In a recent interview with MLab, Eric Schmit (CEO of Google) was asked to imagine taking over a more ‘traditional’ company and given that situation – ‘What would you do in your first 100 days?’ He responded by saying that he would start by determining the answers to the following three key questions:
– What is the nature of the business?
– Is it really growing?
– How do we really make money?
Schmit also went on to stress how important it was to honestly answer these three questions for yourself, as the people you work with won’t tell you, more often than not because they simply don’t know. But are Schmit’s three questions applicable to all transitions? Or are they just particular to his own experience / style?
Last year I had the opportunity to interview 12 ‘C Level’ executives and ask them how leaders – in practice – manage the first 100 day days or transition to their new role, the first question asked to each was:
What do you see as the three key steps to establishing your position as a new leader in a new role?
A number of common themes emerged from the twelve interviews, namely:
- Get to know your team: get to know all the key managers, their personalities and also how they work together. ‘Listening’ came up in each interview. People also talked about trying to find ‘kindred spirits’ or managers who will share in vision, and the converse – remove or sideline ‘tumours’ as quickly as possible (but this ‘neutralising’ was acknowledged to be easier said than done.)
- Understand existing organisational structure: determine the power structure within the organisation – Is power siloed or shared? Who are the key influencers?
- Create the ‘desired’ organisational structure: a number of respondents indicated that, while not essential to fully populate the structure at the outset, it is important to create the vision of what it will be (to engender excitement for change) and to then appoint people to the role.
- Prepare well: it was impressive to see how much preparatory work many leaders had done in advance of taking on their new roles. In many cases they had considerable knowledge of the organisation before starting in their new roles (from their peer networks, company accounts, companies own strategic plans, interviews etc…) They understood the ‘monetary drivers and levers’ within their organisations, or, put another way, what the ‘day job’ is.
- Outline your vision for the role: all respondents felt it was important to communicate early what you were trying to achieve in the new role – the mission. Many people indicated that these were more likely to be set out as basic values at the initial stages that would then serve as a framework for making future decisions.
- Establish credibility: following on from establishing their vision, many respondents believed the next step was to establish their credibility or to be seen to ‘walk the talk’. Respondents felt it was important to be genuine, fair and open, as this helped people understand your perspective and style and enabled others to better build relationships with you.
- Communication: universal agreement that it is vital to understand the communication required by all stakeholders – board, public, staff, government etc. Communication is not just about informing but also about getting ‘buy-in’ from all parties. In a similar vein, communication is as much about listening and learning as it is about speaking or put another way, it’s ‘telephone, not megaphone’
It was interesting to note that the same answers came up time and time again, even though there was quite a diverse control group.
Also asked a number of other ‘open’ questions in order to try and understand the steps above in a little more detail and also develop a ‘practitioners approach’ and I’ll review those in the next post, but what about you? Do you agree with the steps above? Or are there others that you think need to be added?
Note: While this post can be read standalone, it is the third part of a ‘Transitional Theme’ and Part II can be found here