Step Boldly!

by Makell, Chris Tuesday, February 24, 2009
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This year over ½ million managers will enter new positions in Fortune 500 companies alone. And certainly with the challenges this economy presents, that number could be larger! This shift may include taking on new leadership roles or starting your own business. In any case, it requires both a personal and professional plan of approach in order to create a stress-less, seamless and productive transition.

As a leader in your life and business, your first act is to “step boldly” into the change that awaits you. This includes developing the “mindset” and approach that keeps you focused and supported during the transition. Let’s examine “mindset” which is the most important step in any transition.

    “…it is an essential discipline to make the transition mentally.” - Michael Watkins, The First 90 Days

So you’re ready for that next move? Have you decided that you’re ready? Do you know what it means to be ready? Let’s look at a case where developing the “mindset” is such a critical piece to successfully making that next move.

    Tim has finally been given the opportunity to take on a significant leader position. Finally? Well, Tim had been groomed, coached and mentored, over the last few years, to believe that he would soon receive the opportunity, but was delayed over and over. So now the time has come. Tim readies himself by telling his friends and family that he’s moving up and starting to take on a new and larger position. His true talent finally recognized!

    Within the first 60 days, Tim is still working with his old friends on how to create reports. He is working the projects and spending nights and weekends developing spreadsheets so that he can respond to data requests. He knows he should have his team do it, but it’s so much faster his way and it ensures he “knows” the answer. (Neither the role nor confidence of a leader.) His family questions his distractions with work and his friends think he’s nuts for working so hard. He explains to everyone that this is just what needs to be done in a new job. (sound familiar?)

    He’s now experiencing “trouble” with his new manager, who (according to Tim) just doesn’t understand how hard he works. Tim is disheartened and ready to toss it all. He thinks, “I had to take on this extra work on being a leader? I’m still delivering and enjoying that part what’s wrong with them? I’m just as talented as they said and I’m just not being appreciated!”

Tim is about to fully and completely derail from his leadership role and he won’t understand why. The first challenge he has to overcome is the “mindset” he’s using to lead…or not. He has not chosen to make a “clean break” from his former role and duties. It’s understandable. He’s comfortable in his tables, calculations and reports. His fear of not having the answer and his lack of trust in his team are keeping him from leading effectively. In order to “step boldly” into his new position, he has to develop himself and his team to deliver those results, now.

Tim and other leaders in transition would do well to create a process or ritual which establishes who you are in your new position. This process might include using meditation, visualizing yourself leading not doing, talking with a trusted friend or transition coach, journaling about what skills you’re going to use and develop in your new role, talking with new peers and colleagues, only, for the first 30 days so that you begin to build the language and comfort as a leader.

These and other tools and resources contribute to the transition system that will help you to avoid derailing too soon. It is critical for new leaders to develop the mindset that sets you apart and creates the leader’s edge. As part of an overall system, you can create a less stressful, more seamless transition with greater business results.

Michael Watkins, The First 90 Days, ©2003 Harvard Business School Press

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