This is the fourth of 10 challenges for you to consider embracing to create a new year that is more productive for yourself as well as for those around you. I have borrowed ideas 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

Whether you are in a new role or simply looking to perform your current role at a higher level, it’s a given that your desired future will look different than your present situation. As important as it is to keep an eye to your desired future, know that your (and your team’s) ability to maintain a belief in achieving a future vision depends on your immediate ability build confidence and create momentum.

Confidence and momentum can only come with wins. However, as important as those wins are, you also need to be very purposeful in how you define and achieve those early wins.

Some things to consider:

Focus – With everything you want to accomplish, it’s easy to fall into the trap of creating endless “to do” lists. The problem with this is that the longer the list, the more paralyzing it becomes. Secondly, with a long list, it is too easy to just pick the easy wins and allow the resulting adrenaline rush of checking things off fool you into believing you are making progress.

Instead, focus on no more than the 3 or 4 most critical wins to be secured. As you secure these early wins, move on to the next most critical.

Clarity – An essential part of focus, ensure that you are properly identifying what constitutes a critical win.

When evaluating the areas on which to focus, ask yourself:

  • Does this build momentum?
  • Is it meaningful to other team members?
  • Is it important to leadership?
  • Is this something on which I can build future wins?

Behaviors – If a win requires you to behave in a way that will be seen negatively, it isn’t really a win. In fact, your early win may be something as “simple” as changing behaviors. It is a given that your ability to achieve the longer term goals are dependent on making behavioral changes today. Successfully adapting a new behavior will definitely build confidence and create momentum. Behaviors become habits and habits drive results.

Accountability – Don’t be secretive about your long-term goals or your short-term focus. Be very public about what you are going to do and why you are doing it. Give permission (and set the expectation) for those around you to check in on your progress. Of course, if you are truly committed, you won’t make them ask, you will self-report. I would challenge you to be just as public about your progress and setbacks as you were about your original commitment.

There is a lady with whom I am connected on LinkedIn. She made a very public commitment to becoming fit by her 40th birthday. She reports just as publicly about her progress (including weight loss) every single week. Now, that’s accountability!

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

  1. Given your situation, what should be the timing and extent of your desired early wins?
  2. Based on what you know now, what are your top priorities? Given these priorities, what do you need to do during your transition to lay the groundwork for achieving them?
  3. What behavioral changes would you like to see (in yourself and in those around you)? Describe as clearly as possible the behaviors you would like to encourage and those you would like to discourage.
  4. What can you begin to do to change behaviors during your transition?
  5. To whom are you going to make yourself accountable for achieving these early wins?
  6. Given the changes you want to make, in what areas do you need to engage in new learning?

Nothing leads to success like success itself. Taking the time to define and celebrate the smaller wins will provide you the confidence and momentum to take on ever increasing challenges.

Photo by RVWithTito.