There are four traps many new leaders fall into.  Whether you are new to a company or to your role, the first 90 days can be the most impactful.  When you are new to your leadership role, you don’t know the players and the landscape.  Don’t inadvertently sabotage yourself by not paying full attention and not being fully present to avoid these leadership traps.

“I am going to impress you.”

If your attention is on how to make yourself look good or impress others, then you might as well not be there because you’re in your head, not in the room. Instead of others being impressed, they will simply notice you trying too hard, and wonder, what is this person trying to cover up?

Instead, during this time, pay close attention to cultural norms.  How to people interact with one another?  What is the tone? 

“I’m scared out of my mind.”

When all your thoughts are focused on how others will find out how much you don’t know, that’s exactly what they will see.  Because of this, you will avoid opportunities to speak up and contribute value because you are so fearful.  People will lose confidence in you even when they don’t have a reason to do so.   

What can you do when this thought creeps in?  Focus on language – both verbal and non-verbal.  Use language familiar to the organization.  For example, do they typically use “we/our” or “me/my”?  Also, pay close attention to how the physical environment is set up and the amount of personalization other leaders have in their workspace. 

“I know”

You think you were selected for this role because you know more than the others that work there.  Perhaps you even think you were brought in to fix, rescue or save. Even if your job is, in fact, to turn around an underperforming group, if you act like a know it all, your attitude will communicate arrogance and will not generate the respect that you need.

Look at key processes – what is working well and what could be built upon?  Watch your staff in key meetings to see if they are well prepared.  If not, take time to mentor them on how to be prepared so they gain respect from key stakeholders. 

“Who’s important”

If you come in with an agenda to quickly identify the most powerful people and visibly align yourself with them, you are only going to hurt yourself in the long run. As a newbie, you need to be able to talk with everyone and glean useful information from them. By prioritizing the powerful people, you’re sending a clear message to everyone else that you don’t need them.

It is natural to want to figure out who are key players.  Instead, focus on inclusion.  When you include others, they will naturally include you when important decisions need to be made.

Your first 90 days as a new leader can be intimidating.  Take the time to learn, learn, learn while establishing key relationships within the organization.  Treat each conversation like it’s the most important one and absorb everything.  Asking open-ended, inviting questions will help everyone feel more at ease and allow you to learn much more quickly. 

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