I recently caught up with a few friends who are taking on leadership roles in new organizations, either following business school or after being a part of a company for a short amount of time. They asked me for advice on preparing for these changes.
Here’s what I proposed:
First, understand your customer’s experience. We were talking about a health care company, so I proposed reading a book written by a patient about their experience. It could be walking in the front door of a retail operation, or installing the application of a Saas business. The point is that you need to understand how your customer sees your operation, and the path they take from finding your company to completing a purchase.
Second, find an objective view of your organization. For publicly traded companies, this is contained in their annual reports and their earnings call transcripts. For nonprofits, it could be their annual reports or their IRS form 990 filings. For private companies, it might be their reports to their board or their investors. In any case, it’s important to get a view of how the organization is doing on the metrics that it holds itself accountable to.
Third, reflect on who you are as you step into the role. Great leaders have self-awareness and behave proactively. They know what they bring into a situation that is of value, and they know what they want to learn from the experiences they design for themselves to have. They take a long term view of what they want to achieve, and they keep those goals in sight so they can continue to work toward them over the long term. I suggested two quick exercises to help with this:
- Write down your “why”: We all have a reason that we show up in the morning. As a leader in a new role, you should take the time to reflect, write it down, and share it with your team. And, as you go through this process, ask yourself whether the story you are telling will resonate with those around you. Is what you are saying true? Will your reasoning make sense? Are you connecting your experiences and interest with your daily activities in the most compelling and authentic way possible? If you allowed yourself to be more vulnerable, would you be able to share a better story?
- Reflect on the connection between your ideas, actions, and outcomes: Beliefs -> Behaviors -> Results. I’ve found this simple framework to be a remarkably insightful way for me to think about how I show up at work. Are my stated beliefs reflected in my daily actions? Will those behaviors yield the actions I want over the long term? How will I react during the time when my behaviors are not yet producing the results that I want?
Fourth, and most importantly, build relationships. Organizations run on the human connections, on community. Take the time to find and connect with people. Listen and help when you are able. Celebrate whenever possible. Enjoy the experience of being together doing whatever the worthwhile work is that you have found in common.