First Days in a New Executive Role – First Things First!

Written by on August 27, 2014

Congratulations! You’ve landed your dream executive job and you’re looking forward to jumping in to deal with those interesting challenges that attracted you to the role. You know you’ll have to move quickly but where do you start and how do you approach the first few weeks in a systematic way? We all know how crucial first impressions are and making a positive impact in those first few months can pave the way for a productive future with your new organization. This time is a unique window of opportunity while all eyes are focused on your every move and decision.

I’ve worked with and coached many executives as they navigate the first few months in their new role. There are a few critical areas on which to focus your attention to ease the transition and create impact by the end of your first quarter.

Invest Time to Assess Your New Organization

Expectations for action will be high but taking the right actions at the right time begins with a proper diagnosis of the situation. Regardless of how much due diligence you were able to do before landing the new role, the immediate order of business will be to connect and spend time with your boss, peers, direct reports, customers, and other key stakeholders to gain a full spectrum of perspectives on your organization’s performance, key strengths, underlying issues and future expectations.

The dimensions to explore include: the corporate strategies and your business unit’s role in implementing those strategies; historical and current performance; the basic work to be done; the knowledge, skills and characteristics of the people performing the work; the formal structure, roles and responsibilities; and the behavioural norms, values and influences that shape the culture.

While there may be pressure to take action immediately, resist the urge to move too quickly. One client wanted to immediately make changes to the structure and roles of the team of leaders who reported directly to her, in order to accommodate removing a former peer who was also vying for her new executive role.

Regardless of what you know when you first step into the role, making the rounds to meet people and to collect information and perspectives, gives you a fact-base to better understand the current landscape, diagnose the key issues, and identify short and long-term priorities. My client resisted her initial assumptions, spent the time to do a full organizational review and within 6 months restructured the organization to align with the unit’s newly established goals and priorities. The peer she initially thought would make her new job difficult became a close ally and eventually, second in command.

Where Consulting and Coaching Can Help in the First Month

If time is of the essence then hiring a trusted advisor to work with you to conduct and organizational assessment can speed up the organizational review and the development of the plan that flows from it.

A coach can help you work through urgent problems that may arise, brainstorm priorities, and develop perspective on issues, your new relationships with key stakeholders and strengths to leverage.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve collected the fact-base, and have assessed your new organization, it’s time to build your 100-Day Plan of Action.