by Alan Royal
Aug 7 2014
You have been fortunate enough to make it through the process of an executive search, and now your mindset shifts from that of candidate to employee. All of the expectations you set during the recruiting process now become top of mind, as you anticipate how you are going to deliver against them. As an experienced executive, you also realize that you are going to experience your hiring company anew, as you are now about to start your new position as a working executive, vs. that of being a candidate. Fear of the unknown is often normal as you anticipate your first days and how you are going to establish your relevance in the new corporate culture you are about to be immersed in.
In the early days on the job, approach your new executive position as an explorer and adventurer, expecting to encounter barriers and use it as a basis for learning. One of the most common mistakes executives make upon starting a new position is to react to the strangeness and unfamiliarity they encounter by immediately applying learned management experiences from their previous management role. This approach most often has the effect of “trying to put a square peg in a round hole,” causing a negative impact on team performance, your ability to build credibility and your ability to establish relevance.
Instead, approach a new management situation expecting your learned practice of management to date to be altered; and be open to barriers and any associated strangeness you encounter. This will be a basis to learn how the new cultural environment operates. In order to maintain this, you must be resilient to what you encounter, until you are acclimatized to your environment. Acclimatization will result in a mindset which will allow you to see the learned behaviors and practices of your team within the cultural environment you are now immersed.
The stance of learning and acclimatizing, as difficult as it is, for an action-oriented executive, allows you to see your team’s values and beliefs in your new corporate cultural context. Furthermore, you are now able to read your team’s behaviors, work practices and concerns within the cultural context you now find yourself. Because you have not taken an often used traditional approach of jumping into action mode upon arrival, you have already gone a long way to earning the respect and willingness of your team to be led by you, as you now have an appreciation for their lived reality.
Finally, you are now in a position to take action and apply your management skills, in order to effect change, by executing within the context of your teams way of thinking. This allows you to effect change within your team with legitimacy, as you have taken the time to fully appreciate their current lived reality. Assuming the changes you make are executed within the context of your team’s understanding, you establish the coveted reward of being deemed to be relevant. Being relevant to your team means you are no longer at risk of being seen as trying to fit the square peg into the round hole, but rather you are applying your management skills in a way in which you are taking your team with you on your journey of change. Thus your team, instead of being an obstacle, becomes the wind behind your sails in order for you to demonstrate effective change, with minimal disruption, beyond what has been demonstrated previously by others. Thus, both you and your team are winners throughout the process of organizational change, leading to a successful team that is able to support direction given by your superiors.
Despite the fact that you have effectively established your relevance to both your team and management, your journey toward maximum effectiveness is not over yet. As days become weeks, and weeks become months, you need to exercise your strategic competence to always treat your team as legitimate. You also need to demonstrate to your team interactive management practices though translational competence to overcome obstacles. Stated more directly, you will see obstacles within your team associated with fulfilling direction you are given by executive management. In your opinion, they might not appreciate the materiality of the tasks handed down to be acted upon. Thus you, through translational competence and an interactive management style, need to be able to communicate the materiality of the tasks at hand which might not be initially seen by your team.
Translational competence, achieved through interactive management, is a critical as it reflects your ability to translate your understanding of assigned task objectives in a manner which is real and relevant to your team. Attacking the day to day obstacles associated with executive management, with your team understanding the relevance of the task at hand, materially improves the buy-in and support you get from your team.
Also, as time goes on, within your team, it is critical to develop networks of trust, which are based upon mutual achievement, rather than political alignment, which is often the case. Within your team, you want to create a team culture of creating vs blaming. Despite you and your team’s best efforts, things will sometimes go wrong. When they do, your team needs to learn to take these events as a trigger to be creative in problem resolution mode, rather than find someone on the team to blame for a failure to execute.
Over the course of time you earn the right to be regarded as an authority. Earning this right reflects the embodiment of all the competencies reflected above. When you ask your team to jump they respond “how high.” You have established a cadence and associated management style which your team executes against, while at the same time feeling comfortable to raise issues they see which could hinder task achievement.
By following the process presented in this blog post, you are practicing the long game of effective executive team management which stands the test of time; vs. the short game of often directive management based upon previous experience. By having your team in cadence alongside you, as partners in mutual achievement, you will establish a management style which few managers ever achieve. As a result, hopefully, your company will confer to you and your team the recognition verbally and financially which is well earned.