A friend recently accepted a senior leadership position in an established organization. She asked for my suggestions on how to “put her best foot forward” in her new job.
My proposed 90-day plan enables the leader to 1) learn the organization’s perception of it’s purpose and strategy, 2) clarify desired expectations for all players, and 3) align plans, decisions, and actions to best serve customers, stakeholders, and staff.
Your First 30 Days’ Mantra: LEARN
The first phase is one of observation. Resist the urge to “fix things” immediately. The leader must gather data, through written documents and interviews, regarding the organization’s current purpose, values, strategy, and goals.
The leader needs to understand how the organization is structured today, what staff and volunteers believe the organization’s customers need, and how well those needs are being met. What are the details of the organization finances? Neutral, factual data help highlight the current operation’s strengths and opportunities.
The leader needs to learn about their players – staff and volunteer roles, their passions and skills, and even their social styles. Finally, the leader needs to share their leadership point of view with their team: their philosophy, their expectations of others, what others can expect of them.
Your Second 30 Days’ Mantra: CLARIFY
This phase requires putting expectations into place. Expectations may be refinements of existing plans or they may be more formal outlines. The leader must describe WHAT targets are and HOW team members will deliver on those targets.
The leader must first formalize the organization’s vision, values, valued behaviors, strategies, and goals. Valued behaviors define what a “good citizen” looks, sounds, and acts like in the organization. The leader shares all these with team members and secures team member commitment to them. Plans, decisions, and actions that serve the organization’s vision, values, strategies, and goals are supported; those that don’t, are not.
The leader then engages team members in discussions to gain agreement about their individual goals and standards, and describes accountability systems to ensure goal delivery by every player (including the leader!).
Your Third 30 Days’ Mantra: ALIGN
The final phase of my recommended 90-day plan requires the leader to align activities to declared expectations. Effective accountability means the leader utilizes a combination of positive consequences and negative consequences to maintain traction towards desired outcomes and citizenship by all team members.
Positive consequences may include praising progress and accomplishment, honoring teamwork and cooperation, delegating earned authority and responsibility, and increasing trust of a team member’s independent action.
When the “playing field” is well-defined (vision, values, strategy, and goals are clear), talented team members streamline processes, solve problems, and increase efficiency.
Negative consequences may include clarifying goal standards, redirecting to ensure the team member understands how the work is to be completed, reinforcing valued behaviors, and, when necessary if talented team members do not apply skills, reprimanding to clarify expectations and deadlines. NOTE: never reprimand a learner – if a team member hasn’t demonstrated required skills, the leader needs to be in “skill building/coaching” mode.
If, after coaching, a team member is still unable to perform to standard or to behave according to the organization’s valued behaviors, progressive discipline is in order. If that doesn’t align behavior, lovingly set the team member free (from employment with your organization).
Following these three keys over 90 days will enable many leaders to increase clarity, align activities, and create discretionary energy in their organization.
What is your “first 90 days” experience as a leader? Share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.