Navigating the First 90 Days in a New Role: Tips for Professional Success

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In our last blog post, we looked at how to set yourself up for professional success and prepare for a new role with confidence. This time, we’re going to build on that; sharing some tips on how you can navigate the first 90 days.

There are a lot of things to think about as you begin a new role. How do you keep track of everything? Do you know what is expected of you? What do your direct reports do? And then there’s the external stuff, like meeting with the broader team, getting oriented in the company, etc.

In his book, “The First 90 Days“, Michael Watkins outlines eight professional success strategies. Let’s take a look at each one:

1. Promote Yourself

This strategy focuses on creating a positive impression and building credibility with your team and stakeholders. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses, assessing the challenges you face, and developing a plan to address them will help to achieve this.

2. Accelerate Your Learning

This strategy involves learning as much as possible about the organisation, its culture, and its stakeholders to quickly gain a deep understanding of the company’s strengths and weaknesses, and to identify areas that require improvement. Your bosses, peers, and direct reports can do a lot to accelerate your learning. But to make the most of that you need to be clear about what you want to know and not afraid to ask for their help.

3. Match Strategy to Situation

This strategy requires assessing the situation and determining which strategy would be best for achieving the goals of the organisation. Therefore, it involves understanding the company’s competitive environment, identifying the key drivers of success, and aligning your strategy to the specific needs of the organisation. Most likely, you were hired because there is a lot of work to be done. In your first week, your main priority should be to soak up information, but then your focus should turn to clarifying the challenge you are there to address.

4. Secure Early Wins

This strategy involves identifying and executing quick wins in the first few months to build momentum and establish your leadership style. These wins should be meaningful and aligned with the company’s strategic priorities, i.e., tangible, early performance improvements that illustrate where you want to take the organisation. Your early wins must do two things: help you build momentum in the short term, while also laying a foundation for achieving your longer-term business goals.

5. Negotiate Success

This strategy focuses on building strong relationships with key stakeholders, including employees, customers, and suppliers. It involves understanding their needs and concerns, building trust, and developing mutually beneficial partnerships.

6. Achieve Alignment

This strategy involves aligning your team around a shared vision, strategy, and set of goals. It requires communicating clearly and frequently, providing feedback, and establishing a culture of collaboration and accountability. As you make changes and start adding value, make sure that it aligns with the business goals and strategy.  It’s important not to lose sight of the big picture.  It’s easy to get sucked into dramas, politics and looming crises that have likely been awaiting your arrival.  Some need solving to move forward, but if you focus all your energy and attention on resolving short-term issues, you’ll not make the progress you need in the months or years to come.

7. Build Your Team

This strategy involves building a high-performing team that is aligned with your vision and goals. It involves assessing the team’s strengths and weaknesses, building a talent development plan, and creating a culture of continuous learning and improvement. By simply being around your new team and attentively observing how everyone works and collaborates, you’ll gain valuable insights about the company and group culture. As you keep your eyes and ears open, take note of things that are challenging for the team. Perhaps it’s a step in a workflow, a particular procedure, or a difficult person. Take time to understand why they are that way before you suggest any changes. Have empathy for the changes that your team is going through. A new person is always a meaningful change, and it’s easy to lose sight of that if you’re the one undergoing the main transition.

8. Create Coalitions

This strategy involves building alliances and partnerships with key stakeholders inside and outside the organisation. It also involves understanding their interests and concerns, building trust, and creating mutually beneficial relationships that support the company’s goals. Building relationships is something you cannot rush; it takes time. So, it’s important to build relationships from day one if not before. Don’t focus just on the “usual suspects” when cultivating your professional relationships. We naturally pay attention to our “vertical” stakeholders i.e. our boss and direct reports. But, it’s the quality of our horizontal relationships that also drives professional success, or undermines it.

While none of these things guarantee professional success during your first 90 days, we hope that these tips will serve as an additional resource for those of you who want to be as prepared as possible going into your new role.

Interested in helping your employees succeed in their first 90 days in a new role? Find out more about our Career Lab Series here.

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