Transparency in New Roles | 120 Seconds to Better Leadership
I’m thinking today about executives that come into new companies in powerful roles and the tendency that they have to want to get into the weeds and their function. I want to look at this from two different perspectives.
Perspective 1: The Takeover
If you’re the new executive coming in, you want to get into the weeds, you want to learn who your people are, what they do, why they do it. You want to learn history, right? So, you’re really digging for understanding and that’s totally appropriate. And what I hear from the direct report of those leaders is, ‘Why is he or she getting down into the weeds? I understand my job, I’ve got my job. Are they taking over?’ So, what can be an exercise in curiosity, learning, and due diligence can come off like I’m going to take over, I’m going to micromanage, or worse I’m on an investigation.
Perspective 2: The Humble Leader
As a leader, you want to do two things really well. You want to clearly communicate your intent, you know ‘My intent is to get really deep in the weeds for the first six months so that I just have a clear understanding of my organization. Please have patience with me while I do that. Please help me learn.’ And then they’re clear why you’re asking the questions and getting into the things that in six months you’re not going to want to be in.
Also be really humble. They know you’re there to learn on some level. And if you just queue them to that, you know ‘I’m here to learn this function more deeply so that I can then elevate into the more strategic role,’ it just gives people a sense of ‘Ok, you’re kind of vulnerable. We know what’s going on. We know we know what’s going on, but you actually don’t know what’s going on.’ You can capitalize on most people’s goodwill to help people that are in a vulnerable position.
If you just socially queue people as to the intent behind the questions, the intent of getting into the weeds, they will be more patient. They won’t feel as paranoid about it, and you’ll get more cooperation so that you get the comfort that you need with the organization that you’re now leading.