Think back to a time when a new leader came into your organization. When that leader came into the organization, did he immediately begin changing things? Changing workflows? Changing people’s roles?
How did that make everyone feel? Did your respect for the person grow? Or did people resent the changes being made seemingly without warning?
When a person enters an organization from outside, it’s pretty uncomfortable. The leader is taking on responsibility in an organization that they do not know, and people are working under a leader they do not know. It’s a time of change, and nobody likes change.
What are the most important things a person can do in their first 30 days of leadership in an organization to make things run smoothly?
Get to know your people.
Very often leaders are brought into an organization because there are problems. So your priority should be to fix things right? Wrong. Your first job is to get to know your people. The organization existed before you arrived and in most cases will continue to for a further 30 days. The most important thing that a leader can do is to understand who he is working with. Get to know them on both a professional and personal level.
Find out what motivates and drives them. What are their goals? What are their values? They need to know that you care about them and not just about yourself and your new position in the organization. People love to talk about themselves, so let them. Have a genuine care for these people. Work to put them at ease so that they will want to work with you rather than against you and any changes that you implement in the future.
Be a Sponge.
They say it is easier for a child to learn a language because their brains are like sponges. They literally absorb information from the world around them so that they can employ it later. Be a sponge during that 30-day period. Sit back, listen, ask people probing questions, make sure that they know that you care about their thoughts.
Is this easy? No. You may walk into an organization and see things on day 1 that you know need to change. But I would urge you to wait until after the 30-day mark to make changes.
The worst thing that you can do is to rashly change things. Because if after making the change someone comes in and says, “hey boss, there is a really good reason why it is done that way”, you have a problem. You have egg on your face and your foot in your mouth. You have to rewind the change and also try to re-earn the respect of your co-workers.
Sitting tight and waiting gives you a tactical advantage. Allow yourself that 30 days before acting. Remember you are in this for the long-term good, not the short-term gain.
Go and do what you are asking people to do.
When you are applying step 2 and working at being a sponge, where is the best place to be? In your office waiting for people to come to you? No, you need to get out among them.
There is a big difference between leadership and management. A good leader leads from the front. If you have guys in the garage fixing trucks, there is no better way to get to know them than to get out there and get under the truck with them. Take an interest in them, learn what they are doing, find out what their challenges are.
Communicating with someone at their level is always better than communicating with someone at your level. You may be very comfortable in your office but step out of there and into their world, at least for the first 30 days.
If you can get to know them to a good degree, it will smooth things over for you in the future. And you will learn from day one what makes your organization tick.
Identify your key players
Prioritize your direct report, those who are working directly for you. Talk long and hard with them and get to know them at a deeper level than most. Clarify what their expectations are. Ask them what they think the most important part of your job is. Listen to the response. Ask them what is the one thing that you can do so that they can be successful. Listen even more.
Don’t emphasize office hierarchy or that you are the boss, they already know that. Talk to them with a tone that assures them that you are there to serve them and make them as successful as possible.
Sit down and clarify, even write down, their expectations. Learn from those people. Humble yourself so that they know that you are not motivated by ego. And your selfishness is not going to make their lives unbearable.
You can do this because you know that if they are successful, the team will be successful. If the team is successful, so will you.
Also, silently distinguish your good apples from your bad apples. You don’t need to take action but note who they are.
Real leaders aren’t robots!
We live in a world dominated by business books and management practices that focus solely on efficiency. The result is workers that are expected to work more like robots and lack human connections. Humans are complex machines and they can’t be predicted with math. What if you were different?
Don’t forget your priorities: “The Mission, The Men and Me”. If you do not lose sight of these priorities, you cannot go far wrong.
Yes the organization comes first. This ensures that we all have a job and we continue to grow. But the next most important thing is not you, but your employees. The people you are in charge of leading. We come last.
You are not leading with the goal of people liking you, but by prioritizing their needs you will make them feel safer in their jobs and they will want to work for you.