Whether you are stepping for the first time into a management position or you are switching companies there is a common mistake you can not afford to make. Making changes during your first weeks at the helm. This can be learned the easy or the hard way. The latter comes with a high price.
New managers may feel the impulse to display leadership capabilities, please the egocentric feeling that things need to be fixed ASAP (by them) and/or lack of control of their OCD which won’t make them feel satisfied until things are done the way they want them to be done.
When you start as a manager you can be in 3 different scenarios with 3 inherent difficulties:
- First job in a management role: everything is to be learned
- Landing in a different company: people don’t know you and you don’t know the way business is done
- Getting a promotion: old peers become subordinates
When you become a manager you also get a second (implicit and unpaid) job; you also become a politician. And the first thing a politician needs is support. Without supporters there are no politics to be made. The thing is that when you are new it doesn’t matter how nice your resume looks like or what a hot-shot you were in your last job. You need to prove yourself once again. So changing the way business is done when people in the office are still struggling to learn your name becomes a matter of physics. You’ll meet a force of equal strength but in the opposite direction. In other words, resistance. People need to trust you before they follow you so going rogue will get you right where you started but in worse shape.
Some people, if not most, resist change; and even more when it is too much in too little time. People need to get accustomed to it and feel part of it. Maybe their last boss wasn’t keen on developing their ideas or no one ever asked them what they think. Promote change, don’t enforce it. If you make yourself approachable you’ll get more and better input from those who have already been working there when you arrived, instead of your newbie point of view. Moreover, making changes without assessing the environment -people and tasks- first is a waste of time and energy. If it’s not a startup then probably your new company has been around for some time. Then, what makes you think that the people that came before you didn’t try what you are trying to change now? Ask before you start calling the shots.
A couple of weeks ago I was meeting with my supervisor for my performance evaluation. It was a day before I moved to a new position in a different center (which explains my posting lapsus during the past 10 days). I asked him for advice, looking forward. He told me, “Fernando, don’t try to change everything on your first day. Just observe”. In a way I felt disappointed since it was something that I already knew; the good thing is that coming from him (a wise veteran in the field), it reassured me of the importance of this rule.
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