The New Leader’s Playbook

Moving into new roles are crucible events of leadership and some of the toughest challenges people face. Nearly half of new leaders fail in their first 18 months*. Avoid that problem by getting a head start, managing your message, and building your team. Further, know that while people will follow a charismatic leader for a time, they will devote themselves to the cause of a BRAVE leader over time. Those are the underlying premises of this article which itself serves as an executive summary of The New Leader's Playbook.

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The rest of this article lays out the ten steps of The New Leader's Playbook, the BRAVE leadership framework (Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, Environment), and provides a full list of Forbes New Leader's Playbook articles

Prelude: GET A HEAD START

1) Position yourself for success. Start by connecting your values and goals, strengths and communication.  Know yourself.  Know your audience. Know and deliver your message in your own voice. Leadership is personal. Your message is the key that unlocks personal connections. The greater the congruence between your own values, attitudes, behaviors, the environment you create, and the way you relate to other individuals, the stronger those connections will be. This is why the best messages aren’t crafted; they emerge.  Great leaders live their messages not because they can, but because they must. As Martin Luther said at the Diet of Worms in 1521,“Here I stand, I can do no other.”

First, get the job

2) Choose the Right Approach for the Business Context and Culture you Face.  Context is a function of the business environment, organizational history and recent business performance, informing the relative importance and urgency of change. Culture underpins “the way we do things here” and is made up of Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, and the Environment feeding into readiness for change. Crossing context and culture helps you decide whether to Assimilate, Converge and Evolve (fast or slow), or Shock. Choose your way. Then map contributors, detractors, and convincible watchers so you can move each of them one step by altering their balance of consequences.

Lead with Attitude: Corporate Culture: The Only Truly Sustainable Competitive Advantage

3) Embrace and Leverage the Fuzzy Front End Before Day One. The time between acceptance and start is a gift you can use to rest and relax or to get a head start on your new role or next 100-days. Our experience has shown that those who use this fuzzy front end to put a plan in place, complete their pre-start preparation, and jump-start learning and relationships are far more likely to deliver better results faster than those who choose to rest and relax. Five important steps:

  1. Identify the most important stakeholders up, across, and down – both inside and out.
  2. Plan your message, fuzzy front end, and first or next 100-days.
  3. Manage your personal setup so you have less to worry about after you start.
  4. Conduct pre-start meetings and phone calls to jump-start important relationships.
  5. Gather information and learning in advance to jump-start learning.

MasterCard’s Ajay Banga did this well. He leveraged the time after he had been announced as CEO but before he started by casually, but pointedly, interacting with key stakeholders with a simple introduction:  “Hi, I’m Ajay. Tell me about yourself". See Forbes: Why Preparing in Advance is Priceless: How MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga Planned Ahead for His New Leadership Role

Moments of Impact: MANAGE THE MESSAGE

4) Take Control of Day One: Make a Powerful First Impression. Everything is magnified on Day One, whether it’s your first day in a new company, or the day of a big announcement. Everyone is looking for hints about what you think and what you’re going to do. This is why it’s so important to seed your message by paying particular attention to all the signs, symbols, and stories you deploy, and the order in which you deploy them. Make sure people are seeing and hearing things that will lead them to believe and feel what you want them to believe and feel about you and about themselves in relation to the future of the organization.

The Sierra Club’s Executive Director, Michael Brune did a particularly good job of managing his Day One.  He thought through his message in advance and then communicated it live, face-to-face, and via social media on his first day so everyone would know what was on his mind.  He smartly utilized several communication methods to reach a wide range of people in their own preferred way of communication.  See Forbes: Powerful First Impressions: Michael Brune’s Day One at The Sierra Club and

5) Motivate and Focus Your Team with Ongoing Communications (including social media). Where the emphasis used to be on logical, sequential, targeted, ongoing communication campaigns, the communication revolution has made it essential to manage multiple, concurrent, ever-evolving conversations across an ever-changing network of stakeholders. Leverage your core message as the foundation for those conversations by seeding and reinforcing communication points through a wide variety of media with no compromises on trustworthiness and authenticity. 

The American Red Cross’s head of Disaster Services, Charley Shimanski does this as well as any.  His message flows from every pore of his being.  Before his first major conference with 140 disaster relief directors from around the country, Charley asked himself: “What I want them to feel when they’re done hearing from me?” He knew the answers: “…I wanted them to feel that they are at the core of what we do, that that our success is on their shoulders.  I wanted them to feel proud.   See Forbes: How the Red Cross’s Charley Shimanski Inspires Others with Communication at the Heart of the Mission or:

Follow-through: BUILD THE TEAM

6) Embed a Burning Imperative. The burning imperative is a sharply defined, intensely shared, and purposefully urgent understanding from each of the team members of what they are “supposed to do, now.” Get this created and bought into early on—even if it’s only 90 percent right. You, and the team, will adjust and improve along the way.

Sam Martin has a lot of experience in this area. As he describes his early days as CEO of supermarket chain A&P, “It was essential to have an articulated plan available to share robustly around the organization and with all our stakeholders…If our employees are not properly armed with the right information, they will give the wrong message…they’re going to give a message anyway.  So getting the right message in the right hands quickly is important and essential to getting off on the right foot and having any chance of success in the outcome."  See How CEO Sam Martin is Driving the Imperative to Overhaul A&P

7) Exploit Key Milestones to Drive Team Performance. Milestones map and track what is getting done by when by whom. Leaders of high-performing teams take that basic tool to a whole new level, exploiting it to inspire and enable people to work together as a team!

Want culture change to stick? Change the operations. – Equifax's Andy Bodea

8) Over-invest in Early Wins to Build Team Confidence. Early wins are all about credibility and confidence. People have more faith in people who have delivered. You want your boss to have confidence in you. You want team members to have confidence in you, in themselves, and in the plan for change that has emerged. Early wins fuel that confidence.

The head of IBM’s alliance with Oracle, Sue Hed, gets the early win concept. Sue over-invested in a few early pilot programs by going out into the field to better understand her teams’ challenges, make key contacts, establish relationships, close deals, and oversee the implementation of the programs.  She proved that the programs worked locally and her efforts gave the team confidence and momentum to extend the programs elsewhere. As Sue describes it, “The buy-in has been great in other countries because they saw the success and had testimonials from their peers ."  See Forbes: IBM’s Sue Hed Shows How Early Wins Get You Ahed of the Curve

9) Secure ADEPT People in the Right Roles and Deal with Inevitable Resistance. Acquire, Develop, Encourage, Plan, and Transition talent to strengthen the team over time:

Acquire: Recruit, attract, and onboard the right people

Develop: Assess and build skills and knowledge

Encourage: Direct, support, recognize, and reward

Plan: Monitor, assess, plan career moves over time

Transition: Migrate to different roles as appropriate

As a case in point, Chiquita’s CEO, Fernando Aguirre, met an employee, Leo Urzua, during his stint on CBS’s show “Undercover Boss”. Leo was a harvest coordinator who tried to teach Fernando how to pick and prune lettuce.  Through the process, Fernando learned of and was inspired by Leo’s quest to become a U.S. citizen. Fernando committed to helping Leo Achieve his goal. When Leo got sworn in as a citizen in Yuma Arizona several months later, the keynote speaker at that ceremony was…Fernando Aguirre.  See Forbes: Chiquita CEO Fernando Aguirre on Inspiring and Enabling Others or:

10) Evolve People, Plans, and Practices to Capitalize on Changing Circumstances. By the end of your first or next 100-Days, you should have made significant steps toward aligning your people, plans, and practices around a shared purpose. Remember, this is not a one-time event but, instead, something that will require constant, ongoing management and Darwinian improvement because we're all new leaders all the time.

Walmart’s CEO, Mike Duke knows that we are all new leaders all the time.  That’s why organizational change management is an on-going part of his life. When Walmart’s merchandising failed to deliver the expected results over the 2010 holiday season, Mike replaced his head merchandiser and completely revamped their holiday merchandising approach in time to be able to announce the changes in their next quarter’s earnings call. See Forbes: Walmart CEO Mike Duke Shifts Approach

BRAVE LEADERSHIP

Slide1Webster defines "brave" as having or showing courage – the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. BRAVE is also an acronym for Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, and Environment, which together form a framework for brave leadership.

This concept is more fully fleshed out in First-Time Leader

Request a free executive summary of First-Time Leader

In brief:

Environment is about the context for your leadership, the change you must respond to, the danger, fear or difficulty into which you and your team must venture, persevere, and withstand. Ask the question, "where to play?" taking into account the business environment, organizational history, and recent results as you drive to clear choices.

Values get at what matters most to you and to your followers. You're going to respond and adapt to the ever-changing world around you; but to what end? Ask "what matters and why?" to get at your purpose and principles.

Attitude involves the choices you make about strategy, posture, and approach. This is the pivot between the environment and values, and relationships and behaviors. Get specific about the answer to the question "how to win?"

Relationships are what happens when you connect with people. Get clear on your message. Then think through how you're going to communicate that message. You can't communicate anything until you connect. So ask "how to connect?"

Behaviors are where the rubber meets the road. Assess your environment, get clear on your values, choose your attitude, build relationships on the way to behaving and driving those few behaviors that will make a meaningful and rewarding impact others. Ask "what impact?" to frame what you do and why.

Net, BRAVE leadership is not about you as the leader. It's about inspiring and enabling others. Apply this framework to your team, remembering that you must lead differently as your team grows.

Questions to consider:

Where to play? What matters and why? How to win? How to connect? What impact?

Learn more about our BRAVE Leadership Talk

_________________________________________________________________________

*As Anne Fisher pointed out in New job?  Get a head start now – Fortune, 17-February, 2012, the failure rate for new executives "research shows has stood at about 40% for at least 15 years now" – "About 40% of executives who change jobs or get promoted fail in the first 18 months".  (In contrast, over 90% of the executives PrimeGenesis has helped since 2003 were either still in place or promoted at the 18 month point.)


Full list of New Leader's Playbook articles:

Prelude: GET A HEAD START

1) Position yourself for success.

2) Choose the Right Approach for the Business Context and Culture you Face.

3) Embrace and Leverage the Fuzzy Front End Before Day One.

Moments of Impact: MANAGE THE MESSAGE

4) Take Control of Day One: Make a Powerful First Impression. 

5) Motivate and Focus Your Team with Ongoing Communications (including social media). 

Follow-through: BUILD THE TEAM

6) Embed a Burning Imperative.

7) Exploit Key Milestones to Drive Team Performance.

8) Over-invest in Early Wins to Build Team Confidence.

9) Secure ADEPT People in the Right Roles and Deal with Inevitable Resistance.

10) Evolve People, Plans, and Practices to Capitalize on Changing Circumstances.

BRAVE Leadership

Where to play?

What matters and why?

How to win?

How to connect?

What impact?

Extra: Put it all together

Extra: For Acquisitions

Leader's Perspective Articles:

Comments

  1. New Leader's Playbook: BRAVE - great insight for a new breed of leaders … Refreshing

  2. RJ Lennon says:

    Great reading and advice.  I loved the supporting references…Definitely worth the investment to read, internalize and apply.  THANKS FOR SHARING…rj

  3. mengyuan says:

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  4. Jacob Moody says:

    Any tips for working class to move in to the Excutive job position?

  5. Michel Moravia says:

    Excellent article"..highly recommended!

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    thanks, Will

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