The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels - Book Summary

In his book "The First 90 Days," Michael Watkins, a professor at Harvard University, drew a diagram for taking on a management role in the first 90 days. The first few days in a new position are extremely important because one small mistake in your actions can have a huge impact later on.

Leaders at any level are prone to making mistakes in their first days in office because of their lack of understanding of the challenges they will face and how to bring in money in the first 90 days. First, you will definitely have to wade upstream to maintain your standing position.

The book "The first 90 days as a boss" will equip you with the methods and tools so you can integrate, get up to speed faster and achieve results sooner. This summary will help you to be aware of your situation and all the challenges and opportunities that come with it. You will also learn how to assess your strengths and weaknesses, how to prioritize, and how to maintain the relationships that are important to your success.

Who should read this book:

  • People who have just been appointed to new positions in the business or organization
  • People with ambitions for leadership positions
  • People interested in leadership and the role of leadership in organizations

About the author
Michael Watkins is a leading author and expert on business transformation as chairman of the advisory board of Genesis, a corporate transformation consulting firm. in Newton, Massachusetts.

Professor Michael Watkins has worked at IMD Switzerland, INSEAD France, Harvard Business School...

What will you learn in this summary

You have just been appointed to a new position and are rushing to prepare for your first days in office? This book will serve as your first step-by-step guide with lessons on:

  • How to motivate yourself. Successful leaders leave the past behind and start learning all that is relevant to their new job.
  • How to adapt to a new role quickly. Leaders must adapt themselves by understanding the company's culture as well as organizational structure and operations.
  • How to choose the right strategy. To choose the most appropriate strategies for the company, the leader must carefully consider every situation in the business. Only when you analyze the situation can you draw up the right and effective strategic plans.
  • How to create new and good things. Show your boss, colleagues, and subordinates that you've changed for the better when you're in your new position. These “fresh” achievements will excite and energize people, and also help build your credibility.
  • How to build an effective team. Without an effective team, you will face a lot of difficulties because no leader can alone achieve great achievements at work.

Promote your own adaptation

Promoting yourself is not an act of self-interest, nor is it to impress or hire a PR team to introduce yourself to the world. It means being mentally prepared to take up the new position. Put the past aside and start working hard to learn all that is relevant to your new position.

This job requires a lot of work and effort but you must do it. A lot of leaders promise to get promoted but they don't try to change their outlook, so they can't push themselves.

A similar mistake that you often make is that you think this new job is the same as what you did in your old position except that you have more power. The reason you give for this mindset is “They gave me the new job because of my skills and achievements, so that’s definitely what they want me to do here.”

Doing what you know and avoiding what you don't may seem like the right thing to do, but you won't hold onto this mindset when things fall apart.

New jobs require new approaches

Douglas Ivester was promoted to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Coca-Cola in 1997 after many years serving as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at the company. In 1999, after a series of blunders damaged the leadership's credibility, Ivester resigned.

For outsiders, Ivester is a great candidate for the job. As an accountant, Ivester couldn't make the jump from CEO to CEO because he was too concerned with detail - the very nature of accounting. And now, what was suitable for the previous job position became a barrier to his work in the new position. Ivester did not escape his former work habits to take on the strategic and visionary role of a successful executive.

The cause of Ivester's failure was not what he couldn't do, but what he couldn't let go of. The CEO position was given a disappointing ending by Ivester because he focused only on his strengths instead of focusing on what the CEO position entails.

Set a clear stop

Moving from one location to another happens very quickly, so it often creates an ambiguity. An employee will not gain much attention until he moves to a new position. Some leaders are lucky enough to have a couple of weeks to transition, but oftentimes, the transition takes place in just a few days.

The transition from one position to another is often not easy and smooth, so you need to set discipline for yourself, follow those disciplines to be able to change and adapt quickly to the job. new. Pick a specific time, maybe a weekend, and imagine getting a promotion.

Always think of a bright future to motivate yourself, get rid of old job images and focus on new work. Think carefully about the difference between the two positions and how to think differently and act differently in the new position. Host a promotion party with family and friends.

Seek advice from those who have gone before. And finally “do all you can to get you to have a mental transformation”.

Impressive start

The transition usually takes place between the time you are considered for promotion to the new position and the time you start the job, which is 90 days. During those first 90 days, the key people in the company – leaders, colleagues and subordinates – expect you to make an impression.

The three-month timeframe isn't exactly fixed – it depends on the situation you're in. But since the goals are already planned, 90 days is an extremely important period. This will help you realize that you have to do a great job at this stage. If you're lucky, you can use the time from the moment you know you've been promoted to the day you first take office to learn about the company.

Know your weaknesses

You are promoted to a higher position because your boss thinks you have all the necessary qualities to be successful. However, it is extremely dangerous to rely too much on past skills and knowledge. One way to identify weaknesses is to assess your preferences – in other words, find out which problems you would most like to solve. People often just want to do some things to their liking more than others, but doing so is like exercising only the right hand and not the left hand – the right arm will grow stronger and stronger. increasingly dwindling. This asymmetry will make you weak in situations where both hands are needed.

There are many ways you can overcome your weaknesses, such as improving your discipline, your ability to build teams, and asking for advice and advice. You will have to make time for unexpected important activities that happen to you that you are not interested in. In addition, you also have to learn from knowledgeable and experienced people in the company.

Once you have made certain strides in your career, the advice and advice you need will be different. When you get promoted, political advice only from experienced people in the organization will help you understand the working style and culture of the company, which is very important when you want to apply. later changes.

Speed ​​up the learning process

Not learning is one of the reasons new leaders go astray. There is so much new information to take in that it can be difficult to pinpoint where to focus, and as a result often miss out on important information. Or when a new leader is too focused on the details of the job — like products, customers, techniques, and strategy — important insights about the company's culture and working style are often overlooked.

The reality is that very few leaders are trained to systematically identify the intertwined problems in a company. People who are trained in this area are often human resources specialists or former management consultants.

Even in situations where leaders have to communicate how something is going to be done – changing company policies, for example – they need to know how to change their approach to the problem and the way it is worded. to suit the company's culture and working style.

Create a specific research program

The starting point is that you have to create your own research program, it is best to do this before officially joining the company. A research program will include prioritizing what to learn and questions to help you guide your requirements. The more you learn, the more you will know what is going on and why. Research will help verify these conclusions.

During the conversion process, you will learn through a variety of hardcopy data types (such as operational and financial statements, functional and strategic plans, surveys, etc.) staff, magazines and industry reports). But to make effective decisions, you also need "soft" information about the company's strategy, technical capabilities, company culture. The only way to gain this knowledge is to talk to people who understand your situation and circumstances.

Finding reliable sources of help will make your research easier and more effective. Adopt structured learning methods

Once you know what you need to learn and where to find it, the next step will be to see what is the best way to learn.

When starting a new company, first meet with each person involved and ask them five questions in turn:

1. What are the biggest challenges the company will face in the near future?

2. Why does the company face these challenges?

3. What is the company's most promising untapped opportunity?

4. What must the company do to take advantage of those potential opportunities?

5. If you were me, what would you focus on?

Tailor your strategy to the situation

Many leaders fail to identify their situation in order to adjust strategies accordingly. As a result, they made unnecessary mistakes. This unfortunate cycle happens because people don't know how to match the situation with the little experience they have.

To apply the strategy to the situation you need to define the business situation carefully. Only when you truly identify the situation can you make informed decisions to confront the challenges and difficulties at work as well as the opportunities and available resources.

Determine the stage of the company

The four stages in a company that new leaders need to understand are initiating, implementing, reorganizing, and maintaining success (STARS). Here are the characteristics of the four stages:

Start up. At this point you will have to focus all the capabilities (human, financial and technical) needed to start a new business, product or project.

Conduct. At this stage, you join a struggling group or group and try to help keep the group moving in the right direction. Both the startup and the implementation stages require concentrated resources to build the work – there are not always enough infrastructures and capabilities in the company that you can use and rely on. in, that's why it's important to be self-reliant.

Reorganize. Your problem is to revive a troubled organization, product, process or project. This stage requires you to restructure the business.

Maintain success. During this phase, you are responsible for preserving the reputation of a successful company and taking it to the next level. Keep employees motivated by creating new challenges for them.

Capture what the company has been through

It is important that businesses (as well as projects, processes, products and plants) tend to evolve in a predictable manner from one stage to another. Understanding the company's past successes and difficulties will help you manage challenges as well as opportunities.

If the startup phase develops, it becomes a successful maintenance phase. Those who succeed in the startup phase will go on to guide other startups, while managers with experience in running the larger business will take care of the next step. This is how successful companies enter the “growth cycle”.

Reorganizing an organization means re-directing resources by getting rid of old production lines and replacing them with new technology. It also means changing the company's strategy, structure, skills, and even the underlying cultural ethos.

People who enter the startup phase are often more excited and hopeful than those who are in trouble at the company and in need of recovery. But the employees in the company at the start-up stage don't care about the main problems like the people working at the company that are in trouble, simply because the company at the startup stage still lacks the vision, the strategy. and structure.

Therefore, the success of the transformation process largely depends on the ability to transform the existing organizational psychology within the company. In start-up companies, employees are often very excited, energetic, your job is to channel this strength to improve productivity. For companies in the early stages, you will find employees here are always on the verge of despair – your job is to light up their faith and lift their spirits.

Concentrate energy

Knowing the company and the job you do will help you know what to do in the first 90 days. The questions below will help you make three right and timely choices:

Do you value learning or doing the work more?

Do you prefer attack or defense?

What do you have to do to get the initial wins?

Get the first victory soon

At the end of the transition you will expect your manager, co-workers, and people helping you to see something new and good. Early wins will keep everyone excited and energized at work, while you'll also build your own reputation and quickly create value for the company.

Early wins are important, and more importantly, you must have them in time. Here are some traps new leaders often fall into:

Lack of focus. During a time of transition, it's easy to take on a lot of work, and the results can be devastating. Don't expect good results when you cover too many fields. It's important to know where the opportunities are and then focus on turning them into wins.

I don't know what stage I'm at. To be successful, each stage in your company will have to work differently. The company is in the process of restructuring, then all you need to do is ask others about the company and the challenges it is facing.

Not adapting to the company culture. It is easy for leaders from other companies to fall into this trap. After understanding the company's culture, they will shape what is a win in the company and how to achieve it. Make sure you understand what your company is doing and don't take it as a win.

Failure to achieve results will adversely affect leadership. Winning to energize employees is important, but you should also pay attention to what your leaders say about your accomplishments. Even if you don't meet the standards they set, try to keep up.

Let the means destroy the result. Process is very important. If your co-workers think your impressive wins are a scam, a lie, or inconsistent with the company culture, you're in trouble. An initial win that represents the style you want to establish at the company is a double win.

Long-term goal setting

In the first 90 days, the main goal is to build your reputation and create momentum for the company to grow. Securing a few early wins will energize you and expand your potential for later activities.

As you look to stay motivated, keep in mind that the actions that create the initial victory need to be twofold. Your efforts should:

1. Be consistent with prioritizing what has been given.

2. Introduce the behavioral traits you want to convey in the company.

To understand your priorities and goals for changing the company's culture, you need to plan specifically how to achieve these goals. You have to think about what to do in two phases: build credibility in the first 30 days and determine where to put your efforts to get the initial results in the next 60 days.

Build reputation

Don't expect to create a big image for employees in the first few weeks, but you can make an impression by achieving a few small achievements to show colleagues how things are changing. . Your goal at this stage is to build personal credibility. Since each of your initial actions will have a huge impact, think about how to “connect” with the company. What message do you want to send to the company to show who you are and what you stand for? What is the best way to convey those messages?

Successful negotiation

Successful agreement means working closely with your superiors to work together so you will easily achieve your goals. Too many new leaders just do the work themselves, deal with the situation on their own, and as a result, they fail. When you discuss and negotiate with your superiors, you will be able to establish the work that needs to be done, agree with your superiors on the work situation and ensure the resources to help complete the work.

Focus on the fundamentals

When you ask an experienced leader how to build a good relationship with his new boss, he will have do's and don'ts in mind. Here are six things not to do:

Don't take the past seriously. You will lose more than gain by criticizing what the leadership did before you came to the company. You have to understand what they did but focus on assessing the current action and results.

Don't dodge. If your boss is not supportive of you or your relationship is not good, then you should adjust yourself to your boss. Otherwise, your relationship with your boss will crack and fall apart.

Don't surprise your boss. Your boss won't be happy to hear bad news. You may be scolded by your boss, but it will be much worse if you do not quickly report the emerging problem to your boss.

Don't give your boss all trouble. Don't become someone who specializes in bringing trouble in the eyes of your boss. Take the time to deal with them and only ask for help when you need it.

Don't skip the list. Even senior management sees meetings as a good opportunity to report on what they are doing. Of course, you have to choose the right time, but often that's the kind of stuff the boss rarely wants to hear.

Don't try to change the boss. Always think that you can't change your boss, but you have to try to adapt to his or her style and temperament.

How to make a smooth arrangement

In addition to the do's and don'ts, there are also things to do. If you follow them, your relationship with your boss will become easier.

Take 100% responsibility for making the relationship work. Don't expect your boss to care, support and spend time with you. Make creating a good relationship with your boss your own responsibility.

Identify potential dangers in your relationship with your boss quickly and often. Start controlling potential hazards immediately. The best way is to talk openly with your boss about possible bad news from day one to limit the risk of breaking the relationship with your boss.

Negotiate more time to define and plan action. Don't let yourself be pressured into making hasty decisions. Try to take the time to get to know the company and plan every action.

Set goals for success in areas that are important to your superiors. Find out what your boss is most interested in. Once you know what your boss is interested in, try to achieve success in that area. It's also part of your job to shape your boss's view of what's to be achieved.

Try to score points with someone your boss respects. Your boss's view of you is partly based on direct contact and partly on what he or she hears from close colleagues. Your boss also has a relationship with your subordinates, so be careful because your boss can hear bad information about you.

Create unity in the organization

The more you advance in the company, the more you feel like an architect whose role is to create a good environment for everyone to work together. No matter how reputable you are, you can't do much without creating alignment within your company.

In addition to knowing the structure strategy, systems and skills, you also need to analyze to understand the structure of the company and evaluate the linkages between important factors. During the first few months you can only make a preliminary determination of the company and start with the problems related to the association.

During the first 90 days, put in place a plan to strengthen the team and find ways to improve the areas where it is needed.

Redesigning the company's organizational structure

Think about whether you will be the architect of your team or work unit. It may seem like a familiar role to you, but it really isn't. Few managers are systematically trained in how to build organizations. Usually, a new manager doesn't have much authority over the restructuring of the company, and they know very little about it. Low-level employees often complain about the inadequacies in the company and always ask why the "idiots" above let this situation continue. Once you've reached middle leadership, you're on your way to becoming one of those idiots. You will learn a number of ways to evaluate and restructure organizations.

To equip your team to accomplish goals, there are five elements of a company's structure that need to work together:

Strategy: The main way the company achieves its goals.

Structure: How to group employees into small units and help them work together.

Systems: Processes for adding value.

Skills: The ability of different groups of people in the organization.

Culture: The values ​​and concepts that shape the way the company behaves.

Identify inadequacies

Organizations can lose cohesion in many ways. An important goal during your first 90 days should be to identify what is lacking in links and have a plan to correct them. Here are some types:

Lack of link between strategy and skills. For example, if you are leading a research and development team, your goal is to increase the number of opinions about the group's new product. If your team doesn't understand the latest technologies and tools that make testing fast, your team skills aren't enough to follow the strategy.

Lack of alignment between system and strategy. Imagine you are a marketing team leader whose strategy is to focus on new customer segments. If your team doesn't devise effective ways to collect and analyze information, it won't fulfill its strategy.

Lack of link between structure and system. Let's say you manage a product development team, whose members are divided into product lines. This structure helps qualified employees focus on separate products, but it also has the drawback that the team will not have the system to make up for overlapping positions on other teams.

Avoid some common traps

A lot of managers rely on simple ways to deal with complex misalignments. Be alert to these common pitfalls:

Do it your way without paying attention to the essence of the problem. Insist on structural changes without knowing if the change will address the root cause of the problems.

Creating overly complex structures. This is the same trap. While it is easy to create a paper-like structure like a matrix in which people in different units share responsibility, the result often leads to bureaucratic operations.

Automated job handling. Automating basic team processes can produce significant gains in productivity, quality, and reliability, but it would be a mistake to push only technology-based work because it can work. There are potential dangers.

Change only for the purpose of change. Insist on pulling down the fence before understanding why it was built. New leaders often have a tendency to put pressure on themselves and then put that emotion into the company. They often change strategies or structures before they get the job done.

Overestimate your team's ability to absorb all the changes in strategy. Large-scale changes to strategy can be difficult for teams to adapt to. Focus on just a few key points and make gradual changes as time permits.

Building a working team

If you create a good team, you can make a big impact to create value. Otherwise, you will face great difficulties because no leader can achieve his goals on his own. The wrong human resource choices will be harmful to you.

Finding the right person is necessary, but it is not enough. Evaluate current team members on who to keep and who to let go. Then create a plan to attract new people and move old ones to the right place without much impact on upcoming performance.

Even these are not enough. You still have to provide goals, incentives, and performance appraisals to keep your team on track.

Avoid some common traps

When it comes to building an effective team, many leaders make mistakes. Here are some mistakes new leaders make.

Keeping the team working for too long. Some leaders change employees very quickly, but most keep them for too long. Not understanding because of their pride or because they are afraid to recruit employees rigorously, many leaders have failed with ineffective teams. That means either they will have to strain their back to shoulder the work or they will not achieve their goals.

Do not repair aircraft. If you weren't in the startup, you wouldn't have to pick your team from the mix: you've inherited a team of people and it's your job to get them to work. to achieve important goals. Putting a team in place is like repairing an airplane while it's in flight. You will not be able to fly to your destination without fixing the necessary details.

Do not promote the connection of factors in the company in sync with the re-establishment of the working team. You can't build a team without knowing about changes in strategy, structure, systems, and skills. Building an unreasonable team will put good people in the wrong place.

Can't keep good people. Not sure who to keep will cause good people to leave for other opportunities.

Continue to build the team before the main team settles in. New leaders are often eager to continue building the team while the main team is unstable, so some members may leave.

Taking action based on premature decisions. When implementing plans that require team participation, you should postpone the decision to apply until the key members have settled into positions. It will be difficult for you to implement decisions that involve new people because they are not involved in the action plan discussion in the first place.

Try to do it all by yourself

Remember that the process of rebuilding a work team is a complex process involving many factors such as psychology, law and company policy. Find someone who can give you helpful advice and outline a strategy for you. Having the help of a human resources person will be extremely helpful and necessary for you.

Evaluation of the team working

You can get some good employees, some average, and some simply do the job. You can also have a working group with cultural idiosyncrasies. Between 30 and 60 days you have to understand who is who, what role does each of them play? And how the team worked together before.

Sure, you have to make an impression on each team member when you meet them. Don't hide these impressions, but observe them carefully before making accurate judgments.

Establish an alliance

If your success depends a lot on the help of outsiders then it is very important to create alliances that will make it easier for you to achieve success. Relying on power alone won't help you win. “Network of influence” – intimate relationships between colleagues – can help get your ideas off the ground and you reach your goals.

It's up to you to build alliances that support your work. To do that you need an influence strategy. Find out who you have to influence, choose people who can help you and maintain your initial relationship, and then convince the supporting “faction” to join you.

Make an impact

A common mistake new leaders make is spending too much time exerting vertical influence – that is, dealing only with those above them and working directly with them – and not paying attention to their own needs. horizontal relationships, i.e. with friends, colleagues and external factors. This is quite understandable – you always turn to the people you talk and work with on a regular basis. In the end, they will be the first channels for you to influence the company.

Sooner or later you will need the help of people over whom you have no control. You may have little or no relationship with these people so you need to invest time and energy in building a new facility.

Identify key people

How to find out who is important to your success? The answer will be obvious if you understand your company well. Find the key relationships between your team and others. Customers, suppliers, inside and outside the company are the focal points where you can build relationships.

Ask your boss to help you. Ask your boss for a list of 10 important people outside of the team that he thinks he needs to know, then meet with them. Do the same thing when you have a new subordinate: create a priority relationship list for them and ask them to contact you.

At the same time, try to find the source of the power to create influence in the company. Those sources of power are usually: good expertise, quick information capture; position; control resources such as capital, rewards; and loyalty.

In the end you will have to choose people with great power and influence, high expertise and good character. If you can convince these people of the feasibility of your goals, they will help you. You must determine who is your helper and who is your opponent.