The Kiss of Death for New Leaders
I’ve found that it’s always a challenge to assimilate a new leader or general manager into a business. One of the greatest challenges for a new leader is to work with her new team in a way that honors their experience and the direction of the organization before she shares her vision for the team.
When leaders enter a new organization, they often make statements like, “In my experience, this is what works best,” or worse yet, “In my old organization, we did it this way.” I have found this to be the kiss of death for most new leaders.
When you join a new organization, most people do not want to hear how you did it in your old organization. They are thinking, “This is not your old organization-this is our organization.”
You can certainly share information about your former experiences, but share it in a way that doesn’t point back to your former company. Remember that what worked well for you in your old organization may not work well for you in your new organization.
If you have recently joined a new organization, you may find it helpful to spend a couple of days trying to understand your team’s needs and challenges.
In fact, a process that I have used very successfully with new teams is to take them offsite for two days. I start this two-day offsite retreat by asking everyone in the room to think ahead three years. This is a conversation I learned from Dan Sullivan’s Strategic Coach Program.
Here’s how it works: If it’s July 17, 2012, I would say, “Today is July 17, 2015, and we’re looking back on the last three years. What would’ve had to happen in those last three years for us to feel like we really made a difference-like we really succeeded in achieving the goals and objectives and strategies of our team?”
We spend time spelling out the things that would have to have happened for us to be able to look back and say, “Wow, what a wonderful three-year period that was. Look at everything we’ve accomplished.”
Once we figure out our vision, I ask the team three more questions:
1. What are the dangers or barriers we’re going to have to overcome to achieve that future result? What might get in the way of our future vision?
2. What are some of the opportunities we can take advantage of that will help us move in this direction?
3. What are our team’s strengths, capabilities or core competencies that give us the confidence that we can achieve this vision?
So, first we take the time to develop a shared vision of the future. Then, we explore what will have to happen over the next three years to remove dangers, capitalize on opportunities and leverage our strengths to pull off this vision.
I have found that this process really brings a team together when a new leader joins the organization. By asking the questions described above, new leaders can properly assimilate into the new organization instead of just coming in and saying, “This is how I used to do it, so that’s what we’re going to do.”