Achieving great results in a new role
February 2013 | SPOTLIGHT | BOARDROOM INTELLIGENCE
Financier Worldwide Magazine
Working at a senior level in the competitive world of business and finance requires certain characteristics: determination, ambition and organisation, combined with relevant knowledge and experience. However, even the most seasoned executive can struggle when promoted to a new role or when moving to a new organisation – as a range of well-researched studies prove. For example, an internal study of 20,000 executive searches performed by global executive search company Heidrick & Struggles found that 40 percent of senior executives fail or leave within 18 months of starting in a new position – an indication that something is seriously awry with the executive induction process.
With the road to economic recovery looking rocky for some time to come, financial organisations need their new managers, executives and directors to perform effectively from day one. An unsuccessful appointment costs a company around 2.5 times the individual’s annual salary, making this an expensive problem for the finance industry. This is one of the reasons why we work with senior personnel to help them be effective in their new role within 101 days or less. Why 101 days? A significant body of evidence suggests that performance during the first three months is directly linked to long-term success.
However, being successful in a new position or a new company so quickly takes planning and preparation: even highly experienced people will benefit from focusing on certain key areas and defining specific objectives relevant to their new role.
The bottom line. Whether working in investment, acquisition, analysis or one of the numerous areas of finance, it’s all about delivering bottom line results – fast. Identify what these are from day one, i.e., what are the critical KPIs? What numbers are indicative of success? What results do you expect from your new team? Communicate and agree them to engage the relevant staff, including those above and below. Identify and explain the key deliverables that these results will bring about, e.g., minimised risk, reduced expenses, greater return on investment, and new business. This is about quality, not quantity – new executives often make the mistake of running around appearing to make changes instead of focusing on the key deliverables and ensuring enrolment from key players.
Setting stretch outcomes. It’s important to draw upon past achievements and experiences – which at executive level should be rich and varied. The most successful people set themselves goals that they don’t necessarily know how to do – did Richard Branson know anything about running an airline before launching Virgin Atlantic? Did Nelson Mandela have any presidential experience before he took office? The ability to create these stretch outcomes which take you beyond what you have done before is one of the factors that distinguish between ‘doing OK’ and ‘doing great’. Think about great leaders in past organisations, in the industry, in the world. What sets them apart and what can be learned from them? In all likelihood, they created great relationships, had a vision of where they wanted to go (even if they didn’t have the actual knowledge of how to get there) and made stretch requests of both themselves and those around them.
Aim to acquire knowledge. Having the right knowledge is essential so identify what you need to know about the role and the business. Each organisation’s culture is different, influencing the way that business is done and how decisions are made. Some firms are process-driven with a set way of doing things, whilst others are more open to change, affecting the way you are able to get things done. How would you describe your new organisation’s culture at the end of the first day, first week, first month? Is it hierarchical or egalitarian; task focused or people focused? Adapt your leadership approach to suit the cultural climate and engage at all staff levels to build great relationships – even with difficult people.
Be unique. Offer something that no one else does. Think about past successes – both personal and those that colleagues have achieved. People can be deterred by the risk of failure when suggesting something new, but if you know the industry, your organisation and your clients you may be able to offer a new product or service – or identify a solution to an ongoing problem. When the stakes are high, it’s all too easy get into the comfort groove; but your task as the new person in the team is to bring something fresh – and to make yourself indispensable.
Communicate. An idea or vision means nothing if it isn’t communicated effectively to the relevant people, so engage your department or division, where appropriate, across your company. Consider teams that you have worked in – what made them successful, what did they achieve and how were they well led? Define your key milestones for success and communicate them.
Make a difference. Ultimately, it all comes down to money and you will be judged on the results you create and the money that you make or save. Are you able to create long-term growth and sustainability within your company? Consider how your actions impact on external and internal stakeholders. As a director, how will you impact shareholder and company value? As an executive how will you build strategic growth and alliance opportunities? As a senior manager, how will you develop new, more profitable and dynamic external relationships?
The financial world is notoriously tough, challenging and volatile. It demands quick results, and whilst someone may feel confident that they are ready to take the next step in their career, the reality can be more difficult than anticipated. However, it is also an industry that offers fantastic rewards – both fiscal and in terms of career satisfaction. Experience has shown that investing a little time and effort into planning for a new role will help to achieve great results in 101 days – and ensure a long and successful career.
Alan Denton is managing director of The Results Centre. He can be contacted on +44 (0)20 7182 4510 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Financier Worldwide
The Results Centre