How many times in your career have you heard the statement, “you are going to have to hit the ground running”? Or at least heard variations of that statement? My guess is, you have heard it many times in your careers, and you may have used it, too. I have used it while onboarding a manager and while briefing my team at the start of a new project. Today, every professional, whether an entry-level or an executive-level hire, needs to hit the ground running. There is no longer the “honeymoon period” at work that there once was, and this is especially true for executive-level hires. This begs the question:does a new executive really experience something called the first 90 days?
To answer that question, let me pose another. Does an executive have the luxury of three months to fine-tune plans and roll them out? This is not to say that a new hire comes in and must have all the answers a week later. But as a new hire you do need to focus on factors such as learning quickly, making rapid and smart decisions, and also being objective in the whole process.
It starts even before your first day!
When you start looking for a job in a particular company, or when you know you are being scouted by a particular company, that is actually when your first 90 day start. You need to do your due diligence and actually interview your job. You need to start listening carefully and accumulating insights. During the actual interview(s) and conversations you have with a company before your official appointment, you need to be aware of what is being said and also what is not being said. This is a surefire way to speed up the first 90 days.
Make good use of the period before your appointment, when you have interactions with executives from the company to create the big picture. This big picture has to be a combination of why your role is important to the company, what is important to the company beyond your role, and what factors will be important to you in the given role. Make sure that what is important to you is communicated even before accepting the job. This is a simple and powerful alignment trick that can help you gain more influence once you start working at a new company!
It’s actually two timelines
Here’s where the first 90 days of your job get tricky. It is very easy to wear blinders and focus on impressing your new team or company with your own expertise. But no matter when your first 90 days start, it is crucial to remember that they aren’t just your first 90 days. There are two timelines you need to be acutely aware of. The speed of knowledge access for you is the first aspect, and the other major aspect is the speed of knowledge dissemination from your colleagues.
Beth Comstock, CMO at GE, talks about the “listen and learn” tour that happens between day 6 and day 65. This is crucial, but you need to be aware of the two timelines that you are operating on and strive to strike a balance between your time and the time of other people. By now you would have realized that this listening tour doesn’t just happen in a set timeframe but starts before you land a job and continues until the last day at your job (and in a few cases, even after you exit a company). As Beth Comstock rightly points out, “… you’ll never grow out of the need to listen, learn, and communicate.” Trust me, people react well when they know you have made efforts to hear them out. This is the way you actually optimize your time at a company, especially the all-important first 90 days. Remember to listen, repeat, and act.
Objectivity is key
Not many executives talk about objectivity, especially in the early days of their jobs. This is probably because they know that many of the conclusions they draw and even small decisions they make are influenced by the fact that they want to stand out in the new job. As an executive, it is hard not to make the first 90 days just about you or massaging your ego. Objective decision-making or strategy stems from teamsourcing. It is about gaining uncommon insights from the people you work with and the people who have been in the company longer than you have.
Here’s the real life example of how you can successfully onboard an executive in both a timely and objective way. My company’s recently appointed Chief Revenue Officer, John Daut, was onboarded in just a week! No, he did not come up with sweeping changes and big plans in one week, but his onboarding was efficient because John made sure that our team members were aware of 14 key things that were important to him even before his first day on the job. He then used 9Lenses software to crowdsource and analyze insights from every single member of the organization. In just one week, he felt more comfortable with ongoing projects, was aware of every person’s role, and had a good grasp of where his input was required.
To sum it up, here’s the list to keep in mind in your first 90 days as a new executive in a company:
- Understand that you do not have to make a grand or loud entrance in your new job.
- Keep your antennae up and never miss the opportunity to gain unique insights.
- Listen to the tick-tock of the clock – not just your clock, but also other people’s!
Edwin has authored 9Lenses Insight to Action:A Social Approach to Business Optimization and Snapshot9 What’s Your Picture?:Accelerate Your Business Performance. Click here to download the first chapter of 9Lenses Insight to Action for free!