If you can make (and keep) one New Year’s resolution, resolve to get a head start. The advantages of getting a head start are almost unfair. Forty percent of new leaders fail in their first 18 months. That drops to below 5% for the people that follow the advice to get a head start, manage your message and build your team.

Head Start Leading

I facilitated an imperative workshop in early December for the new leader of an organization. At the end of the workshop she said they had done a week’s worth of work in two days. Even better, the team that did that work doesn’t even take charge until January 1. They are starting the year one month ahead of the curve. How about you?


Head Start Selling

Another organization traditionally held its annual sales conference in February to celebrate the prior year’s results and kick off the New Year. While it made all the sense in the world to wait until the year was finished to celebrate successes, it made no sense to wait until month two to give people their selling tools for the year.

Instead, the organization added a second working sales meeting in November to give everyone the program, direction and tools they needed to start selling for the next year. This gave their sales team an extra three months to sell the year’s programs resulting in a dramatic increase in sales.


Head Start Relationship Building

A story from one of my earlier articles: Imagine I’ve been hired from the outside to be your boss. (Your worst nightmare.) Let’s make it worse. Imagine you wanted the position yourself.

Now imagine I join the company, go through an orientation on day one, and then attend management meetings on day two. Day three I come by your office first thing in the morning and say, “How about lunch? Let’s get to know each other.”

How do you feel? Most people tend to feel guarded, trapped, or “not bad.”

Contrast that, if you would, with my calling you the day after they’ve announced my appointment, three weeks before I start and saying, “I know you were the leading internal candidate for the job. I’ve heard great things about you. I’d like to get to know you and work with you. It’s so important that I’m not prepared to wait until day one to get started on this. I will meet you anywhere in the world, any time you want over the next three weeks so we can spend some good time to start to get to know each other.”

How do you feel now? Most people suggest they are at least going to give me a chance.


Head Start On Onboarding

These all come together if you’re starting a new job in the New Year. Our fundamental prescription for executive onboarding and almost any onboarding is to get a head start, manage your message and build your team. And it starts with getting a head start. Put together your plan. Prepare in advance. Jumpstart relationships and learning.

Your plan should start by targeting the most important stakeholders up, across and down – both inside the organization and out. Then lay out your best current thinking around your message and what you’re going to do between now and Day One, on Day One, and over your first 100 days and beyond. These efforts include prestart conversations to jump-start your important relationships and learning, as well as focus on various aspects of your personal setup.

The value in this less about what you do before the start than in how it helps you accelerate through the start. Think in terms of pausing to accelerate with a huge bias to learning and relationships. As one of our partners used to say, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Get a head start on caring. They’ll notice.