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Getting Off to a Good Start as the Boss

By Kim Marshall, TIE Columnist

The article: “It’s All About Day One” by Suzanne de Janasz, Kees van der Graaf, and Michael Watkins in Harvard Business Review, June 2013 (91 6, pp. 98-104); no e-link available.
“The appointment of a new leader is a defining moment for an organization,” say Suzanne de Janasz (professor at IMD in Switzerland), Kees van der Graaf (director of several companies), and Michael Watkins (IMD professor and chairman of Genesis Advisers) in this Harvard Business Review article. “Leaders find transitioning into new roles the most challenging times in their professional lives, when they either build credibility and create momentum or stumble and sow doubts about their effectiveness.”
A new leader can be set up for failure if the introduction is not handled well, say the authors (one from bitter personal experience). The hiring organization should help a new leader get off to a good start by answering four questions:
- What message is this appointment meant to convey – i.e., time for a change?
- Why is this person the right one for the job?
- Which members of the organization need to be informed?
- What should they be told, and when?
The organization’s support “must be consistent, enthusiastic, credible, and authentic,” say the authors. “There are always people who look for signs of weakness in a story or hesitation in the speaker’s body language.”
In addition, it’s important that the new leader prepare professionally, emotionally, and personally. The authors offer the following advice:
- Reflect on what this new role means in terms of how you see yourself. How does this job connect with your personal values and interests? What do you want from it?
- Manage your own expectations. “Think in advance about what matters to you, what you are prepared to do, and what you are not,” they say.
- Consider what this means for your family. “Attempts to justify unwelcome surprises by pointing out the increase in your prestige, opportunity, or salary will only heighten your loved ones’ perception that you’re benefiting at their expense,” say the authors.
- Expect conflict, both professional and personal. It is important to plan for difficult conversations at work and at home.
- Engage in periodic assessments, and offer (or negotiate) adjustments if necessary. “It is easy to get trapped in a hamster wheel of doing, doing, doing,” say de Janasz, van der Graaf, and Watkins. “But to learn and develop, you must set aside time to reflect on what is going well and what is not. Some top leaders block off two hours every week to do this.”
Summary reprinted from Marshall Memo 487, 27 May 2013.

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06/08/2013 - Ale
I found this short article to be very useful. I am going through a transition time myself, and until I saw the title I realized I needed to read up on what this change means for me and for my family. I especially liked the part about not just "doing, doing, doing" but reflecting on the outcomes of so much activity.