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Maximising your success

CONGRATULATIONS. You’ve won the war for talent and secured a great new hire to work in your management team. They show all the promise that you’ve been hoping for, and they seem like a self-starter. But this is not the time to rest easy.

Last week we looked at some of the strategies a newly appointed leader needs for success. This week, in the final article in a series of three, we take a step back and remind ourselves that there’s more than one performer in the play.

Who’s the other lead actor? You guessed it – the boss. If you’re a boss responsible for getting the best out of your people – and which boss isn’t – what do you do to ensure that your new hire succeeds?

I know a lot of bosses. Many have clawed their way up the ladder to their current position, whether it be to partner, director or general manager. They’ve made it to the top of the heap. I put them into two categories. Category A bosses have highly productive, loyal teams. They spend most of their working time thinking about and planning long-term direction and strategy. Category B? Well, they’re characterised by a team with unplanned staff turnover, and they spend most of their time doing operational work – the work they hired their people to do. That’s when they’re not interviewing replacement staff.

If you’re in category B, congratulations for finding the time to read this far. If you’d prefer to be in category A, read on.

So what makes the difference? In a word, mindset. Category A bosses know that starting a new leadership role, especially in a new company, is hard. They remember and empathise. They also provide the support that a new leader needs. Mollycoddling? I think not. Direction, a sounding board and wisdom? Definitely.

The best boss I ever worked for gained my loyalty by spending a lot of time with me early on in my reign as a national manager. He knew that his success depended on my success. The time we invested together set me up for success over the coming years working for him.

It’s also my experience that most bosses don’t invest the time like mine did. It’s the old vicious cycle – too much to do, therefore no time to develop staff, therefore staff do a mediocre job, therefore too much to do. It’s an endless cycle that many just accept as the life of a manager. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

The consequences of not investing enough time with newly appointed leaders up front only exacerbate the cycle. Too many managers adopt the ‘sink or swim’ mentality – a strange thing to do when you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars getting them to the starting line. Failure, as you’ve read in the previous articles, can be expensive – lost productivity, deflated morale and, of course, the cost of re-hiring.

To maximise your chances of living the category A life you need to provide your new hires with key information, and the environment in which to assimilate it. They need information such as: your expectations of what they need to achieve in their first six months; your expected timetable for results; what the top two or three business priorities are; and how you like to receive information. All must be delivered with absolute clarity.

Be wise when it comes to your new hire learning the political ropes. Prime the key stakeholders and let them know how they can help accelerate your person’s success. Know how others in the organisation view the new appointment – some may be jealous and potentially destructive – it helps for the new leader to know this stuff in advance. Knowing the ‘unwritten ground rules’ is also useful for them.

Don’t be ad-hoc about this. Newly appointed leaders stand the best chance of success if there is a structured assimilation process to work within.

An effective structure creates the space for you and your new hire to formalise expectations and communication practices, as well as to map the political territory. What’s crucial is that the process not be allowed to lapse after this important first step. Rather, it is the ongoing review process that helps a leader reflect, learn and adapt to their new environment.

As the boss you need to make sure this process happens. After all, you wear the consequences – good and bad.

When Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton found himself and his crew stranded on an ice-floe hundreds of miles from land, he said these words to his crew: “It is my job to make sure that you all live”. That’s the essence of what we’re talking about here. Your success depends on their success.



p Digby Scott is director of

The Catalyst Group.

He can be contacted on 9385 0888 or digby@thecatalystgroup.com.au

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