April 7, 2022
Post Author: Cherise Nielsen, Women+Power Board Member
Book Author: Michael D. Watkins
Starting a new job is an exciting experience, but the transition to a new role can also be a very challenging time in a leader’s professional career. The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins provides “proven strategies for getting up to speed faster and smarter” for new leaders embarking on what Watkins describes as a “leadership transition”.
The two most common leadership transitions are (1) getting promoted within your current organization and (2) onboarding with a new organization.
Watkins provides essential tasks that will help you accelerate your transition and create momentum for greater success. These include:
- Prepare yourself. Make a mental break from your old position and prepare for the new role.
- Accelerate your learning. Climb the learning curve as fast as you can – be systematic and focused on how you learn most efficiently.
- Match your strategy to the situation. Different situations present different challenges – is it a start-up or a turnaround?
- Secure early wins. Early wins build credibility – identity ways to create value and improve business results.
- Negotiate Success. Have critical conversations with your boss about the situation, expectations, resources, working styles, and resources.
- Achieve alignment. Ensure the organization’s strategic direction is in line with the strategy.
- Build your team. Be both systematic and strategic in your approach to team building.
- Create coalitions. Supportive alliances are critical to achieving your goals.
- Keep your balance. Maintain your equilibrium and perspective.
- Accelerate everyone. Help everyone around you – direct reports, bosses, and peers accelerate their own transitions.
Watkins also provides helpful exercises and questions to help you set yourself up for success. One of these is a Transitional Risk Assessment. As you prepare for this transition, take note of the challenges and complexities that could pose risks to your success. These might include moving to a new industry, joining a new company, leading former peers, moving geographically, or entering a new organization where major change is already ongoing. Detailing and ranking these sorts of transitions will help you get a sense of the overall magnitude of the challenges you may face and the areas you should focus on.
Another exercise Watkins suggests is mapping out your first 90 days as a planning horizon. Begin by thinking about what you would like to accomplish on your first day, your first week, then the end of the first month, the second month, and finally the end of the third month. These plans can and will change, but the act of simply writing them down will help you focus on your goals and clear your mind.
The Economist has called The First 90 Days an “onboarding bible”, and I hope it helps you navigate transitions and growth opportunities throughout your career.