Would You Pass the Leadership Roadworthiness Test?

When you’re new to a leadership role, the first three months are a crucial time when it comes to establishing yourself. If you have appointed someone into a new leadership role, or you’re aspiring to one, then the same applies to you too – there are lots of areas that will demand your attention and  it can be a steep learning curve.

Generally speaking, those first weeks are best for observing and learning and forming relationships unless you’ve been specifically tasked with making immediate changes.

Here are three leadership survival areas to work on – get these right and it will make all the difference to how others perceive you, how you feel and your confidence levels, and vitally, to your performance.

I call it the MOT – would you pass the test? (Here in the UK, our cars undergo a MOT test for roadworthiness!) 

The first area to consider is

Your Mission

Put very simply, do you know why you have been appointed?

What are you there to do?

How do your new employers expect you to be? For example, are you there to be a pro-active go-getter, driving change stridently and challenging the status-quo? Or have you been appointed as someone who can bring a calming presence to a turbulent team?

What are the scope and boundaries of your role?

Where does your authority start and stop?

What can you do?

What are your responsibilities?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then you need to sit down with your boss and find out. Don’t wait for them to come to you, go and find out by requesting a meeting. Keep in touch with your own leader or manager.

You won’t be able to act with confidence if you don’t know the extent and limits of your role – what you can and can’t do. It will inhibit you and undermine you and you’ll spend time second-guessing your own line manager. You run the risk of showing up as a hesitant leader yourself.

This is particularly important if you’ve been appointed into a newly created role, or you have just appointed someone into a role like that. I’ve seen people in this position, and it has turned out that no-one is very clear about what they should actually be doing, which doesn’t make for an easy time for anybody.

If you’re appointing someone into a new leadership role, make sure you have the answers to these questions, and if you’re aspiring to a leadership role, you know what you should be asking in those first few weeks!

Next, you need to understand

Your Organisation

You’ll have done some homework before you were appointed, so you’ll have a basic understanding of what your new employers are all about, but it doesn’t stop there.

Make sure you understand their business priorities, their vision, their culture and their values as an organisation.

Where are they heading?

How do they sit in the market?

What’s their competition like?

Most importantly here, you need to know about their internal practices and processes and get yourself fully acquainted with them in the first month.

This is about your own leadership survival learning – do an audit of their practices and processes and make sure that you devote some time to learning them.   You don’t want to be in the position of being told that you’re not where we expected you to be by now.

If you’ve appointed someone into a new leadership role, make sure you are very explicit about what you expect them to have got to grips with and be as helpful as possible about providing resources for them.

And if you’re aspiring to a new leadership role, understand the need for this and be prepared to devote some time to this, as well as asking for that information as early on as possible.

Lastly, you need to understand

Your Team

In the first month, you need to get to know your team.  You can do this most effectively, by asking some good questions and then being quiet and listening to the replies, so that you get the lay of the land.

Observe your team members, watch how they interact with each other.

What does your team feel like?

How would you describe the culture?

Where are the alliances in the team?

Who are the most influential people?

Are there people who impact the team in a negative manner?

Aim to have a 1:1 meeting with all members individually at some point in those first few weeks, as well as team meeting. Make sure communication is high on your agenda and role model how you expect this to take place.

You’ll need to focus on building rapport, credibility and trust – this will then allow you to work with your new team and begin to build it in the future.

If you’ve appointed someone into a new role, then  help them by giving them some background history about the team and be available to answer questions, but guard against passing on your own biases.

If you’re aspiring to  a new role, then  make this part of your plan of action for your first 30 days. Understand how important it is and be prepared not to get drawn into knee-jerk reactions for quick, not-thought through action.

So there you have it – the roadworthiness test for those first few weeks in post.

Would you pass? If you’d like more tips like this, you can download 5 Steps to Developing Your Leadership Presence.

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Susan Ritchie

Susan Ritchie is a leadership coach who specialises in working with new and aspiring female leaders, helping them develop their leadership presence, so they can lead with confidence, create the right impact and excel in their role. She’s the author of Strategies for Being Brilliant: 21 Ways to be Happy, Confident and Successful.
She can be found at www.susanritchie.co.uk where you can download 5 Steps To Developing Your Leadership Presence – and why not come and say hello on twitter @susanjritchie.

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