The Most Important Thing to do as a New Leader

The lady in seat 2B had my attention.

I was flying home from Minnesota on a business trip when she struck up a conversation immediately after boarding.

And since she was talking about her boss, I perked up.

I love stories about bad bosses because I’m always amazed at what some people think is acceptable leadership behavior.

My seat-mate was heading out on a vacation to get away from her boss. She needed time to consider whether she was going to quit or not. The story she told me was unbelievable – a new manager who destroyed an organization in just one week.

She worked for a non-profit organization and they had just hired a new director. The director was a seasoned executive who had run several non-profits before and everyone was excited to have her on board.

But the excitement ended after a few days.

Before even meeting with and talking to employees, she began telling everyone how things were going to be done under her watch. She began cleaning out offices and throwing away files. She deleted documents on the server and discarded financial and operation reports.

When questioned, she told the employees, “I know what I’m doing.”

When my seat-mate suggested they sit down and review how payroll was processed, her new boss said, “I don’t need you to show me anything. I know how to do payroll.” My travel companion said, “She treated me like a child.”

Then, there was this red flag, my seat-mate said, “I don’t trust her.”

From what I can tell, this new director violated three cardinal rules of leadership in the first week:

1.    She never asked for any advice from her senior employees
2.    She broke the trust of her people
3.    She frustrated good employees to the point where they wanted to quit

Three strikes in one week? That’s like a world record.

The truth is, this boss failed to properly lead in the first 100 days.

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a new leader, every time you take on a new leadership role, everyone will be watching you. The first 100 days are critically important. This is when the new leader sets the tone. There is a small window of time when you have the full attention of the workforce so your actions need to be carefully considered.

Yes, it’s important to have a meeting with all team members to fully introduce yourself but you need to do so much more. On the latest episode of the Deep Leadership podcast, I explain the ten things you should do in the first 100 days.

But, spoiler alert, this one activity is the most important!

Have one-on-one meetings with all employees. 

Don’t assume you understand the problems and challenges facing your team. Have one-on-one meetings and ask the following three questions:

1. What’s going right?
2. What going wrong?
3. If you were in my shoes, what would you do first?

You will be surprised at how similar the responses are to these three questions. At the end of this process, you have a deeper understanding of the people and conditions in the organization.

And if you really want to be a leader worth following, take immediate action on one of the issues you learn from these interviews.

Don’t be like the bad boss in this story. Get to know your team and issues facing the business before you dive into fixing them. You will gain instant credibility and the feedback you receive will help you to make better-informed decisions.

If you like this idea and want more, get a copy of my latest book – I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following. It’s filled with 23 practical ideas like this on how you can become a more effective leader.

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