by Vanessa Fudge
So you have got a new top job! How do you ensure that you start off well?
Many new leaders after being awarded a top team or CEO role strive to ensure that they make a good entry. They appreciate that earning trust is paramount in gaining buy-in for future change, particularly those who understand that their role is occurring in a turn-around phase for the organisation.
Yet despite the best intentions, beyond that initial, carefully considered 100-day plan and honeymoon period, leaders can encounter frustrations that their best intentions are being misconstrued by those around them.
So what are the common pitfalls to watch out for that often go overlooked?
First, you are still the new kid on the block!
If you are entering a new organisation, welcome to the schism that even though you may be amongst the most senior in terms of responsibility and experience, you are amongst the most junior in terms of tenure. Even if you are a long-standing executive now stepping into the chief exec role you are nonetheless in a junior position in terms of “time in role”.
This need not be an insurmountable obstacle at all. In fact it could be your permission slip to stay curious, ask obvious questions that others have stopped asking and unearth hidden dynamics at play. It requires one thing and that is simply acknowledgement. When people hear that the ‘time in role’ dynamic is appreciated by you, they will be more open to hear your voice and take in your message.
Second, was your predecessor really that bad?
Sir Isaac Newton was quoted as saying “if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”. Yet not all leaders are necessarily in awe of the wisdom of their predecessors. It may indeed be the case of stepping into a role suddenly vacated by the instructions of the Board. Regardless of the history, the chances that your predecessor in the role has not garnered any loyalty whatsoever is as likely as not catching Omicron in an ill-fitting face mask.
What matters is that you do not pitch yourself against the many who, in following your predecessor, do not want to feel stupid for doing so. Hence it helps when you acknowledge the contribution made in your role before you entered it in any way that you can. In fact, looking into the history several leaders back and weaving any lessons gained into your vision narrative has an uncanny way of settling people into your presence and grounding the team for others changes to come.
Last, the Spirit to go exploring
In a leadership role people expect answers! Or do they??
A leader who is comfortable to listen and sit with questions and share both knowns and unknowns (and heaven forbid, a sense of unknown unknowns!) can engage not just heads but hearts. It is the latter that is the secret ingredient for any scepticism or cynicism travelling underground to surface into the light of open conversation. Can you imagine implementing your future vision without combating such unstated resistance factors…. Surely a world worth exploring does await!