What to Do Before Day One: You Were Just Hired to Lead a Team..Now What?

Now that the dust has settled after the midterm elections, the US has found itself facing a plethora of new leaders who will soon be making important decisions for our country. The news channels have been buzzing with interviews from new legislators about all the things they are going to do and changes they will make to get us on what they call “the right track.”

Many of these new leaders talk like this will happen right now — as in before the end of the year. But the truth is that they don’t officially take office until January 3, 2011, so at this point their words are just a bunch of hot air. Does that mean they should take off their leadership hat and stuff it in a closet until the new year starts? Absolutely not.

They can’t just sit back and relax until January. There is a ton of work to do. Many of these people are first time politicians who have a lot to learn about how things are done, how to navigate the government bureaucracy, and where to find the bathroom. :)

There’s nothing like using the first 100 days on the job to take advantage of newbie-ness and set the tone for what is to come. And, in reality, the work of a true leader starts way before day one on the job. If you are a new leader or plan on moving into a leadership role, here are some key actions you need to take to be successful.

Before Day One

  • Find out who the key stakeholders are for your area of responsibility. These are both internal and external contacts that will help enable your success. You’ll want to look across all levels of the organization, make a list and then prioritize it. Make sure you connect with administrative staff. These people are the glue that hold a company together and can make your transition to your new role much smoother.
  • Schedule 30 minute meetings with as many of your stakeholders as possible. Face to face is ideal, but if it’s not doable, you could use video chat or the telephone. Your objective during these discussions is to listen, not sell your agenda. This will be critical as you move into your new role. You want to know what is important to these people and learn about the culture of the organization.
  • Ensure the little details are taken care of for your first day on the job — office space, phone and computer set up, keys and ID badge are a few things that come to mind. You don’t want to waste precious time on the first day drowning in minutiae.
  • Read any important business documents like policies and procedures and the operations manual.
  • Prepare your action plan for Day One of your new role based on what you have learned about stakeholders and company culture. Make sure you set aside time during your first month to find out more about your team members — what their goals are, how they fit in the big picture, and what they need from you (as their leader) to do their job to the best of their ability.

It’s tough to walk into an organization as a new team leader and get instant respect. Be aware that every action you take, and every word you say will be scrutinized and set the tone for the days to come.

What do you think? Have I missed something? Please add your thoughts in the comments.

Denise O'Berry

Denise O’Berry — aka the Team Doc — has been working with teams and team leadership in the public, non profit and private sectors for over twenty years. She gets a lot of joy from working with teams and their leadership to help them improve and work through team issues. Not only does her advice come from the heart, it comes from years of experience working as a team member, team leader, manager and owner of her own company. She has truly walked in your shoes and offers help so you can be a better team leader. You can find more advice from Denise at her website askteamdoc and don't forget to follow her on Twitter @askteamdoc.

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