What goes around comes around

Two years ago I wrote an article called Mastering the first 90 days, from some work by Shery Spanier, extracted from CareerJournal.com.

What do I mean, 'goes around/comes around'? Well, here I am, new Mayor of a small district council, half the elected members new to the job, a new chief executive, and the other two key staff positions either newish, or started today. Nearest thing you get to a clean sheet of paper in this business, I keep saying. That column of a couple of years ago has sure come around. Here's what I wrote, two years ago:

So you've just landed a new position?
Congratulations. Now comes the real challenge: Your future, long term, will be pretty much mapped out by what you do in the next three months.

Balance people and process—you've arranged your office and learned how to use the phone, e-mail, and computer systems, what next? Concentrate on important interpersonal activities, Spanier said.

Build relationships—learn about your colleagues' competencies, and gather information about teams and turf. Imbue your new colleagues with a vested interest in your success. It'll be your peers, more than your boss or subordinates, that help you negotiate the early months. Bond with these people. It's the most important thing you can do.

Be careful though—managers in trouble may cosy up to a newcomer to stay in the mainstream. Find the power centers, both evident and hidden. Every organization has a hierarchy, and status can be the language of power. In some organizations, administrative staffs reflect their boss's power as well.

Get a grip on the culture—observe the obvious and subtle alliances and interactions, both in meetings and informally. Are doors open or do people make appointments with each other? How do people communicate: in person or technologically? How are e-mail, memos, and voice mail used? In meetings, who seems to command respect and who's overlooked?

Don't showboat—in your enthusiasm to show how effective and smart you are, be cautious about recommending changes or delivering critiques. Sometimes, being right is the booby prize. Don't be seen as an outsider who only finds fault with well-established people and ideas.

Get to know your subordinates—by meeting with each of them. Uncover their expectations, interest in learning new skills or developing themselves, previous disappointments, career expectations and concerns. What turns them on and off? What do they expect from you?

Set small personal goals—if you're used to being a heavy hitter, taking a deep breath (and breathing through your nose) may be a challenge. Treat others respectfully, develop relationships, and let others know your plans and progress.

Concentrate on deliverables—what you contribute; measurables—the impact of what you do; and promotables—what gets you noticed.

Think about how your new position will broaden your skills and expand your visibility within the company and industry. Your new role might be a long run or a short-term splash. The first 90 days will probably determine which.

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