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The First 90 Days

As some of you know, alongside coaching I’m also a corporate leader at a Fortune 100 company.  These two parallel paths have given me a lot of perspective on what leadership should, could and actually does look like.  If I’m being honest, the reality of leadership today is incredibly complex and nuanced – and I don’t care what Simon Sinek and Adam Grant have to say about it.

In between perfect leadership and horrible leadership, there is a huge playing field of diverse leadership styles.  That space is full of exciting possibilities for growth, expansion and collaboration…and that’s where I like to play.

Keeping it real with you, I wanted to share some tips about how to navigate the first 90 days of a new job or promotion.  I myself have just surpassed my first 90 days in a new job, so it is very fresh.  This book by Michael D. Watkins is an excellent read on this topic and goes way more in-depth.  However, I find it to be highly cerebral and lacking in humanness.  So my contribution to you will be blending his perspective with my own in a short and sweet email.

#1 – Prepare Yourself. Every transition is hard and here’s why.  In addition to a new learning curve, new responsibilities and new people to work with, there is a lot of invisible labor that you may not be accounting for.  What do I mean?  The energy that your nervous system takes up to read the room, understand the political and cultural norms, and digest non-verbal signals.  The emotional energy of making a good impression and finding belonging in a new culture.  The management of new vertical and horizontal relationships.  It’s highly likely to take up more energy than you expect so it’s important to take care of your body and pace yourself accordingly for the long-run.

#2 – Negotiate Success to Secure Early Wins. Get clear on expectations with your new boss and your team and set yourself up for some early wins.  Make sure they’re aligned to key business priorities for the organization and avoid areas that are sensitive for your new boss.  Negotiate the resources you need upfront as part of your 90-day plan.  AND.  Learn the art of having a contracting conversation in your new context.  A lot of people stick with what they know, go too quickly into action mode, or try to come in with the answer to the problems in play.  Or they jump straight into proving themselves.  It’s really critical to take the time to align on the objectives, boundaries, and underlying concerns upfront with some skillfullness.

#3 – Be an Ally and Invite Allies.  Invest in building your new networks through connection and trust.  Your relational capital will likely be low in the beginning and it will take time to build it up.  Identify the influence landscape in the org and the people who will be critical for your team’s success and your early-win projects.  Practice how you enroll people to be allies and importantly be an ally for others too.  Practice integrity, knowing that trust built on integrity is a solid foundation.  There may be opposition to the change that you bring or represent; Be patient and find your support network that you can lean into when needed.

All of this may sound intuitive and simple.  But in my experience, it’s not.  To quote an executive coach colleague of mine: “Mastery is overrated. Embracing the beginner’s mindset is way more honest, kind, and fun.”  So let yourself be a beginner in whatever transition you navigate through.

If you or someone you know is needing some coaching support through a turbulent transitional phase, please feel free to reach out for a chat.

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