Whatever your profession, age or seniority, chances are that you will change your job (and possibly even career) sometime in the next one to three years. In my own network of senior executives, approximately 30% are in transition at any given moment. This happens so frequently now, that it feels like I have a part-time job in executive transition.
In my experience, the difference between those who transition successfully and those who fail rarely comes down to their capability or commitment. It comes down to what they do in between roles: whether they jump straight into the next thing or take some time to set themselves up for success.
If you are moving into a new role sometime soon, there are five tactics that I recommend you embrace before you start. Equally, if you are welcoming a new hire into your team sometime soon, then I recommend you encourage and support them to adopt these same five tactics.
Revitalize, Reconnect and Reflect
The most intense and demanding periods in any role are usually at the very start and at the very end. Even if your new role represents your dream job, take some time out beforehand to regenerate your mind and body. Have a rest, engage in some healthy pursuits, reconnect with loved ones, and reflect on what you’ve learned over the past year or two. Putting some “fuel in your tank” will help you to begin your new role with energy and purpose.
- What could you do to revitalize your mind and body before jumping into this next role?
- Who would you like to reconnect with?
- What have you learned in your previous role that you would like to carry forward into this new one?
Make a Clean Break
If you are transitioning into a new role within the same organization, you may be tempted to keep one eye on your old job. Even if you’re ready to move on, others may try to draw you back in. Resist the temptation to hold onto the past; it will diminish your focus and likely undermine your successor. Ensure there’s no confusion about where you will put your attention moving forward.
- How will you handover all of your previous responsibilities in a considered manner?
- What symbols could you send to reinforce your break from the past?
Contract With Key Stakeholders
No doubt you will have a number of important stakeholders in your new role, all of whom will have expectations of you. To make matters more interesting, typically, only one third of their expectations will be conscious and articulated to you, one third will be conscious but unspoken and one third will be both unspoken and unconscious. Given your success is dependent upon meeting these expectations, it’s very important that you dig beneath the surface and find out what they really expect. You also need to be clear about what you expect of them. If you can’t do this before you start, then make it your first priority once you’re in the seat.
- Who are your key stakeholders?
- What do they expect of you over the next 90 days, one year and three years?
- How will they know if you have delivered for them? What measures of success matter to them?
- What do you expect of them? How can they help to support your success?
Sharpen Your Story
From the moment you step into your new role, your colleagues will be trying to figure out who you are, what you stand for, how you will lead and what changes you will make. They will also pay attention to whether you’re more of a “learn it all” or a “know it all.” If you don’t tell them a coherent and compelling story that speaks to these issues, there’s every chance they will make one up for you, only you won’t know about it, and it will likely have sinister undertones. Get clear on your story before you start so that your intentions, actions and impact are aligned from day one.
- Why did you accept this role? How does it align with your sense of purpose and values?
- What do you stand for? What are you passionate about? What are the principles that guide you?
- What do you most want to learn about the business and your new colleagues?
- What do you expect of your colleagues? What, if any, changes will you make?
- Where are the opportunities to share your story?
Identify Early Wins
Building some positive momentum is critical in any undertaking—none more so than when you start a new role. What you probably don’t realize, however, is that you will never have a better chance to build this momentum than your first few weeks in the chair.
Metaphorically speaking, your new boss has bought a shiny new sportscar (you), and now they are looking for evidence to prove that they made a good decision. Confirmation bias will work in your favour if you can identify some early wins before you start and execute on them early in your tenure.
- Given your strengths and what you know about the organization, where can you make an early impact?
- What two or three things could you accomplish in the early days that will be significant for your stakeholders but relatively easy to deliver on?
- How can you leverage the value of these wins to create early momentum?
Those who transition into a new role successfully typically don’t have more capability or commitment than those who are less successful—they are just much better prepared. I hope this article helps you to get off to a winning start.