You’ve just landed an amazing new role and you’re excited to get started having an impact and making the changes you were hired to bring about!

Stop Right There

One of the worst things you can do is push too hard too fast to try and bring about the impact and changes you were hired for.

Recognize there’s a balancing act that exists when starting a new role and your success depends on how well you manage it.

Over the course of my career, I have been a part of several organizations and each time I had a bigger role with more responsibility and greater expectations placed on me. And with each change, I learned several things in terms of what would help make me successful and what would derail me.

I came to realize there are 5 Balancing Acts a leader must master if they want to be successful in a new role.

Balancing Act #1:  Demonstrating How Smart You Are AND Seeking Perspective and Advice

 Too often our need to prove how smart we are and that we can deliver results gets in the way of us being willing to spend our time learning and understanding the lay of the land.

Helpful Thoughts and Actions to Take:

  • Believe and accept that your early days are a time of learning and understanding
  • Spend the first 30-60 days asking questions – seek to understand:
    • What others desire and why they desire it
    • What opportunities exist and the perceived roadblocks for capitalizing on them
    • Reasons for company/department prior successes and failures
  • Consider the best way to ask questions – your goal is to uncover what is “really” going on so be sure you enter the conversations with openness and curiosity

Derailing Thoughts and Actions to Avoid:

  • Believing others have failed and/or you have to fix things
  • Jumping in with your opinions and ideas to early before understanding why things are the way they are
  • Making decisions or taking action without thinking through the impact they will have on other people or functions

Balancing Act #2:  Driving Change AND Honoring the Company’s History

 Many new leaders are hired to drive change that will lead to improved results.  However, one of the worst things a new leader can do is to try and push the change to fast without understanding the history and culture of the company and how the company got to where it is today.

It’s important for new leaders to remember that for most people change is difficult and it’s a difficult for a couple reasons:

  • Change creates uncertainty and uncertainty evokes feelings of discomfort, stress and anxiety. When these feelings are brought to the surface others are likely to feel resistant
  • Change can trigger insecurities in others. Even if an organization isn’t fully thriving, it’s employees typically know what to do and how to do it because they’ve been doing it this way for a while. When change is on the horizon it’s normal for people to wonder how the change will impact them and whether or not they’ll be able to continue being successful in the new (changed) environment

Helpful Thoughts and Actions to Take:

  • Practice empathy – remember others are likely to be feeling uncertain and insecure, how can you best understand and support them through a change
  • Ask more questions; seek to understand how the company got to where it is today, ask about what changes have been tried and what was and wasn’t successful
  • Take time to understand how the organizational culture can help or hinder any upcoming change

Derailing Thoughts and Actions to Avoid:

  • Assuming because you were brought on to bring change the organization has accepted this
  • Believing that people are always ‘resistant to change’ and those who don’t get on the bus need to go
  • Making changes without including others as part of the process

Balancing Act #3:  Solving Problems AND Consulting With Others

 Many times employees will come to new leaders with problems and the leader will want to instinctively solve the problem.  However, jumping in and solving problems too early in the process can backfire.  This isn’t to say that a leader shouldn’t solve problems – they absolutely should but it is recommended to reach out and consult with others who are likely to be impacted by any new solutions or decisions.

Helpful Thoughts and Actions to Take:

  • Realize any problem you’re faced with right away that might seem simple usually isn’t – if it was, it would have been solved a long time ago.
  • Be sure to take the time necessary and explore all angles of the problem
  • Seek counsel from others in the organization regarding potential solutions and their unintended consequences

Derailing Thoughts and Actions to Avoid:

  • Assuming others are incompetent because a problem exists
  • Making decisions and moving ahead believing you know what’s best
  • Solving problems or making decisions to impress someone

Balancing Act #4:  Leveraging Past Experiences AND Holistically Understanding The Company

 Many new leaders come into their roles and are excited to take everything they’ve learned from prior roles and implement them at their new company.  While this seems reasonable because after all you were hired for your experience, don’t fall for it.

It’s important to keep in mind that what worked for one company might not work at another company because of different cultures, strategies, technologies and/or processes.

As a new leader, be sure you get a full understanding of your new company’s operations and that others know you’ve taken the time to do so — then be sure to share any ideas or options through the lens of the new company’s operation.

Helpful Thoughts and Actions to Take:

  • Be curious about why things are the way they are – ask a lot of questions about current strategies, technologies and processes
  • Engage others in discussion and brainstorming of new ideas or solutions

Derailing Thoughts and Actions to Avoid:

  • Believing the way things were done at your past employer was the “right” way
  • Continually referencing how things were done at your past employer
  • Excluding others from the process because you know best

Balancing Act #5. Building Effective Relationships AND Playing Politics

In almost any new role, building effective relationships will be a key success factor.  It’s important for new leaders to remember that many things get done just as much informally as they do formally and building effective relationships means understanding all of the informal channels.

It’s important for leaders in new roles to understand the goals and motivations of those surrounding them and the associated “political landmines” that might exist.  As a new leader it will serve you well to not only understand the goals and motivations of others but to not adopt them as your own.  Understanding what’s driving others, yet not letting it impact your judgment will help keep you out of the political fray.  The ability to stay fair and balanced while understanding the motives driving others will serve you well in terms of figuring out what will and won’t be effective.

Helpful Thoughts and Actions to Take:

  • Accept that politics exist and that it’s your job to understand and navigate them so you can deliver the results you were hired for
  • Keeping in mind relationships take time to build and investing the time early on is well worth it
  • Ask a lot of questions to understand how all the informal channels work
  • Be sure to build relationships with all key players, not just the ones that seem to come naturally

Derailing Thoughts and Actions to Avoid:

  • Getting “sucked” into any one position or side
  • Making judgments about others’ perspectives to early
  • Playing favorites or taking sides

There’s a lot involved in setting yourself up for success in a new role and it will typically require a stretch of your leadership abilities – especially if you were in your previous role or organization for a while. Taking the time to learn and demonstrate empathy and humility while doing it will go a long way in helping you thrive in your new role.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what’s worked for you in successful transitions – please email me at

And if you’d like to talk about a game plan for setting yourself up for success in your new role please feel free to schedule time with me here.