I know what it’s like to be the “new guy”. And, it has taught me a few lessons. I’m experiencing them all over again.
With my experience I can guarantee you a few things about new leadership positions. You can “take these to the bank”.
Four guarantees of new leadership:
You’ll be misunderstood.
It’s natural. They don’t know you yet. The words of a leader carry great weight and so people listen closely; especially in the early days of leadership. They tend to hand on details (this may be especially true when in written form). You’ll be moving fast, learning as you go, and in your quickness – or even your haste – you’ll say things, which will carry more weight than you intended. Or that won’t carry the weight you did intend for them.
There isn’t necessarily a bypass for this. It’s going to happen. The key is to know that it will and be intentional. Ask questions. Create the freedom to ask you questions. And, above all, think before you speak as much as you can.
The counter is equally true. There will be hidden rules and cultures. Sacred cows lie under the surface; only to be discovered when you step on them. The complexity of the organization and the longer it’s been around will often determine the length of the learning curve for you, but in the beginning there will be moments you assumed one thing and something completely different is true.
Again, you can’t avoid this one either, but you should know it will happen. Take your time. Again, ask questions. Don’t assume you have clarity until you do. There will be expectations placed up on you, but stretch the learning period as far as you reasonably can, to make sure you’re making the best decision with the greatest understanding.
It will be harder than you expected.
I’ve learned I seldom know the real problems when I enter into a new leadership positions. And, if there are problem spots, they likely weren’t fully revealed before you accepted the position. This is natural also. In the ministry, I often said search committees are great salespeople. And, the truth is they want you to think the best of the organization if they want you to be the new leader.
The key here is to recognize from the beginning this isn’t going to be easy. Nothing of excellence ever is easy. Put on your “steadfast” britches and whether the early storms. This is no indication things are going to work, but they certainly won’t if you give up too soon.
It will be easier than you imagined.
In my experience, there are usually people and opportunities just waiting for good leadership to expose them. The best ideas are “often in the room”. There were things done well in the past or risks yet to be taken, which when discovered, will be low hanging fruit of momentum.
The key for me here has been to give people a voice early in my leadership. I try to rediscover the hidden gems of the organization. I want to know what has worked in the past, upon which we can build in the future. We may never do things the same way again, but we can accomplish parts of the vision where the team gets most excited and those we are serving will most rally around and support.
These are guarantees. The more you understand them and respond to them correctly the better on boarding experience you will have as the new leader.