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Careers: The New Leader Honeymoon Period

I was meeting with a colleague recently to help him prepare for an upcoming interview. As I pulled together questions, I wanted to make sure I asked him about how he would approach his first 30 days on the job. When being considered for leadership positions, being able to effectively answer that question will not only help you get through the interview process, but it can also determine whether you hit the ground running or just end up hitting the ground. Although the answer will vary slightly by industry and company, there are generally a few key ingredients to a successful plan.

I was meeting with a colleague recently to help him prepare for an upcoming interview. As I pulled together questions, I wanted to make sure I asked him about how he would approach his first 30 days on the job. When being considered for leadership positions, being able to effectively answer that question will not only help you get through the interview process, but it can also determine whether you hit the ground running or just end up hitting the ground. Although the answer will vary slightly by industry and company, there are generally a few key ingredients to a successful plan.

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During the first month, assess performance of the business and your team. Seems simple enough, but without that baseline information, you could end up just chasing your tail. Determine what’s working and what isn’t. Assess whether the performance measures in place are adequate or if they need to be refined. Once you know this information, building metrics will be a whole lot easier.

Meet with key players. Well, first you have to identify who the key players are but that’s generally not hard to do if you just look around. They’re usually dressed the nicest (the fancier the cuff links, the better) and they usually have a window office. Assess their expectations. Get a feel for where they’re headed and where they think the organization is headed. Armed with that insight, look for opportunities to work together.

Make sure employee roles are clearly defined and that you are all on the same page with expectations. If you need to realign staff responsibilities to put them in a better position to be successful, talk it through with them and get their input and buy in before making any final decisions. While you’re at it, make sure everyone has established, and is pursuing, a personal development plan.

Finally, schedule a strategic planning session with your staff. This will give you a chance to work together as a team to chart the direction of the business for the near term. Plus, the session will give you a chance to get everyone involved and that will almost always help to open dialogue and secure buy-in from the team. And, I don’t know about you, but in my opinion nothing says strategic planning like a little SWOT analysis amongst friends.

Once you pass the first 30 days, your focus is implementation. During the strategic planning process, you will have identified some number of improvement projects. Work with your team to execute those projects. Establish year end goals with staff input. Keep track of all ongoing projects and establish periodic check points to discuss how they’re going. During that discussion, it’s also a good idea to talk about how individual projects are feeding into the overall strategy as it’s often easy to lose the big picture perspective when you’re running 100 miles an hour with your head down on a project or goal.

Are you a new kid on the block? What are some strategies/best practices you’ve employed during your first few months on the job?

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Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (courtingyourcareer.wordpress.com).

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About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning

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