Euphoria is the perfect way to describe your first week on the job as a newly promoted executive. This role is what you planned for, dreamed about, and stretched to win. You know your priorities and the expectations of your leader—now you just have to figure out how to execute in your new capacity—how to achieve the quick wins and burnish your reputation as a rising star.
Few executives accept positions expecting to fail, but fail they do, and at an alarming rate—figures range from 20-40%, depending on the study. How can you avoid the pitfalls that have beset so many others? How do you keep the euphoria from evaporating into a nightmare?
First, it’s important to know why leaders fail. It’s rarely because they lack intelligence, knowledge, or experience. Organizations do a good job of screening for expertise. And, leaders rarely fail because they lack a proven track record. Organizations also do a good job of promoting people who have excelled in delivering results in previous roles.
Second, you need to be aware that the critical factors in a leader’s ultimate success or failure are on the human side of the talent equation—those related to self-awareness, self-management, and relationships with others. To succeed as a new leader requires an adaptive approach to communication, decision-making, conflict resolution, and motivation.
Third, every new leader needs a 100-day checklist to kick-start performance in his or her new role. And that plan needs to include feedback from others. “Leadership blind spots are common in transitions,” says Kevin D. Wilde, vice president and chief learning officer at General Mills, in a recent article in Talent Management magazine. “Stumbles happen when a leader isn’t sensitive to how he or she is being perceived early in a role, resulting in disengaged staff, alienated stakeholders and a less than supportive manager.”
Plan for both formal and informal feedback sessions on a regular basis, and follow up with those who invest time and energy in your growth and development as a leader. Keeping communication channels open will go a long way toward shrinking blind spots and preventing leadership surprises. Learn to listen better than you’ve ever listened before—without justifying, explaining, or defending. Sincerely and humbly asking probing questions or using phrases the demonstrate curiosity can help you discover what you need to know. “Tell me more about that …” or “Help me understand …” or “Can you share an example that would help me understand your feedback in context?”
And, of course, it goes without saying that the goal is to create a safe environment for feedback in which people can tell you what they think and feel without fear of provoking anger or retaliation. That said, you can make your expectation clear at the outset that you expect the conversation to be mutually respectful and constructive, an opportunity for learning and expanded understanding for everyone involved.
As you make consistent feedback part of your personal leadership brand, you are likely to experience increased employee engagement, stakeholders who are invested in your success, and strong support from your own leader. This kind of support and engagement bodes well for your ultimate success!