Making Your Mark As A New Leader: What’s The Best Approach?

Entering a new job is always an exciting but very challenging time. And if you’re stepping into a leadership role for the first time, or even moving into a new organisation in a leadership role, the heat is most definitely on. You may have thought the interview process was at an end when you received the offer, but the truth is that leadership roles put you on a pedestal, and never more so than when you’re new to a role or an organisation – people will be watching your every move to begin with. This means that every single interaction – from saying hello to the receptionist in the morning to casual chats by the coffee machine – is now public, and that can be a huge transition to make, especially if you’re new to leading people or you were previously in a role for a long time. In fact, you don’t even need to be in a formal leadership role to feel a certain amount of this scrutiny – all of us take on elements of leadership when we work on collaborative projects and deliverables which bring us into contact with other teams and organisations.

If you are a company executive, increasing amounts of your time will be spent in the goldfish bowl of the meeting room, where you’ll be joining existing teams, bringing new ones together or working alongside partners and suppliers. This can be a mental challenge as each group will have different attributes and require different things of you – largely down to the personalities and chemistry which comprises each collective dynamic. If you are the decision maker, you’ll be wanting to make your mark and may be anxious to prove yourself quickly. In fact, according to business gurus like Jozef Opdeweegh, the first two weeks are the critical period for your reports and your peers to form an impression of you – one that can be very hard to change after that initial grace period. At every meeting, you’re going to leave people with an impression of who you are – they form part of an unspoken, ongoing extended interview during the first few months of your tenure. What this situation calls for is a strategy – one that allows you to make connections, set expectations, assimilate into the culture of your new company and make it clear how you’re going to add value. So, how do you go about leaving your mark in the right way?

Go In With A Point Of View

While it’s good to asses the lie of the land a little before jumping in, in a leadership position you are expected to have a point of view, so make sure that you don’t play it so safe that you come across as clueless or wishy-washy. Here’s where your research into the company and even experiences outside of the sector can act as valuable insights. Being new offers you a chance to contribute a new voice and an opinion outside of the usual scope, so take advantage. Ask the tough questions while you can get away with it. Don’t be tempted to hide behind the role of observer – that’s not what your people are expecting of you. You need to show engagement with people and problems, and a willingness to meet them head on, right from the very beginning. Listening skills are hugely important, of course, but show that you’re digesting this information and using it, rather than being passively on receive. Especially with female executives, there can be an ingrained bias towards trying to make people like you, or play the role of peacemaker rather than tackling issues. You don’t have to be aggressive in your approach but you should build a reputation as someone who cares about the bottom line by criticizing constructively. Don’t tear things down for no reason, but seek to understand motivations and offer alternatives in a firm way. Comparisons, statistics and industry trends are all useful things to have at your fingertips in these situations, so arm yourself before you step into the fray. And never go to a meeting without first noting down a few ideas that you want to contribute.

Assess The Team Dynamic

Every team – whether organisational or project-based, will have its own dynamic that you need to take note of in order to gain success. Making the most effective decisions early on will depend a lot on what this dynamic is and how you can use to your advantage. Look at the ways in which people communicate, what problems they come up against and recurring disagreements. Pay attention to people’s individual strengths and weaknesses and how they come into play in the team environment. Shape your responses and solutions around these – what you’re aiming for is to bolster these collective strengths and find solutions for the barriers that exist. You have a role to play in leading the discussion and ensuring that everyone gets to contribute equally – even those who are naturally less outspoken but who likely have valuable insights to share with a little encouragement. You have the chance here to shape the mood and influence the energy in a room. Confidence and openness are infectious values – if you model them well and encourage them in others, then the team will instantly become a more positive working environment. This is a tactic that also works to inspire early loyalty from people. You are inspiring them to feel good about themselves and to be empowered through trusting and encouraging their contributions – and we all gravitate towards people who make us feel happy about ourselves. You’re aiming to win over hearts and minds – but if you start with the hearts, the minds tend to be much more receptive to what you have to say.

Take It Down A Notch

Going into a new role, with the idea in your head to make a mark, can easily result in unintentional over-zealousness. You don’t want to bulldoze people or they won’t learn to trust you, and you’ll be missing out on some valuable insights that could have really helped you out. Take the approach of dialling it down a notch or two – you want to show that you have a vision for the company, but it’s much better not to go in with a solid game plan – gather some information first and you can make an adaptive, better plan that will really help you get results and get your name known.

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