Converging and evolving is almost always the right approach for a new leader. You must become part of the team before you can inspire and enable it to evolve. You must get the timing right so that you are converging as long as necessary – and no longer. This involves pivoting from converging to evolving as soon as you have earned a critical mass of supporters.
Yes, sometimes you can stretch out the converging phase so long that the approach looks a lot like assimilating. And sometimes you need to evolve so fast that it's a shock to the system. But both assimilation and shock are really just extreme cases of converge and evolve depending upon the context and culture.
- Converge into the organization and team
- Pivot between converging and evolving
- Evolve the team
Converge: "You" and "Me"
Converging is all about building relationships. It's about bringing yourself (the new leader) closer to the existing members of the team. You are still you at this point, the outsider trying to join in. Any idea you have will likely be perceived as something you brought in with you from the outside.
Pause to accelerate, focusing on listening and learning while you're converging. This is particularly important when it involves anything to do with your new organization's capabilities – about which you have so much to learn. It's also important with regard to your new organization's view of its customers/consumers and collaborators. On the other hand, feel free to share your outsider's perspective on general conditions and competitors, as well as an outside-in look at collaborators and customers/consumers.
Collaborators Capabilities Competitors
Capabilities – No comments until you've converged.
Customers and Collaborators – No inside-out comments. Outside-in comments okay.
Competitors and Conditions – Feel free to share your outsider's perspective
This is the hardest phase for a new leader. Leaders spend most of their time leading – inspiring and enabling others. This converging stuff uses different skills than they normally use. At best leaders can steel themselves to be consciously competent at this. Often they are consciously incompetent. When they are unconsciously incompetent, disaster waits around every turn. (Follow this link for more on how early wins too early can be counter productive.)
Pivot – Imperative Workshop
Imperative workshops pivot leaders from converging to evolving. They get key stakeholders together in the same place at the same time to work through the mission, priorities, and actions – the imperative.
After the imperative workshop, "you" and "me" have become "we". The outsider has become the insider. Where before you would have had to say, "Let me tell you what I think", now you can say "Here's what we agreed" It's a different game, producing different results. You paused to listen and learn while converging so you and your team can accelerate now.
Leverage the basics of Executive Onboarding
The basics of executive onboarding apply.