6 Opportunities for the New Leader

I’ve worked at one of America’s great companies, Chick-fil-A, Inc., my entire career. During my time here, I’ve had 7 different jobs… so far! My latest assignment came just a few weeks ago; I’ll be leading a new team: Organizational Effectiveness. In a recent interview, I was asked about my approach to a new role. Prior to that question, I’d never tried to capture my thoughts on this topic.

As I look back on each of my leadership transitions, as you might suspect, they were all unique. However, I do think there are several opportunities inherent in a new assignment.
1. Clarify What’s Expected - I think my favorite quote of all time is, “A problem well defined is half solved.” I’ve been fortunate in this regard. Historically, I’ve been given a lot of latitude on this. More than once, I’ve been asked to “figure it out.” Even in that scenario, a leader MUST know the specific outcomes that are expected, if any exist.
2. Identify Critical Gaps - One of the greatest advantages a new leader has is “fresh eyes.” You and I can almost always see things that the previous leader didn’t. Not because we’re better, because we’re new. Use this advantage to identify gaps in products, services, processes, people, anything. See what only fresh eyes can see. Don’t get too cocky on this one; the leader that follows you will see things you didn’t.
3. Evaluate Your New Team - Don’t miss the opportunity to do an assessment of your people. What are their strengths? Weaknesses? Are some of them in the wrong job? What’s their potential? Chances are, you can be more objective early in the transition process because of your fresh eyes.
4. Identify Key Relationships - I was reminded recently that the best ideas are rarely the ones that win. The best relationships usually win. Who do you need to establish relationships with to be successful in your new role? Identify these people early and begin the journey.
5. Get Quick Wins - Although there may be countless big things to do, look for some small, quick wins. This accomplishes several things. Your new team may need a shot of confidence; the skeptics, if there are any, will see real results, and you can use the success as a credibility booster as you approach bigger projects.
6. Build on the Past - If you’re going into an existing role, be sure to identify some of the good things that were done before you arrived. Build on those if you can. Although the previous leader is gone, the work of the past was more than likely done by the people who remain. If you are critical of the past, you may alienate your new team.
If you're given the opportunity to lead something new, don't miss the chance to start well.[GLS_Shield]

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Ron Edmondson

11 years ago

This is so good and so timely for me as I start a new role in the pastorate. Thank you.

6 Opportunities for the New Leader « Peel Leadership Centre

11 years ago

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Michael Nichols

11 years ago

Great post Mark. Thanks for expanding on this. Very helpful.


11 years ago

Sometimes the reason you're not moving forward is because of the company t you keep.


11 years ago

Agreed! Thanks for commenting. Mark

Nathan Magnuson

11 years ago

Looks like the summary of an Executive Onboarding Guide!

Amy Balog

11 years ago

Terrific blog post for a simple and accurate list of six key focus points for a new leader. Leaders need to take appropriate time to understand the landscape - think through these exact points to set the right priorites.
I particularly appreciate the last point of building on the past - nothing worse than a new leader coming in and (with most likely positive intent) desiring to set his/her direction for change. This is not unusual since the whole interview process can ignite the leader's momentum in their mindset that, "I need to make a difference based on why they want me here." This is a mentality that needs some care in that the team has its scars and trophies - respecting what they learned, their journey, and how the team has made their own success in the past is critical to fold in and honor.
I also want to comment on the excerpt from the book - I loved the quote "the best teams do life together." wonderful!
Thank you for good thoughts on engagement and leadership.


11 years ago

Amy, thanks for taking time to comment. I'm glad the content of this post resonated with you. I hope other leaders will find it helpful.

The Best Collection of Advice for New Leaders

9 years ago

[…] Mark Miller, from Great Leaders Serve: “I wrote a post specifically directed at new leaders. Here it is: 6 Opportunities for the New Leader”. […]


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