Three Steps to Leading with a Mandate for Change

By Neal Eisenstein, M.B.A.

Whether you’re a CEO, VP or newly minted department manager, new jobs are both exhilarating and challenge our sense of who we are and who we need to become as we step into higher positions of power and authority.  Here are three suggestions that you can implement on Day 1 to begin delivering on the agenda for change while staying authentic to who you are and what you need to grow and be successful.

  1. Listen to a Diverse Range of Voices

Schedule lunchtime pizza focus groups with the teams below your direct managers.   Reach out to key stakeholders and influencers outside of your function within a reasonable period of time.  Allow people get to know you in order to appreciate your mindset and vision for the business.  Likeability is key.  At the same time, get smart about each critical function, their challenges and the talent needs by asking good questions.  Ask for advice about how to leverage the strengths of the place, make it better, more competitive, more efficient and responsive to the marketplace.

  1. Make the Time

No matter how meeting-centric your organization is or the sheer volume of work on your desk, block enough time to strike a balance between you doing things and managing others.  You’ve earned your stripes because of your ability to get things done. However, this is the time to model healthy balance against “what you put your hands on” versus delegate to others.  Ensure that you respond to all email, acknowledge accomplishments and show up with a healthy balance of strategic leadership and talent-centered engagement. As in the first suggestion, likeability and reputation management is key.  Regardless of what you do, people will create stories in their minds about who you are and what your agenda is.  Take charge of your unfolding reputation by taking initiative to help shape perceptions rather than leaving this to chance or the historical bias of others.

  1. Assess the Senior Team

Chances are, you inherited a team that needs to evolve.  Perhaps you need to replace some of your directs with talent who possess a different skill set, industry experience or who are committed to driving your change agenda.  At the outset, spend enough time with the team to capture their insights, understand their perspective on both their functions and readiness to embrace change.  Ensure that you understand what’s on their plate, that you begin delegating against the change agenda and establish a method to track agreements and deadlines. A simple question to ask oneself would be, “Who gives me energy?” and “Who depletes my energy?”  Hold-on tight to the players that give you energy and consider replacing or reassign those who deplete you. Diverse voices with strong opinions are important people to have around you but when you experience them as draining energy, this is an avoidable distraction.   Finally, you’ll inherit developing talent who, through your coaching and continued focus, would grow under your management.  The question to ask is, “how much time and energy do I have to focus on developing this person against all of the other people, process an strategy challenges on my plate?”

If you’re thinking, “I’m not comfortable doing some of these things,” consider reading Herminia Ibarra’s ground breaking HBR article, “The Authenticity Paradox.” She writes, “The only way we grow as leaders is by stretching the limits of who we are—doing new things that make us uncomfortable but that teach us through direct experience who we want to become.”



For more tips from Neal on managing change, contact him today for a complimentary chemistry conversation.