How leaders can avoid tripping themselves up when changing jobs

Changing jobs can be one of the most stressful events that leaders experience at work.  Faced with wave after wave of new information, people, challenges and uncertainty, it can be all too easy to feel isolated and overwhelmed.  But with preparation and planning, and a continued focus on our progress and on our strengths, any leader can turn the pressure and stress of a job move to their benefit.  Below is our guide to managing your first 4 months in a new leadership role as positively and productively as possible.

Before starting your new role

Be clear on your strengths – which are the strengths that will help ‘get you through’ in the first weeks and months, which will you need to rely on?  And which are the strengths you will need to watch for, the ones that under pressure may become overwhelming to you or to others?  Beware that Execution strengths dialled up too far during transition may look like ‘meddling’ to a new team.  Relational strengths in overdrive may come across as sycophantic or needy.  Emotional strengths overused could give the impression you are a ‘lone wolf’ and Thinking strengths overdone may appear ‘nit-picky’ or over analytical.  Think carefully about how to use your strengths in a balanced way.

Have support in place for all of your needs during the transition time.  Ready your network for coaching, mentoring, emotional support and subject matter expertise.  People love to be asked to help and having this support to hand can reduce any feelings of isolation you may experience.  Having external ‘sounding boards’ who can observe your progress and provide input along the way are invaluable at this time.  But make sure you have this support in place before you set out on your new journey.

Month 1

Identify your key stakeholders and your team’s key stakeholders as quickly as possible through conversation with well-connected, well-networked people.  This will set you up well for navigating the inevitable politics and inner workings of your new organisation as you will more quickly understand how decisions are made and who makes them, as well as identifying key influencers, supporters and potential blockers.  Once you have identified them, start actively managing priority stakeholders, turning these relationships to the benefit of yourself and your team when the time is right.

Introduce your new team to your leadership style and ‘brand’: what it means to work with you; what you value, what you don’t; what they need to do to succeed; as well as inviting the team’s input, views and involvement as you go about your first 100 days in post.  At this stage, you are unlikely to have a clear vision or strategy for the team or its future role within the organisation, so explain this and let the team know when they can expect this and how you will go about arriving at your vision.  Communicate with your new team using a combination of group forums and 1-2-1 meetings.

Months 1-3

Be patient: take on an ‘observing’ brief as much as possible as regards your new team and take note of what you see.  Identify your key talent and what makes them tick; observe team behaviours and processes; pinpoint key relationships within the team and between your team and others; establish strengths and weaknesses of the team, what is working well and not so well.  Resist the temptation to make judgements or changes too early (unless absolutely necessary), instead stepping back to clearly see what you have in order to gauge the team’s potential and what might be needed to realise it.

Month 4

Present back your vision and strategy to key stakeholders, having involved them fully in the development of these.  Include your team in these communications, so that they can understand how the team’s vision delivers on the organisation’s strategic objectives, as well as how they will contribute individually to team goals.

Start the process of organising work for the team in the best possible way to deliver on your strategy.  Identify priority tasks and the skills/strengths of your team and match these.  Keep the team involved and included throughout in these discussions so that they can provide much needed input on how to divide up work within the team as well as identify any gaps or overlaps.

While the first 100 days plus of any new role does have the potential to be a tough time, research and experience show us that a good plan and a steady head will pave the way for a strong start in a new leadership post.  So keep your strengths in balance, your support network close to hand, and your stakeholders supportive and you’ll be in prime position to achieve great things with your new team in less time than you think.  For an uplifting story on a leader facing challenge and change, take a look at our latest book, Optimize Your Strengths, available now from Amazon.

Paul Brewerton, Managing Director, Strengthscope