Taking Charge Fast

This is the executive summary of an interview that I conducted with leadership transitions authority Michael Watkins for Harvard Management Update in 2006. It was one of the top 10 selling reprints from 2006 and it was republished in 2008. I’ve always admired Michael’s work as it is both practical and insightful. I frequently give his book, The First 90 Days, to friends who are looking for or about to start a new job. His latest book is Your Next Move.

The average executive takes on a new role every two to three years. And it can take up to six months for the executive to go from being a net consumer of corporate value to a net producer. Fortunately, there are strategies new leaders can use to shrink their time-to-value–and set the stage for their success. This article outlines four key strategies for successful transitions: (1) Craft a learning plan well before your first day on the job that includes markets, products, systems, and structures, as well as culture and politics; (2) Promote and protect yourself by letting go of your old job; (3) Beware of sacred cows–the unwritten rules and powerful informal networks that can be minefields to the uninitiated; and (4) Build the support team you need to succeed.

In some ways, Watkin’s guidance echoes a lesson that I’ve learned from executive coach Kira McGovern: you can consciously design relationships and your role in an organization.  You need to be mindful and intentional about your actions in order to do it, and you may find people more open to your efforts than you expect.

I’d like to post the full article but Harvard Business Publishing is still selling it so I’m not allowed to. You can buy a copy at www.harvardbusiness.org if you’d like.

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