Ensuring success when transitioning into a new role

As a leader with ambition one thing you will being doing a lot of in your career is dealing with transition: being promoted into new roles with greater responsibility and similarly promoting star performers who report to you into new roles. When you consider that the average leader, rising through the ranks of a large company, will be in transition to a new role every four years and those who are marked as “high potentials” will be transitioning about every 2 1/2 years, it leads to a situation in which over half the organizations leaders being in transition at any one point.

So here’s my question for you: when’s the last time anyone received any guidance, coaching, training, or development around what success looks like through transition? The answer is very rare to never.

The best guide available on the market today to help you build a plan for success through transition is The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. In this blog post I’m going to highlight the fundamental concept for transition that is the foundation for success: understanding expectations upfront.

Time and time again, when researched, the number one reason that people leave their roles for another division or company is that they have had a fundamental breakdown in their relationship with their boss. Since most transitions to new roles involve a change of boss as well, or at minimum at shift in the way you interact, it’s critical to setup a series of conversations upfront to align your expectations and your bosses expectations.

Here are the five conversations:

  1. Situational diagnosis: this conversation is about the overall current situation and how you and your boss view the opportunity and challenges as they stand today. Is this an overall to a division, a start-up, a shift in focus, or simply maintaining the success the division has experienced so far?
  2. Expectations: what does success look like from your bosses perspective? What time frame, metrics, and subjective means are you being judged by? This may require some negotiation to ensure you are aligned on the definition of success.
  3. Communication Style: How, what, when, and where are the two of you going to communicate to ensure that your interactions are efficient, timely, and effective?
  4. Resources: What funding, personnel, and overall support (communication, political, structural, etc.) do you need?
  5. Personal Development: How will this role contribute to your personal development? What areas does your boss feel need the most shoring up or improvement? Which strengths is your boss relying on you to demonstrate in this role?

I’ve spoken above in the context of the new leader asking his/her boss these questions and yet at the same time, as the boss, you are responsible for supporting your team to success so each of these conversations is equally helpful to you.

The first three months of any new role are critical to your long term success. By negotiating with your boss through the questions above you increase you chance for success considerably.

Good, bad, or ugly, I’m interested to hear your stories about transition. What’s worked well, what do you wish you would have done differently, and what did you learn? Click the comment button above below the title of the article.

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