In business, success is rarely about performance alone. Everyone who has risen to the top of the firm has talent or they wouldn’t be there. Now, instead of focusing on your talent, go about learning how to spot dangers before they arise, and how to handle the situations strategically. Individuals are chosen for management and leadership positions because their skills and technical or industry knowledge have been recognized. It is tempting to jump into your new position full force by calling a staff meeting, quickly sizing up your reports and making decisions about what you see as their weaknesses. STOP RIGHT THERE!

Why were you tapped as a high potential employee?
Senior management selected you because they think you have the right skill-set to do the job. It’s up to you to find out in a hurry what, exactly, that job is, and what you’re expected to accomplish.

Consider the following questions:
• Have they asked me to take over because I can fix a problem?
• Have they put me in this job to maintain the department/region etc.?
• Am I here to redo the operation or perhaps start over from scratch?
• How is senior management defining success? Are there certain goals that I’m expected to meet or exceed?

To be successful, you need a plan for your first 90 days. It is an impossible task unless you have answers to these questions.

Setting goals

From the time your promotion was announced until the time you formally take charge, people in your new area will be anxious about who you are and how the new “star” will operate and relate to them. Even if you will be managing your former peers, your new staff won’t know what goals or standards you might set. Until these questions are answered for them and their anxiety reduced, work will suffer. Without real information, people will create “facts” of their own. The longer the uncertainty continues the more firmly fixed those made-up “facts” become. The only way to stop this process is to tell people quickly exactly what your expectations are. If you wait too long, you’ll find yourself spending your valuable time refuting rumors instead of focusing on your vision and strategy. The timeliness and clarity of your response to their concerns defines your leadership style and signals what it will be like to work for you.

How do I accomplish this?

• Support risk-taking. Let people know that you would rather have them need to ask for forgiveness, rather than not exercising creative problem solving and demonstrating initiative.
• Hold a “breakfast with the boss” meeting. Set up a Q & A session. Presented both the questions and the answers on a variety issues. Include tough ones that you know employees really want to know about but might feel afraid to ask.
• Encourage innovation. Tell your new staff that every new project should be considered a pilot program. As long as the results of these plans were well thought out, even if it fails, it will be seen as a learning experience, not an occasion for punishment. The nurturing of this type of working environment will have tremendous positive impact.

Promoted from the ranks

Being promoted to a more senior role in your organization presents its own unique challenges. Not only has your role changed, but also so have many of the relationships that were part of your old job. People you used to work side-by-side with are now reporting to you. Whether your new staff and former peers become your allies or your adversaries is completely up to you.
• Be prepared to draw some clear boundaries.
• Being liked is not your first priority. If your reports respect you and believe that you value their contribution, they will work hard.
• If anyone on your team, whether it’s a new member or a former peer, can’t support your transition to boss, you may have to cut them.

Don’t apologize for your new position. Remember that you’ve earned your promotion. So, accept it.