Getting off to a Great Start is a Necessity

When a leader transitions to a new position, they are faced with the important task of becoming acquainted and familiar with members of the team. In addition, they will also be performing the necessary analysis of the internal climate, the organizational systems, and the working culture of the team.

As most who aspire to leadership roles are aware, leadership can very quickly become an isolating experience. If a leader who is undertaking the initial steps of building trust and credibility of the team finds themselves overwhelmed during the initial period of transition, they can do irreparable harm to their future effectiveness in this position.

Leaders will be judged immediately by the timeliness and thoughtfulness of the responses they provide to the team. They will be evaluated by the perceived level of expertise and preparation they bring to the role. Lastly, the transitioning leader must be perceived by the team as making solid choices and decisions, even in the first few days of their tenure.

While the time period allotted to transitioning leaders to prove their worth and capabilities may be far shorter than most might wish for, the reality of the situation remains that 90% of one’s perceived effectiveness as a leader will be determined in the first 6 to 12 weeks of assuming the role.

So, what is a newly minted leader to do, when attempting to turn the tables in their favor during the leadership transition?

Doing your Homework in Preparation for the Transition

The famous football coach, Lou Holz, once eluded to the fact that his prayers were often answered in proportion to how well and diligently, he prepared. The very same can be said about the expectations one can have for a new leadership role. The success of the new leader is tied with certainty to the effort and willingness they demonstrate to become intimately familiar with as much of the organization, culture, personnel, systems, strengths, and inherent weaknesses that exist in the current situation. Knowing as much as possible, in advance, can help to prevent missteps and unintentional mistakes.

Yet, with that said, it is a tall task to it all by one’s self.

Very successful leaders often counsel those new to the role to spend time investigating whether a person on the current team has the skills and trust of team members to function as a “first officer”. The focus of such a search is to provide the incoming leader with a partner to not only share the task load but to reinforce and demonstrate to the team the responsiveness and follow-through that can begin to support a strong bond of trust between the leader and the team.

Having a trusted person with whom to check perceptions and verbally analyze the processes that will eventually lead to decisions, is invaluable. A thought partner, who is familiar with personalities, strengths of team members, and the present dynamics of the organization can be a major support to the agenda of the new leader. Applying the coordinated efforts of two individuals who are of like mind and focus with regard to the establishment and support of a positive workplace culture can serve as a catalyst for the success of the new team.

It bears repeating that the choice of such a partner must be made very carefully, and after extensive investigation. While a thoughtful decision can afford the leader an invaluable level of support in the role, an impetuous or poorly considered person in such a role can ensure the leader’s ineffectiveness. The choice of a first officer will be the decision by which all others oar eventually measured.

Working Together as a Team

An effective working relationship between a leader and their trusted partner is an intentional process.

Such a working relationship involves the investment of time daily. It requires daily attention to the shared task list and a debrief of discussions had, and commitments made. The partnership should involve transparency and a shared commitment to an agreed-upon set of common protocols, norms, and objectives.

Constant communication and vulnerability between such partners are both essential. Being willing to share the spotlight, trust the partner’s judgment and demonstrate a willingness to credit the first officer in front of the team, are all required of the leader. Being able to question one another without causing offense is also critical to success.

The value of beginning a leadership journey with a trusted partner is substantial. The new leader must understand well enough, the dynamic that will be required to maximize this potential partnership for its fullest advantage.

Having a trusted partner is also key to leading a team through difficult times. Click here to read our in-depth guide to leading when times get tough.