As a sports fan I am always interested in the transfer of players from one club to another. The moves of star players in any sport are highly publicised, they involve a lot of money, and consequently the credibility of multiple parties. Inevitably we see every possible outcome. There are transfers where a player fits like a hand into a glove in the new club, we see players who struggle at first in a new culture or new regime but then settle in, and we see transfers that never quite work out, and for any one of many reasons, expectations are not fulfilled.
Executive positions are no different. As you progress in your career you will transition into more complex and more demanding roles and just as for the sports stars there is a plenty at stake and a lot that can go wrong.
First, you must be aware that leaving an organisation where you have invested emotional energy and you have built strong relationships is something of a trauma and you will feel it.
Add to that, expectations in your new company are very high. They are recruiting you for reason, they have seen the very best of you through the interview process and there is a risk that while you are still finding your feet that you disappoint them.
And there will be plenty of complexities in the new role that you need to get to grips with – people, politics, processes in addition to their products and customers which may be new to you – and that’s without considering any personal upheaval that may be required if you need to relocate.
I have done a few of these transitions some of which involved continental relocations at the same time. Reflecting on the moves that I have made, I have come up with three ideas that I hope can support you in making your career transitions go as smoothly as possible.
First create space.
Don’t get rushed between one company and the next. Your new boss will be keen to get you in as soon as possible but be sure to create some space – I would recommend 4 weeks.
You need to leave well from your previous employer, and you need to get over it and put that experience behind you.
You need to sort all the logistics. This can range from getting a laptop set up to moving your family across the world, but whichever it is realise that you don’t want to be still handling a lot of administration after you get started. So, during the space that you have created work all of this through and have a plan for the various steps.
Most important, you must use this period to study, prepare and get ahead of the game. You need to engage enough with the new company so that have an agenda and a plan before you walk through the door. I am not suggesting that you come in knowing the answers, but you must have some hypotheses as to the strategy and the changes that you are going to drive.
Once you start, your time is not your own, and it is impossible to get back this sort of calm learning period.
The second idea I call – Assert Yourself
You have a relatively small window of time when you first enter a new company, when you have a heightened sense of awareness because it is all new and you have the right to question previous assumptions and plans, because you were not a participant in their making.
You must use this window to re-examine plans, targets and strategies. Don’t take anything as given, because in just a short time you will own the outcome.
This can be difficult and requires a bit of courage, but this is where you set the tone for how you are going to work and it makes all the difference in being able to over-deliver in the future rather than being victim to the optimism of your predecessor.
Final idea – Don’t lose sight of the priorities
Whether it’s the board of directors, if you are a CEO or your direct boss, you have been recruited with certain objectives in mind.
But as soon as you join a company you get sucked into a plethora of other demands. If it’s an international organisation you can find yourself with a heavy travel burden just to get to meet your team. You will come across plenty of things that you want to fix at the risk of trying to do too much.
To maintain the confidence and support of the people who hired you, you need to make progress and get some quick wins on the items that are important to them.
So be sure to set your goals and manage your time accordingly and that will doubtless mean being ready to say “no” to any activities that could slow you down or take you off course.
As with so much else, the first step to a good transition is awareness – realise that transitions are demanding periods with plenty of pitfalls but use these three ideas – create space, asset yourself and don’t lose sight of the priorities – and you are more likely to come through them on top.