The Onboarding Experience: A New Leader’s First 30 Days on the Job

On one of my recent coaching hour conference calls with Azzarello Group members, someone asked me, “What things do you when you start a job so you make sure to get off on the best possible footing?”

I gave an answer along the lines of my DO Better, LOOK Better, Connect Better model about building credibility and getting an action plan in place, but the person said, “No, I meant, what do YOU do? Is there something you did the same way each time you started a new executive job?”

So I thought about it and in fact there was one thing that was part of my playbook pretty much every time I started a new job. And it worked really well.

After we discussed it, someone on the call said, “you should write a blog about this.” So here you have it.

Getting started strong

This approach is not only useful for when you are new to a role or a company, but you can use this technique to give yourself a boost in effectiveness and credibility within your current job as well. Create two lists:

  • Desired Outcomes; and,
  • Recommended Actions.

Get feedback on both lists from pretty much everyone.

1. Desired Outcomes

On this list I would write a list of what the world would look like after a year of my making it better. Here is where I would bring to bear my external or fresh perspective and big picture thinking.

For example it would have things on it like:

  • Perception of our products goes from unknown to desirable and credible.
  • We are spending money more effectively and can see budget tied to specific business outcomes.
  • Morale and motivation of sales team is greatly improved.
  • Industry analysts will reinforce our strategy.
  • We will have reference customers that support our new strategy in each super region.

2. Recommended Actions

I would then create a list of actions that I believed would drive progress to achieve these outcomes.

On this list I would have things like:

  • Resolve internal competing efforts on products and clarify product and service roadmap.
  • Improve our sales enablement function (list top 3 ideas…).
  • Work with services organization to identify, secure and create reference customers in each region.
  • Orchestrate interaction with analysts and reference customers to prove our strategy.

Get feedback

Then what I would do is I would walk around and talk to everyone about these two lists.

I would present these two lists at management meetings for each function, team meetings, and one-on-one meetings with peers and executives and get their feedback.

I would ask, do you agree that these are the right outcomes to be targeting? Do you agree that these are the right initiatives to achieve these outcomes?

Thinking back on it, this approach quickly let me establish myself in a very productive and credible way.

On the DO Better front: It allowed me to zero in on the most important business outcomes. It helped me both create and prioritize the action plan to get there.

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On the LOOK Better front: It helped me build credibility quickly because I was “out there.”

I was having conversations with business stakeholders far and wide. I was establishing my presence. It gave me a chance to establish myself as a strategic leader that could see beyond the current situation.

Outcome focus

Hint: driving an outcome-focused conversation always makes you appear more credible, than talking about things that are happening today.

On the CONNECT Better front: Having these conversation based on these two lists gave me a reason to connect with people.

The outcome-focused perspective put people in the mood to help me.

Because I was getting their feedback, they felt like they had a stake in what I was doing and because it was a motivating outcome we were both now heading for, they would offer to help me.

I was able to build up an extra team of connections very quickly by sharing my thoughts on these two lists of outcomes and actions, and asking people far and wide for their inputs and ultimately their help.

By the time I got 30 days in, I had a very solid plan that I put into action. It let me start putting points on the board to maintain the credibility I built initially with this approach.

This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life.

Patty Azzarello is the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group. She's also an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/business advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35, and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk). You can find her at patty@azzarellogroup.com .

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