There is a compelling argument that had the Titanic hit the iceberg head on it would not have sunk on April 15, 1912 and 1517 people would not have died.  There would have been substantial damage to the bow.  There would have been some injuries.  But enough of the bulkheads would have held that the ship would have remained afloat.

Executives onboarding into new roles must navigate between seven major icebergs: organizational, role, personal, learning, relationship, deliver, and adjustment risks.  (Click here for more on them.)

Avoid iceberg infected waters

First prize is to steer clear of iceberg infected waters.   Do a real due diligence and know what you're getting into.  Wherever possible, choose the safer route with the same upside potential.  (In retrospect, the Titanic would have been better off with a more southern route.)

Steer around the icebergs you can

Second prize is to steer around the iceberg's in your way.  As you navigate your new role, choose your battles carefully, treading carefully while you're learning your way.  (Had the Titanic been traveling slower on that fateful night, its crew might have had time to react to the iceberg in their way)

Tackle some icebergs head on

Some issues can not be avoided.  Sometimes the organization is in real trouble.  Sometimes people are not aligned around the role.  Sometimes you are missing one or more strengths required for the job, have not gotten up to speed fast enough, have a relationship in trouble, aren't delivering what's needed, or miss a necessary adjustment.  In some, but not all, of these cases it may be right to take the hit and deal with the problem head on.

  • If the organization is in trouble, recognize the problems and do your best to fix them.
  • If people aren't aligned around your role, find the people that aren't aligned and either get them aligned or change the role.
  • If you're missing required personal strengths, get the training or practice you need to build them fast.
  • If you're not learning and getting up to speed fast enough, get help.
  • If a relationship is foundering, seek out the other person and make it right.
  • If you're failing to deliver, figure out the root cause and fix it.
  • If you failed to adjust to a change, adjust now.

Hitting some of these problems head on may be disruptive, may be painful, may not work.  But if the alternate is sinking, it's certainly worth considering.

(Image via Wikipedia)

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