Why newly appointed leaders sometimes fail to get things done or don’t live up to expectations
A new boss of mine (somebody I liked and respected right from the start) once told me that he now made it a policy to under promise and over-deliver in his first six months in a job. He talked about the expectations that everybody has for you when you start a senior position, especially if you’ve got there because of outstanding performance in your previous role. He also talked about the pressure you might put yourself under, from wanting to make the most of your next great opportunity, to being concerned about keeping your track-record up to scratch.
Since then, I’ve done a lot of coaching with people newly promoted or recently appointed to those kind of jobs. From what I’ve seen, I reckon that my boss was spot-on. Those expectations and the self-pressure are probably two out of three of the main reasons why newly appointed leaders don’t achieve as much as you anticipated.
But the third reason is probably the most important…
Newly appointed leaders can sometimes have a habit of underestimating just how much of their ability to get things done in their old role was down to the depth and strength of their relationships with the people around them.
It seems that it’s not what you know, but neither is it who you know – it’s actually how well you know people.
The depths and strengths of those relationships are like the oil in the engine when it comes to getting things done. You don’t notice when the oil is up to temperature and is at the right level – the engine just works. But take it away and everything grinds to a halt.
So if you’ve got somebody who is relatively new to their position and they’re not delivering as much or as well as you’d hoped, this is the first place to look if you want to coach them. Here are some things to check out:
- Have they had a chance to get to know people in the business as well as they need to?
- Has their own desire to succeed got in the way of building lasting relationships with key people?
- Are other people just operating from a pre-judgement about this new person’s reputation or building too much on the basis of the expectations you’ve expressed? (I’ve often heard board members say things like: “It’ll be OK when X gets here, they’ll sort everything out in a jiffy”)
- Look for ways to increase the quality and frequency of opportunities for people to connect with this new person, without creating lots of new tasks/expectations.
- Are they really a ‘fit’ culturally?
- Do they need help in balancing out their task/relationships skills?