As you embark on your journey as a new manager, the first 90 days are crucial for setting the tone, building relationships, and establishing your leadership style. This period serves as a foundation for your success in the role and can determine your long-term impact. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key strategies and steps you should take within your first 90 days to ensure a smooth transition and lay the groundwork for your leadership success.
Understanding the Importance of the First 90 Days
Before diving into the specific actions you should take, it’s essential to understand why the first 90 days are so critical for new managers. Research has shown that success or failure during this period can often predict long-term success. Therefore, it is crucial to make the most of this initial timeframe to gain a strong footing and establish yourself as an effective leader.
Author Michael D. Watkins, in his book “The First 90 Days,” emphasizes the significance of this period and compares it to the crucial first 100 days of a US president’s term. Watkins explains that the first three months provide meaningful indicators of a new manager’s performance and can reveal potential pitfalls or opportunities for growth. By proactively managing this period, you can set yourself up for success and avoid common pitfalls that often lead to leadership derailment.
New Manager – Creating a 30-60-90 Day Plan
A well-structured plan is a valuable tool for new leaders to gain clarity, set goals, and stay focused during their first 90 days. A 30-60-90 day plan serves as a roadmap, guiding you through the critical tasks and priorities you need to address. By breaking down your goals into manageable timeframes, you can ensure that you make progress consistently and stay on track.
Think Big Picture
To start creating your 30-60-90 day plan, begin by identifying your overarching goals for the first three months. Reflect on the company’s expectations, the team’s long-term objectives, and the challenges you may face. By understanding the bigger picture, you can align your short-term goals with the organization’s strategic direction.
Consider the specific reasons why you were hired for this role. Are there any key initiatives or projects that senior leadership wants to see progress on? By identifying these priorities, you can ensure that your efforts align with the company’s overall strategy and make a meaningful impact.
Set SMART Goals
In each stage of your 30-60-90 day plan, it’s crucial to set SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. SMART goals provide clarity and help you stay focused on the most important tasks. By making your goals specific and measurable, you can track your progress and evaluate your achievements.
For instance, instead of setting a vague goal like “build relationships with team members,” make it more specific by stating, “schedule one-on-one meetings with each team member in the first 30 days.” This way, you have a clear target and can measure your success in accomplishing it.
Prioritize Onboarding and Relationship Building
One of the primary focuses during your first 30 days should be onboarding and building relationships with your team members. Onboarding sets the foundation for a successful working relationship and helps you understand the team dynamics, processes, and expectations. Take the time to learn about each team member’s role, strengths, and challenges they may be facing.
Schedule one-on-one meetings with each team member to establish rapport, gain valuable insights, and understand their individual goals and aspirations. Actively listen to their perspectives and provide support where needed. Building strong relationships early on will foster trust, collaboration, and a positive team culture.
Understand the Business and Team Dynamics
In addition to getting to know your team, take the time to understand the larger business context and team dynamics. Familiarize yourself with the company’s goals, vision, and strategic initiatives. This knowledge will help you align your team’s objectives with the broader organizational goals.
Meet with key stakeholders, including peers, cross-functional partners, and senior leaders, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the company’s operations, challenges, and opportunities. Ask questions and actively listen to their insights, as this will provide valuable context for decision-making and strategy development.
Assess and Optimize Processes
Within the first 60 days, assess the existing processes and workflows within your team. Identify any bottlenecks or areas for improvement and work towards optimizing them. Streamlining processes can increase efficiency, productivity, and overall team performance.
Engage your team members in discussions about current processes and gather their input on potential improvements. Encourage open communication and create a safe space for them to share their ideas and concerns. By involving your team in the process, you not only gain valuable insights but also empower them to take ownership of their work and contribute to process improvements.
Communicate and Build a Supportive Culture
Effective communication is a cornerstone of successful leadership. In your first 90 days, focus on establishing clear lines of communication within your team and across the organization. Regularly communicate team goals, objectives, and progress to ensure alignment and transparency.
Encourage open dialogue and create opportunities for team members to share their ideas, concerns, and feedback. Actively listen to their input and address any issues promptly. Building a supportive and inclusive culture fosters collaboration, innovation, and a sense of belonging among team members.
Develop a Development Plan
Within your first 90 days, it’s essential to start developing a plan for your team’s growth and development. Identify any skill gaps or areas for improvement within the team and create a roadmap for addressing them. This can include training programs, mentorship opportunities, or cross-functional projects that allow team members to expand their skills and knowledge.
Invest time in understanding each team member’s career aspirations and provide guidance and support to help them achieve their goals. A strong focus on development not only improves individual performance but also contributes to the overall success of the team.
Seek Feedback and Continuous Improvement
Throughout your first 90 days and beyond, actively seek feedback from your team, peers, and superiors. Regularly check in with your team members to understand their needs, challenges, and areas where you can provide support. Embrace feedback as an opportunity for growth and improvement, and incorporate it into your leadership approach.
Additionally, conduct regular reflections and self-assessments to evaluate your progress and identify areas where you can enhance your effectiveness as a leader. Continuously strive for personal and professional growth, and be open to adapting your strategies and approaches based on feedback and new insights.
Establish Trust and Accountability
As a new leader, establishing trust and accountability is crucial for team success. Lead by example and demonstrate integrity, transparency, and consistency in your actions and decisions. Encourage open and honest communication within the team and create a safe environment where everyone feels valued and heard.
Set clear expectations for performance, deadlines, and deliverables, and hold yourself and your team members accountable. Regularly provide constructive feedback and recognition to foster a culture of continuous improvement and motivation.
Build Relationships Beyond Your Team
While building relationships with your direct reports is essential, don’t overlook the importance of developing connections beyond your team. Seek opportunities to collaborate with other teams, departments, and stakeholders. Building a strong network within the organization broadens your perspective, facilitates knowledge sharing, and opens doors for future collaboration and career growth.
The first 90 days as a new manager present a unique opportunity to establish yourself as a leader, build relationships, and set the stage for long-term success. By creating a well-structured plan, prioritizing onboarding and relationship building, understanding the business context, optimizing processes, and fostering a culture of communication and continuous improvement, you can navigate this critical period with confidence.
Remember, each new management role brings its own set of challenges and opportunities. Adapt the strategies discussed here to fit your specific context and organizational culture. Embrace the learning journey, seek feedback, and continuously evolve your leadership approach. With a proactive mindset and a focus on building strong relationships and driving results, you can thrive in your new role and make a lasting impact as a leader.
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