5 Things a Newly Minted Leader Must Do

KWG PHOTO-1 2013Kathleen Winsor-Games

Senior Consultant, GEM Strategy Management, Inc.

Congratulations on your promotion. Whether this is your first management role or first executive position, you will want to post some big wins early in your tenure. Before you get started, take time to think about how you will prioritize and structure your time now that your role, scope of impact, and visibility are expanded.

At the end of your first year in this role, the goal is for the CEO, your peers on the management team, and you to agree that your promotion was a winning decision. In order to ensure resounding success, here is a checklist you can use to boost your current executive skills or add to the toolkit.

1. Define Success Metrics

What does success look like in the first 90 days, six months and one year? If you and your boss haven’t agreed on your top 3 – 4 objectives for each timeframe, draft a simple outline now. You may be tempted to just “jump in” because there is pressure to perform. This is a mistake, and one you may never recover from, because things tend to move rapidly at this level.

If your boss is reluctant to define measurable objectives, start by assuring him that you are prepared for your objectives to evolve. Regardless of how your objectives may evolve, though, you should nevertheless be able to return again and again to a strategic blueprint for the overall business and realign your priorities from time to time. It is critical to the success of you and your organization to tie your major objectives to the financial goals and mission of the company.

2.  Understand Your Level of Authority

What budget decisions can you make before bringing a decision to your boss? What is your scope of authority in employee hiring, rewards, and discipline? When do you need to talk to your boss, board of directors, human resources, or others on the management team? Establish clear authority levels now to avoid misunderstandings or costly missteps.

How much autonomy does the CEO afford new executives? Doe she require you to earn her trust over time in order to incrementally increase your autonomy on decisions and budget items? Do checks issued from your department require two signatures? Get clarity on these matters before you step into the role.

3. Develop Executive Presence

Now that you are reporting directly to the CEO or another C-suite executive, your presentation skills count more than ever. Are you dressing the part of your current role, or have you allowed your professional appearance to become too casual? How are your public speaking skills? How well do you match your communication style to your boss when he reviews your strategic proposals or status reports?

Consider executive coaching to address your communication skills, and engage a few hours of time with an image consultant who specializes in executives and professionals. The updates to your appearance and communication can make an invaluable difference in how effectively you come across.

4. Cultivate Strategic Thinking Skills

Learn to measure the return on investment (ROI) that your team delivers. What can’t be measured tends to be cut in leaner times, so learn your key performance measures now. Are you thinking big enough in setting strategy and goals for your team? Do you understand your company’s strengths and weaknesses? Do you have a firm grasp on opportunities and threats in your market?

Pay close attention to the ideas and initiatives that are under consideration or in the implementation phase. Identify and follow industry thought leaders. Before you present ideas, consider how well they align with the current culture, industry- and business-cycles. If capital equipment investments are involved in your ideas, take into account how those capital investments are planned for and allocated across departments. Then consider the role you can play to facilitate success or generate ideas that bring true innovation and measurable value.

5. Learn to Lead Former Peers

Was there internal competition for your new position? Have you enjoyed a collegial relationship with peers? Either way, you will need to lead your team using different skills now. You may need to convert jealous or skeptical peers to supporters. Oftentimes, the new executive or manager will find herself overwhelmed by what feels like the distractions caused by these internal politics. Be careful not to dismiss your colleagues’ perceptions. It is important to have private conversations very early in your tenure to acknowledge any conflicts, and to diplomatically but firmly ask for support.

You may experience some bumps in the road on the way to winning over some colleagues, and it is important that you not take any skepticism or resistance personally. This is the time to put your leadership skills in the forefront and to demonstrate the behaviors you expect, including accountability, professionalism, and integrity.

Delegating may also pose a new challenge, yet it needs to be a strength going forward. Put aside any reluctance to direct the work you once performed, and instead determine the best methods for communicating expectations, standards, and reporting on benchmarks. Resist the temptation to do everything yourself. Allow your team the autonomy they require to perform their best work by telling them what you want done and when you need it, then step back and let them perform. This too, is an area where it pays for you to tap into resources including training, business books, or executive coaching so that you are effective in driving results.

Performing at this new level of visibility and impact requires a new level of thinking and skills. Get the advice you need from a trusted mentor or career coach outside of the environment so you don’t have to do all of your learning under a magnifying glass. Finally, keep in mind that you were chosen for this role for a reason. Keep your strengths and goals firmly in mind to set up long-term success.

Kathleen Windsor-Games is a senior consultant with GEM Strategy Management  offering high performance career and workplace coaching. She  provides talent management strategies for corporate clients, including talent succession planning, assessment, executive coaching, and talent search.  970.390.4441


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