Continuing in a series of posts that touch on 10 challenges for you to consider as you embrace a 2012 that is more productive for yourself, as well as for those around you. As I do so, I am borrowing from a book I read last year, The First 90 Days: Critical Success Stories for New Leaders by Michael Watkins.

Read previous challenge articles:
First Challenge – Promote yourself

Second Challenge – Accelerate Your Learning

Third Challenge – Match Strategy to Situation

Fourth Challenge – Secure Early Wins

Fifth Challenge – Negotiate Success

Sixth Challenge – Achieve Alignment

Seventh Challenge - Build Your Team

Eighth Challenge - Create Coalitions

Ninth Challenge – Keep your balance

Tenth Challenge – Expedite everyone

Organizations tend to border on dysfunction in the way they approach new roles for their people. The reality in most organizations is that people are thrown in to the "deep end" of new roles and responsibilities. Not only do most organizations not create a plan to help ensure success, in many instances survival seems to be a test in and of itself. The best companies are those who foster a healthy competition to reach the top, but who provide a level playing field complete with rules, regulations, and support. The key is to institutionalize the transition process, not just preventing those in new roles from failing, but for the organization to also find massive gains by moving everyone along the learning curve faster.

Create a Common Language

A common language makes everything make more sense. The needs for a common language are many, but the following areas of common language are required at a minimum:

Type of transition – Have ways of identifying and communicating the unique circumstances of the transition under way. (e.g., Is this a turnaround, realignment, start up, or is the goal to sustain a current success?)

Agenda for the types of learning required – What are the technical, cultural, and political learning goals that are required?

Progress – Specifically with the new boss in the five areas of situation, expectations, style, resources, and personal development.

Priorities and goals for behavior change

Priorities for strengthening their advice-and-counsel network

Working with a team

The individual with the new role is almost never the only one affected. Address the team as a whole. Start by providing your team an overview of the acceleration framework. Include the entire team in a situational diagnosis. Push them to clarify the key challenges and opportunities. Then move onto alignment issues – strategy, structure, systems, and skills. Next, focus on how the team will define its priorities and secure early wins. Finally, explore the kinds of coalitions the team will need to build.

Bringing in people from the outside

It is healthy to bring in people from the outside. Among other things, they bring new ideas and energy. Unfortunately, they often have the cards stacked against them because there is no plan to help them move from being the outsider to becoming an insider. Develop an overview of the company culture and expose them to the success stories of other outsiders who have successfully made the journey from outsider to insider.

Acceleration Checklist as suggested in The First 90 Days (paraphrased in places)

  1. Whose transitions would you most like to accelerate? How might you begin?
  2. Would a structured new-leader assimilation process help to accelerate you and your new team?
  3. What can you do to better support the transitions of people who come in from the outside?
  4. Should transition acceleration be part of your organization's curriculum for developing high-potential leaders? How might different types of business situations be factored into succession planning?
  5. Could the transition acceleration model help smooth the integration of acquisitions?

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