Jean-François Boudreault
Partner | Management consulting

You’ve overcome numerous selection hurdles, passed interviews and psychometric tests and we’ve checked your references. We finally confirm that you’ve been hired for the position: you’re the person selected.

Chances are, you’re very happy with this news, flattered and proud to have obtained this prestigious, respectable, and most of all, well paid job. You may, however, still harbour doubts as to whether you will live up to expectations…

While we tested how you manage stress and unforeseen events during our thorough selection process, you’re now dealing with the unfamiliar: a new team, new clients, new environment, new structure, and a new business vision and culture. Most new managers won’t admit it, because they have to preserve their image of strength and reassure the troops, but I can assure you that inside, there’s a lot of tension. Managers are aware that there is no room for error and that trust is fragile, in their new surroundings and with new collaborators. Remember, as Mark Goldstein put it, trust is not given, it’s earned.

A tricky period

The first 100 days in a new job are not easy. It is a tricky period that is both stressful and unclear, where managers will be observed, judged and criticized by all of their collaborators. The new team eagerly awaits clear instructions and a motivating action plan that is promising for the future of the organization. The team naturally analyzes the newcomer’s every move, word and intonation from which it draws its first impression. In this context, the saying “you will never get a second chance to make a first impression” is quite fitting.

Don’t underestimate how quickly negative opinions, rumours or insinuations can spread through an organization. This is why the first 100 days are a good indicator of whether the new manager will succeed. It’s also during this period that managers build their credibility within the company and earn the respect of the management team, shareholders and external partners such as bankers, lawyers, etc. This is why it’s important to do great work in order to set the tone.

To maximize your chances of success, here are a few recommendations to prevent this new chapter from sabotaging your professional venture as manager.

First, remember that you’re a stranger, so consider yourself a tourist. In your first few days of work, your greatest allies are watching and listening. Check your pride at the door and instead rely on your empathy. Start by getting to know and appreciating individuals, their tasks, opinions or requests; in short, get a feel for how things work in the organization. You should avoid micromanaging but this step is crucial to attaining your objectives. You shouldn’t get cozy in your office, as you should be outside discussing and analyzing situations.

As for decision-making, showing your true colours and wanting to make your mark from the outset by reorganizing certain sectors or cutting jobs to show your authority are actions to be avoided as often as possible, unless, upon your arrival, the company is in financial difficulty, in which case, you would need to take charge and fix the situation as quickly as possible. Don’t forget that people are watching you and that the first decisions you make will set the tone for anything else you wish to accomplish afterwards. Your decisions should be promising, well-thought out and strategic.

First ensure that the company is operating properly

As mentioned earlier, the purpose of these first days is not to micromanage. Ultimately, managers must define a clear vision and adopt an action plan, but they must also first ensure that the company is operating properly. To do this, it’s important that managers not be worried about operations right from the beginning. They must have faith in their management team: their first task as manager is to ensure that it is functional and ideal. Obviously, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the new managers will preserve the senior level framework. In the short or long run, they might have to assess and decide, as applicable, whether to replace certain executives should a need arise.

Moreover, team motivation is capital. Managers must clearly share their vision, show their complete trust and, especially, inspire collaborators. They must also remain in touch with external clients and meet with suppliers, clients and partners. Their ability to listen, clarify expectations and clearly express themselves will have a beneficial impact on the company’s reputation and the managers’ success or failure at the beginning.

After a few months, you will recognize the company’s strengths and weaknesses, available opportunities or looming threats, and you will have gathered enough information from various sources (employees, managers, clients, partners, etc.) to position yourself. After 100 days, you will have to present a strategic plan supported by specific, concrete and measurable actions, and ensure that this plan is communicated to all. Remember that you have three months to build your trust capital. After this time, trust could dissipate quickly.

Lastly, be yourself. Don’t change your personality or management style. Surround yourself with trusted people, both internally and externally, who can help you think things over. If unsure, trust your instinct; it can’t be wrong since you were hired for this position in the first place.

22 Dec 2014  |  Written by :

Mr. Boudreault is a partner at RCGT. He is your expert in human resources for the Québec office....

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