Identify the few really vital issues and tackle them head on. Focusing on a limited number of objectives improves the chances of success. Less is more.
The urgent mustn’t push aside the important. You have to be able to manage time efficiently and for this you need to have a clear list of priorities. Decide what does and doesn’t need to be done. Often too much time is spent on analyzing what there is to do and too little time is spent on analyzing what to stop doing.
Design a communication plan
It’s highly likely that the people you’re now working with don’t know that much about your plans and would appreciate being informed. Analyze the structure of the organization and put together a communication plan. Tailor messages to each audience and select the most appropriate channel in each case. You must deliver concise, thought-provoking messages that persuade and inspire. It’s best not to delegate this responsibility: here, presentation is everything.
A common error is to center your direct communication efforts on your closest collaborators, limiting yourself to sending an official communication to the others. Choosing this route could start you off on the wrong foot with the rest of the people in the organization, and there are no second chances for first impressions.
Act with prudence, but decisively
People want the person leading them to meet challenges on time. It’s a good idea to plan carefully and thoroughly for future events so as to control them rather than be controlled by them.
Tackle problems firmly at the first opportunity. The longer you take to resolve a problem, the more difficult it will be. Avoid threats and be humble: if you get things wrong, admit it quickly and clearly.
Look for quick victories
Early on, concrete successes are essential, since they will help you to communicate your priorities and spread your influence. Furthermore, they will put to rest any doubts about your hiring that there may be – important for you and also important for the person who hired you. One way of achieving these small victories is to tackle simple, visible problems, allowing you to score points with the team.
Set aside time to think
Get into the habit of stopping and thinking every so often about whether you’re on the right path or whether you need to make adjustments. In order to reflect in this way, you need to acquire a big-picture understanding of your business so as to know how it and the market work, and where value is created, in order to be able to anticipate trends and challenges.
Lead by example
Nothing is more effective than practicing what you preach. People change opinion more by observation than by argument. Act in a consistent and convincing manner, following your own principals, and you will win the trust and respect of those around you. Be approachable, self-critical and transparent. That’s the only way you’ll gain the authority that you need to do your new job effectively.
No two hand-overs are the same, just as no two executives are the same and no two companies are the same. But these pointers will help you to smooth the path and resolve the most frequent problems arising when taking on a new position. And remember: if you need to improve your knowledge and skills, IESE’s Executive Education programs can help you to prepare to take on new challenges in your career. We’ve got general management as well as specialized programs that can help you succeed, at whatever stage of your career you may be.
- Stein, Guido (2017) And Now What?: A Guide to Leadership and Taking Charge in Your New Role. Emerald.
- “Practical Guide to Settling Into a New Executive Position.” Technical note by Guido Stein and David García García. DPON-111-E.
- “How to Respond to a New Management Responsibility?” Technical note by Guido Stein. DPON-129-E.
This post is also available in: Spanish