New leaders should have a clear view of the situation and what needs to happen or else people get confused.
New leaders need to be responsive to the context they are in: this means they need to know their own mind and where they stand on issues AND allow themselves to see other perspectives and issues that their new situation presents them with. Too often new in post leaders are more keen to show what they are made of than they are to take time to get to know the issues in the situation they are managing.
Transitions are confusing for new leaders AND for the people around them: it comes with the territory. Trying to make it other than this is impossible. The arrival of a new leader brings some confusion in others because their arrival prompts new questions which are often unsettling: will she re-structure? Will I have a job that I like? Will she be what I am expecting? The mistake is to believe you can prevent people from feeling confused.
What you can do is to understand that this is part of what you will be dealing with - in yourself and in others. Holding clear views may be important but it may not in itself reduce the confusion.
New leaders only get a limited amount of time to make their mark, so it's best to make an impact quickly.
In our research we repeatedly encountered leaders who said that, with hindsight, they would have taken more time and been more thoughtful about the kind of impact they wanted to make in their new role. We discovered that a new leadership transition took, on average, 10 -14 months. After 90 days most leaders are just beginning to understand what they have really gotten themselves into!
Anxiety to prove themselves and that the decision to hire them was a good one, often overshadows the fact that its harder to change the impact you have made than to make the right one from the start. So decide on the kind of leader you want people to see, then what actions would demonstrate that. Don't be de-railed by your own nervousness about what others will think. Remember you can only be new once... so use this chance well!
I have a pretty good idea of my strengths and weaknesses, and I confirm these perspectives regularly with my colleagues and boss.
New situations usually demande new and innovative responses: however good you were in your last role - and you probably got your new role basedon your past successes - new situations will shed a different light on your strengths and shortcomings. Use them to learn more about yourself and what YOU might need to change how you lead.
While your boss may prefer a perfect subordinate, you will be setting yourself up for big trouble if you go along with that idea. Be honest about the areas in which you know you are less able, ask for opportunities that allow you to become more competent in these areas.
Some organizations have feedback-rich cultures and others are more impoverished. As a leader you can decide in which type of organization you want to work and create what you need around you. If you chose the right answer here... well done! You are already using one of the key enablers of successful transitioning.
When the context is uncertain it is the job of the leader to be strong and forthright.
Yes, sometimes it is. If the context is very uncertain - as can happen after major organizational changes such as mergers or re-structurings - then a boss who is very clear about what is happening can be useful. But often in such situations even the boss may be uncertain about how the future will look... or even how the present is looking.
So how about treating like adults? Most people are used to dealing with all kinds of uncertainties in other parts of their lives... so why not at work? In such contexts being honest about the uncertainty, being appreciative about the difficulties that uncertainty can present people with and ensuring people don't dump their own anxieties onto you, are different ways to manage when contexts are uncertain.
New leaders are hired because of their track record and that's what you have to demonstrate when you arrive.
Yes, you do have to show what has brought you into this new role - but your track record will only be one of the reasons. Other reasons will be that you have qualities that the organisation believes it needs now and these may be less obvious or harder to demonstrate immediately.
You may have shown that you have a certain kind of confidence - one that allows you to be right at home with the levels of uncertainty the organisation is facing. You may have shown that you have another rare ability: to be open to changing yourself. You may have demonstrated that you don't have to be a replica here of who you were in your last role: that you welcome and relish the chances this role will give you to learn and grow as a leader. And that in changing yourself you will increase your adaptability and responsiveness to what this role in this organisation needs.
I am curious about what makes me tick.
Knowing what makes you tick - we call it self awareness or self knowledge - is crucial for leaders whose role is to shape and decide the 'what' AND the 'how' of their organisation. If acting competently within established frameworks is what your roles asks of you then it may be less important for you to know what makes you tick - your role is simply to carry out the instructions of other people and operate to their mandate.
But if your role is to be the shaper of those frameworks and to influence others to adopt them, then a good understanding of how your own values, preferences and inclinations will influence your choices becomes vital. You get to find those out if you are curious about yourself and enquire into your motives and drivers. We don't see this as self-indulgent - more a highly responsible role for leaders of today.
It is important for new leaders to present themselves in the best possible light.
One of the core capabilities of transition is the openness to learning. Most of us tend to think of learning as 'knowing more' - we think of quantity, of filling our brains with more facts and information - the kind of learning that went on at school or college. New leaders do need to do lots (and lots!) of this kind of learning, but being good at this is no guarantee of success.
Transitions need also a different kind of learning: about themselves. Leaders need to be able to know what to change about themselves: which of their habitual beliefs, attitudes, behaviours and feelings are not allowing them to present themselves in the best possible light... here in this organisation. What went down well in your last role, may be inappropriate now. What does 'the best possible light' mean here? How can you adapt who you are to the needs of the context?
Using new situations as a way to learn more about myself is critical for leading in a new role.
Few new leaders think about the role they are taking on as one that could have an impact on them: the thinking always goes the other way - how can I impact this new situation I am in? In new roles anxiety and stress are almost always present for the leader: yet they drive us back onto familiar (but not always effective) ways of operating. These ways may not be best for the role, the context or the team.
So effective transitioning leaders find ways to be open about what they need to learn: they also make that need to learn a positive value which sustains their leadership style. In the best leaders this converts into how they work with team members, colleagues and stakeholders. Asking questions, not assuming they have ALL the answers and allowing others to contribute their expertise are signs of a leader who equates ignorance - not with incompetence - but with the skills of enquiry, with curiosity to understand better their new world. Such leaders are rare and valuable role models and through their actions can say more about what they expect from others than the best statements of behaviour.
When you first arrive in a new organisation the best thing is to put your head down and just get on with the job.
No question that there is plenty to get on with - in fact probably more than you ever believe you will be able to deal with... and where do you begin? So it is tempting to take comfort from cracking through the 'to do' list and getting your satisfaction from ticking off the jobs. Recognise this for what it is though: a way of feeling comfortable and confident that you are 'doing' something, even if you are not sure that your activity is really achieving much. Our ability to delude ourselves can be very creative!
Another alternative - and a less comfortable one - is to see the uncertainty as valuable data. It is telling you much about how action drives you, what types of action you feel most at home with and how you handle uncertainty. It may surface that you have lost the critical ability to reflect and think well - on your own or with others - since activity tends to reduce reflection. Ask yourself these questions: what does being busy all the time mean I don't need to deal with? What would be the 3 strategic questions I could address in this new role that would equip me best to know what to do?
Now see how your activity might change...
People would say I am quite a risk taker in how I behave.
In our research with transitioning leaders and their teams we discovered that one of the key capabilities was the confidence to hold uncertainty. This capability is one of the least visible to others - rarely spoken about - so how does it show itself and why is it useful to develop?
In a new role, uncertainty involves taking risks in how you show up, how different you want to be from others, how will you stand out and how your own leadership will match with the organisation you are entering. There are few 'right' answers to how you go about any of these. But being able to read well the responses you get from others and using these to work out the areas where you can increase your risk taking and where you may need to pull back, will be vital. Risk taking doesn't mean uninhibited actions taken with no thought!
Recognise too how risk taking is valued and interpreted in your organisation. Become aware of your own risk taking profile: what are the areas where you value risk taking? How do you differentiate between risk taking and wise caution? What messages do you send about risk taking?