6 top tips for leaders in transition
Are you a leader transitioning to a new firm?
I’ve been one recently, having moved to Wondrous 6 months ago.
I started making notes for this article on day 1 and joked with colleagues that I’d publish once I felt I’d fully ‘arrived’.
Well 6 months later and here it is! Transitions to new firms can be exciting and challenging. I’ve learnt a lot during mine; including that even coaches aren’t perfect at this stuff. Given predictions that the pandemic will result in many people moving jobs – and a good portion of those won’t succeed – here are my 6 ‘notes to self’, for those talented leaders already on the move.
Purposefully putting this one to the top of the list, versus bottom where we often let it languish. Keeping up your healthy habits will help you enormously. You might feel guilty as a newbie for taking time out to walk in nature or to sit in a park to get some time away from the screen. With your change in job, the broader global context – even pre – pandemic – being increasingly VUCA, and now us all navigating a new way to work, boundaries can be even more stretched. It is almost more important than ever to look after yourself.
It is in your gift to proactively manage and lead your own self-care. Keep up any exercise habits and prioritise a good sleep routine, as your mind will need an optimal body: listening, learning, noticing can be tiring. Paint a picture of your ideal week. Check in on how close you are. Ask; how can I be the best carer of myself? What will enable that? What is in my way? Notice what is out of kilter and act; what needs to happen differently today? Challenge yourself to start (or stop) one thing today.
2. Be self-reflexive
Journal every day and note down how you feel and think. Capture how you experience things personally and what you notice around you, both celebratory and the opportunities for evolution. Keep a list ready to share when asked. The reflexive part is the applied reflection. Your fresh eyes will see things and have insights. You will feel things and have thoughts, including about yourself, potentially in a new way. The exciting part is for that to be a source for positive change.
Challenge yourself to let go of what has been and step in to the new. You can re-badge yourself (a personal brand pivot!) as well as impact moment to moment how the business operates. Ask yourself: what am I noticing/feeling/thinking right now? Who can I share that with ‘in the moment’ to check my thinking will land? Have the courage to challenge, knowing you won’t always be on the nail and that’s ok. You can set up with your line leader; how much challenge is ok?
3. Yourself in the system
There will be some crucial and perhaps radically different ways that the new ‘system’ operates. Some people call that navigating office politics. We can reframe that with perhaps a healthier positioning as working out ‘how things get done around here’. This is how decisions get made, how to influence, the dynamics, what has landed historically, what has not (and with whom).
You may not get this right straight away and may make some missteps. It is ok, you are in learning mode; just notice and take the new path next time. Key here are confidantes – finding both a buddy and a mentor you can trust to get some insight and advice on how things work. Ask: what is going on at a system level that I need to know? How are things done differently here, what is the biggest difference I need to attend to? What does that mean for how I need to operate?
Slow down and note there is nothing to prove immediately other than onboarding well; you got the job! A good organisation will want you to take your time to absorb and get up to speed. You will get there in time – often called slowing down to speed up. Take your time to get to know and understand everyone well personally, their back story and how they like to work, including pet peeves. Time spent up front on a great induction where you ask lots of questions and get granular will pay dividends later – keep on asking too.
Check in with your journal and mentors on whether you are in a hurry to take up some key tasks and whether you need to slow down a bit before stepping in fully. Or indeed speed up. Noticing your breath and centring yourself quietly will help you with noticing where you are right at that moment and to tap into your intuition, gut instinct and experience.
Imposter syndrome may knock on your door; it does for most executives, even the ones who you think have it down. Change can be unsettling, and the first six months in a new job can be a roller-coaster for many. To speed that up, note and celebrate your progress, not just the end goal. Have faith and push on through, knowing things will shift. Keep your ambitions in mind and vocalise those confidently. Remember that any vulnerability or doubt you feel is part of what makes you a normal, relatable human who is quite probably a brilliant and kind colleague and leader. Your sense of self a year or even six months in will be very different to those first early months.
Find yourself a transition coach and identify cheerleaders, sponsors and supporters who can, in time, have your back. Think back to all the successes you have delivered over the years and have them in your back pocket. Ask; what do I really love about myself? Do a strengths identification survey and use that to hone your USPs. Know what they are and be ready to talk about them.
6. Practice self-compassion
Lastly the encouragement is to have compassion for yourself. Often our internal dialogue can be mean and disparaging, and we speak to ourselves internally in a way we never would to others. This is the time for tender self-compassion. A wise colleague of mine called herself a recovering perfectionist which sums this up for me. No one lives a life of perfection; it is an illusion. Self-compassion practice improves hope, happiness and overall satisfaction so putting the work in pays off.
Notice what your internal radio station is playing, write it down in your journal. Make a list of what comes up, your worst internal dialogue, and then write an alternative argument that celebrates, nurtures, and loves you for you. Practice saying that into a mirror, however uncomfortable that feels (that is good data). Change your internal radio station with practice, keep up the work. Self-compassion takes practice and mindfulness; lots of great resources out there to support with that.
Good luck and enjoy the journey of learning and growth.
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