There are some things you should and should not do when you are the new guy at a company. They seem obvious when you write them down but not so much when you are in the middle of it.
1. Storming the gates – You hit the ground at your new company; you’re on an adrenaline rush. You feel empowered and special; you’ve been hand picked to bring peace to this troubled place. You take aim at the easy targets and pull the trigger. You later realize that the thing you’ve just obliterated is a beloved tradition of the people. You’ve now gone from hero to zero. The compulsion to show immediate value to your superiors is very strong and hard to ignore. Remember you must win the hearts and minds of the people before they will let you lead them. Be careful what you do in those first weeks; your focus should be on building relationships and understanding the culture.
2. Knowing what to ignore – A beloved mentor from my past taught me this when I was a new manager (thanks Brad!). At any job there is usually more information coming at you in a day than you can possibly handle; email, meetings, walk-ups, articles etc… The key to success is knowing what to ignore. It’s OK to delete an email if it does not pertain to you or does not require any action on your part. Avoid meetings that you do not add value to, though you should be mindful of other people’s feelings (Remember: don’t storm the gates…). Have your priorities straight and focus on what you need to do. Managers often neglect key priorities and or their employees because they are spending too much time in pointless meetings, responding to email or doing work they should be delegating. David Allen wrote a book called “Getting Things Done” It’s all about “processing” the huge amounts of information that’s thrown at us in a given day. The author suggests having a system for managing all this input. Your job is to work the system and not to let outside things distract you from your core objectives.
3. Have a plan – I spent my first few weeks at my new job diagnosing the issues and documenting problems. I addressed immediate issues as best as I could. For the rest I formulated a 12 month road map that walked the team through where we were today and where we needed to be in 12 months. I distributed to the team and gathered feedback; it’s important that everyone buys into the vision. Having a plan helps you organize and understand your goals. It’s a great vehicle for communicating those objectives to everyone else. I review the plan weekly and asses whether I’m making progress and whether the plan needs to be adjusted. Finally, I review the plan once a month with the team and check off the completed milestones. The trick is staying focused. 4 months in to the plan things should be moving along quite nicely; it’s easy to loose focus at this point. This is probably a good time to refresh the plan and kick it off again.