How to zoom up the learning curve in a new jobgreenspun.com : LUSENET : What keeps you up at night? : One Thread
I have just started a new job at a fairly senior level, leading three operational departments with a total staff of several hundred people. I am a pretty linear thinker but I don't have time to absorb the new situation as I would prefer, i.e. by starting with the strategy and working my way down to the day to day issues -- I am being pulled into day to day already.
Any practical suggestions on how I can best use my time and my staff's time to become educated enough to provide leadership quickly?
-- Alexandra Schweitzer (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 16, 2000
First of all, congratulations Alexandra on attaining your new position. The first bit of advice I will let Fast Company give you, this is an article about what to do in the first 60 days
The key two issues I see before you is your corporate education which you have already defined the limitations for and thats OK because you certainly don't need to come in like Rambo with all guns firing but its amazing how much you learn by simply asking questions that subordinates will be glad to answer. Just as your anxious about establishing a position, subordinates will often be pretty helpful defining their position in the company because most people want to show how they contribute to the organization and leave a good impression. Each interaction is going to give you a bigger picture of the organization but don't make assumptions, let the conversations create a picture of the organization in your mind is really like. I guarantee that if you ask good open ended questions the responses will surprise you and educate you and even change the way you see the organization. First impressions are always a dangerous commodity for a leader to acquire but a great asset for a subordinate.
The other key issue is of course leadership and that's were I am little more wary. Leadership is something that will come over time. You can try to assert your position quickly but that isn't leadership to me. At the start of a new senior position, its my view that leadership has more farming qualities to it than fighting qualities.
Once your dug in and you know your terrain, the stories, the relationships and the values of the organization, then leadership in my mind can switch the other way, were you can fight for those things that are important and of course fight the battles that you are ready for in support of your people and your organization.
As farming qualities leadership takes the form of sow and reap. The temptation for a new person is to make your mark, but you have several hundred people working for you and those who try to make a mark leave bigger clues and employees are smart enough to mold themselves around and use those clues. Those who bring a farming type leadership at the onset are mysterious becayse Less information gets out since the executive is watching and learning.
A senior person who can create that sense of mystery will have employees far more intrigued than one that is predictable because their actions have all been read and interpreted in the first few months. You don't need to absorb the new situation, let your ears and eyes do the work and your mouth ask questions and friendly interactions that become the input devices for these two facial assets you have.
Lord King of British Airways was criticized by a BBC journalist once for not knowing enough about the way his company actually runs. His reply was simple and direct. He said he has the best finance person to give him financial information, the best operational person to give him operational information, the best marketing person to give him marketing information, so why should he replicate their jobs when the best people to do the job are already doing those jobs. So you have three operational departments with good people in them already and if you have not, you soon will know.
Just don't start pressing the panic button unnecessarily, if people come to you with problems, let them come up with solutions. Treat all information including complaints as a puzzle for a picture of the organization that should not predetermine.
Treat your position as a lighthouse that scans the organization around you and you will be surprised what turns up and what key areas you need to be working on specifically three months from now. In an organization your size a hair line crack at the top end of the organization can become a canyon at the bottom. The more you get pulled into day-to-day, the less you will be leading. It's good to be pulled in but its bad if you don't make assessments and plans and try to establish what the root causes are. Those solutions can wait, you need to get enough data about the organization and its problems now, so that you have a better picture to work with down the road. Let the organization make its common mistakes, resist the tempatation for a fast fix, start to watch for patterns in what you see and the data you gather. If you don't have the metrics you need now, see the best places where it can be gathered, usually the closest to the source. Above all, don't look at the processes themselves but the hand-offs and flows between the processes. It is usually between these points that the greatest problems can be uncovered.
So what can you do right now, begin with meeting different parts of your organization and get a sense of the connections and disconnections. What you don't say right now will be more powerful than what you do say. Understand this, as a senior person, you have the power to fire people or make decisions that will effect their very livelyhoods, that is the first thing people understand. People understand power. How you exercise that power determines leadership.
Please note that Mark Zorro is a pseudonym that I use on-line to protect my professional and personal off-line interests which could be severely impacted by using my real name.
-- Mark Zorro (email@example.com), October 17, 2000.