The first day on the job, in a new position, or another department with a company can be exciting, but too often is short-lived. The reception is usually a warm and friendly acceptance along with a degree of enthusiasm. In this temporal experience we can make assumptions that will lead us to a frustrating future leaving us wondering where we went wrong when we appeared to start so well. There are mistakes we make as leaders by basing decisions on a false premise. Here are some observations that may help us avoid pitfalls.
Ron Edmonson listed some pertinent issues a new leader will face.
Assuming people trust you before they really do. New leaders often gain a window of approval. Everyone appears nice to the new person. People will appear excited to have a new leader on board – or at least pretend they are until they learn whether they really are or not. Either way, people in the early days can often make a new leader feel very loved and very popular. While this is indeed a blessing, the leader must understand trust is not the same thing as popularity. Trust is almost never granted simply by arrival or by position. It must be earned over time and experience.
Bashing the past while attempting to get to the future. When you make fun or speak badly of days gone by you often alienate people who were there before you arrived. When you talk about the mistakes of the past – even if they are obvious – you are often talking about the people you are now trying to lead. They may not have even made some of the mistakes themselves, but they were there when they were made. They remained through them and when you diminish the past you’re diminishing them or their loyalty. Don’t forget the past – good or bad – is a part of their personal story.
Assuming nothing good was done before you got there. In reality there were probably lots of good things done in the past. It’s arrogant to think otherwise. They may not be experiencing their best days now – and, that’s probably part of the reason you are there – but, you’ll be better off to help people rediscover some things which were done well than to ignore any good that ever happened before.
I’ve made these mistakes and can attest to the veracity of this observations. Human tendency is to be excited at something new and fresh. However, once the newness wears off, we begin to see what time and relationship begin to expose. The wedding bliss loses its butterfly feelings when the spouse begins to exhibit things that familiarity no longer overlooks. But, this is when commitment becomes our stabilizer and keeps the overall vision alive and we press on to our goals.
As a leader in a new position, operate with patience. Assess the environment and expect resistance but don’t self-inflict unnecessary obstruction through immature decisions based on the temporal emotions of the present ignoring the inevitable conflicts of changing opinions. Don’t be swayed and played by flattery, but keep focused on the task at hand and adjust your attitude to operate with tact and wisdom. When we lose our pride we nullify the power of offense and retaliation for our feelings being hurt or our insecurity being challenged.
Dr. Reuben Egolf
Chairman of the United States Global Leadership Council