The ‘first 100 days’, a phrase coined by Roosevelt in 1933, are famously used to judge a new President or Prime Minister—a lot of pressure.
Getting off to a good start can be critical to a leader’s long-term success and it is important to prepare. The first thing to consider, according to Professor Geoffrey Leonardelli, who leads The New Executive’s Roadmap program at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, is, “How do you measure success—what are the performance metrics to care about?”
As well as addressing the greater managerial responsibilities the new executive is tasked with, Leonardelli points to his or her need to build their interpersonal skillset. "Skills such as networking, shared purpose, creating inclusive environments to get the best out of your employees—all of this fits with what it means to be an effective executive.”
“With transition, with newness, can come feelings of uncertainty or imposter syndrome,” he adds, "How can I be true to myself and be an effective leader at the same time?” Establishing authenticity early on is essential. But, as Leonardelli warns, “Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that authenticity means anything I am goes, but no. Instead, be authentic in ways that can facilitate your interpersonal skillset and facilitate leadership.” In other words, having your own clear vision which you communicate as authentically from you, as opposed to just letting it all hang out.
Join Professor Leonardelli and colleagues on Rotman School of Management’s ‘The New Executive Roadmap’
Dates: Oct 20-Nov 24 | Format: 100% online: 6 half day sessions over 6 weeks
“Don’t become consumed with impression management either. As an effective leader, you are there to shepherd the group forward, to build a common purpose, understanding your stakeholders—to understand it is about them.” Learning this is what The New Executive’s Roadmap program is offering, he says. “Along the way, there will be a shift in the participants’ perspective into viewing leadership as being about understanding those around you, those you're there to lead.”
With the Covid-19 crisis, with so many people working from home, those leading and being led are very often remote. For many global companies managing remote teams is the norm, in fact some organizations today are defined by their remoteness. According to Leonardelli this merely amplifies another key issue for the new executive: the need to build trust. “The crux of this is identity,” states Leonardelli. “Understanding who they are by building a true sense of who we are as a team—and your team building a true sense of who you are, so they can depend on you.” Although it may be more challenging to build with a remote team, trust is the most important characteristic of any successful leadership relationship.
You are there to shepherd the group forward, to build a common purpose, to understand it is about them
The next challenge facing the new executive is the need to negotiate or renegotiate roles. The new role is a big change for the executive—and thus will also involve change for those around him or her. “Negotiation of the relationships around you means seeing that people have identity and have investment in their own careers and seeing what they have to get out of it," observes Leonardelli.
For some the changes may feel like losses and the new executive must create circumstances that help to address this. “We have a session on creating diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces in the program, because it's so important to create an environment that's welcoming to all. That means navigating personal issues as well—those difficult conversations you might be confronted with.”
A move that involves leading a new team or moving to a new firm will necessarily involve transitioning from one to another culture, and possibly seeking to change that culture. “This is where decoding culture becomes very important. I think people fall into being reactive to culture, saying ‘Oh, this is how I must be’. I do think it's important to understand the culture you have joined before you seek to change it,” suggests Leonardelli. "It's important to become aware of what it is that you can do to make a more productive, healthy, supportive culture. Because, if there are changes that need to be made along the way, culture needs to be changed as well, so that it can continue to support the changes that you're seeking to make.”
Culture has to do with observing social information from others and using that to shape our behaviours
Culture change is often assumed to be a slow process. Though this does not always have to be the case, says Leonardelli, “Culture has to do with observing social information from others and using that to shape our behaviours. That can happen in a single instance of a team meeting, for example.” Language is important. “Culture is also communicated at the level of word choice,” he says, adding “the importance of reading people, and the importance of making sense of the environment and the existing culture.” Having used this understanding to help inform his or her actions, the new executive, to make their transition successful, must be able to tell their own story clearly. “This gets right to the heart of the matter, it’s how we address newness, feel authentic, and understand how to adapt our way to this new goal.”
Personality types of course, play a part in how an executive makes the transition to a new role. “Personality manifests in many ways—our individual differences, how we approach life differently from our peers. But those features, or in other words simply resting on our defaults, can only get us so far,” says Leonardelli. “Having influence is best served by understanding what is truly in the best interest of the organization, the stakeholders—employees, the board, customers and suppliers. Extroverts are often associated with being dominant and getting their words out, and influence does depend on communication. But if you are not attentive to the circumstances you are in, and understanding how to align and build what the group requires, then that's going to put you at a disadvantage. It's not simply about who talks the most.”
Having influence is best served by understanding what is truly in the best interest of the organization
The New Executive Roadmap program covers these essential issues: authenticity, the importance of reading people, of telling your story, building trust, negotiating roles, decoding culture, fostering inclusivity, and finally wraps up with what Leonardelli describes as, “a focus on leaning forward. Bringing people to a position where they can progress in a more comfortable, confident way, and seeing any uncertainty they may feel as an opportunity.”
The program is delivered 100% online and although Leonardelli sees there will be some return to face-to-face in future, online has many advantages. “Online opens up opportunities. First of all, interpersonal skills translate well into a synchronous online program, because you're necessarily trying to engage. Second, as technology has upped its game incredibly, we can now engage audiences in really creative ways that were unheard of in the classroom. And we can extend this engagement to wider audiences.”