After landing a new executive-level position, it’s time to think about the best strategy for getting the work done. Joining an organization is a critical time to assess and be assessed that all candidates should be actively concerned with.
Here is some useful advice:
1) Don’t get trapped by past patterns. Ask great questions. Listen carefully for subtlety and act based on what is being communicated.
2) Push, but not too hard.
3) Be humble and admit what you don’t know. Listen first and only decide after everyone has been heard.
4) Use positive examples and remember that language communicates everything about who you are, why you are involved and where the company is going.
5) Maintain a tight grip on your personal values. The board or the CEO hired you to lead, and you may not know all that you need to know about the operation; trust your sense of fairness, right from wrong, and caring for others.
Each new career opportunity is a chance to build on your reputation with a new set of people. Take the time to eliminate what is unnecessary and focus on what is necessary. Ask the question, why is this done and why this way? One of my contacts shared that she simply stopped creating about half of the work product of her predecessor and no one noticed. She found time to make important changes to the organization and solidified her role as a TOP performer.
What do I mean with “TOP?” Human capital expert John O. Burdett defines it as a “Tested Outstanding Performer.” Consequently, all potential candidates should be considered for the arc of their career: where have they been, what impact have they had, are they leaving a legacy or were they simply an empty suit.
TOP candidates understand career trajectory; one failure is not a tragedy but it is better to avoid the situation whenever possible. Making good, clear decisive decisions about your fit with an organization, personal candor and willingness to take risks. An individual is making a clear statement about their fitness to lead and make the right business decisions for their company.
Without question, there are times when a TOP leader must put their position on the line. Issues of integrity and business ethics are far more important than a job, even a CEO job, and it’s in these instances when TOP leaders are tested. Senior candidates in transition have been able to tell this story with confidence.
Leaders must think about their stories. Their stories should demonstrate their strengths and minimize or mitigate their perceived weaknesses. Stories must be interesting, honest and pointed. Telling your story makes you human and helps build connections.
Hiring managers are looking for fit and the greatest performance. Everyone recognizes that the most promising leaders are typically in roles that offer the greatest opportunities for success, but that doesn’t mean that the most promising end up with the most success.
Delivering success for employers and their customers also requires politeness, friendliness, courtesy and a positive or enthusiastic mindset. Finding all of these traits in significant amounts is rare. Finding leaders who can also focus on the goal, get others to deliver their best work and build a collaborative environment is the definition of TOP.
So how does a leader avoid distractions, play nice with others, accomplish objectives and promote their success, while staying friendly, approachable and forever positive? The best leaders:
- Organize their time. They waste little time and focus on the urgent and important tasks first. They inspire others by the pace of their accomplishments.
- Take the time to listen carefully to others and live up to their commitments.
- Make affirmative and clear decisions. They understand that 70 percent is usually enough for a good decision.
- Are honest with themselves about what works for them and what challenges their skillset.
- Work hard, smart and take care of their families.
- Aggressively take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.
- Commit to sound plans. Understand progress takes time and not everything can happen at the same time.
Chris Swan is the managing director of Chicago-based executive search firm TRANSEARCH.