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Michael Watkins

It’s a mistake to believe that you will be successful in your new job by continuing to do what you did in your previous job, only more so.

Preparing yourself means letting go of the past and embracing the imperatives of the new situation to give yourself a running start.

Getting Promoted

You must figure out what it takes to be excellent in the new role, how to exceed the expectations of those who promoted you, and how to position yourself for still greater things.

Balance Between Breadth and Depth

You also need to learn to strike the right between keeping the wide view and drilling down into the details.

Rethink What You Delegate

… the keys to effective delegation remain much the same; you build a team of competent people whom you trust, you establish goals and metrics and monitor their progress, you translate higher-level goals into specific responsibilities for your direct reports, and you reinforce them through the process.

When you get promoted, however, what you delegate usually needs to change… it may make sense to delegate specific tasks… your focus may shift from tasks to projects and processes… entire businesses.

Influence Differently

… the decision-making game becomes much more bruising and politically charged the higher up you go. It’s critical, then, for you to become more effective at building and sustaining alliances.

Communicate More Formally

Establish new communication channels to stay connected with what is happening where the action is… all without undermining the integrity of the chain of command.

Your direct reports play a greater role in communicating your vision and ensuring the spread of critical information.

Exhibit the Right Presence

What does a leader look like at your new level in the hierarchy? How does he act? What kind of personal leadership brand do you want to have in the new role? How will you make it your own?

Four Pillars of Effective Onboarding

Business Orientation

Getting oriented to the business means learning about the company as a whole and not only your specific parts of the business. It’s beneficial to learn about the brands and products you will be supporting, whether or not you’re directly involved in sales and marketing.

Stakeholder Connection

It’s also essential to develop the right relationship wiring as soon as possible. This means identifying key stakeholders and building productive working relationships. Remember: you don’t want to be meeting your neighbors for the first time in the middle of the night when your house is burning down.

Expectations Alignment

Check and recheck expectations.

Cultural Adaptation

Think of yourself as an anthropologist sent to study a newly discovered civilization.

Identifying Cultural Norms


How do people get support? Is it more important to have support of a patron within the senior team or affirmation from peers and direct reports?


Are meetings filled with dialogue on hard issues or are they simply forums for publicly ratifying agreements that have been reached in private?


Which matters more- a deep understanding of processes or knowing the right people?


Can people talk openly about difficult issues without fear or retribution?


Does the company promote stars or does it encourage team players?

Ends Versus Means

Are there any restrictions on how you achieve results? Does the organization have a well-defined, well-communicated set of values that is reinforced through positive and negative incentives?

Preparing Yourself

Take time to celebrate your move, even informally, with family and friends. Touch base with your informal advisers and counselors and to ask for advice.

Assess Your Vulnerabilities

One way to pinpoint your vulnerabilities is to assess the kinds of problems toward which you naturally gravitate.

Watch Out for Your Strengths

“To a person with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Relearn How to Learn

New challenges and associated fears of incompetence can set up a vicious cycle of denial and defensiveness. Put bluntly, you can decide to learn and adapt, or you can become brittle and fail.

Relearning how to learn can be stressful… if you embrace the need to learn, you can surmount them.

Get Some Help

Engage with HR and your new boss about creating a 90-day transition plan. Ask for help in identifying and connecting with key stakeholders or finding a cultural interpreter.

Closing the Loop

You have to work constantly to ensure that you’re engaging with the real challenges of your new position and not retreating to your comfort zone.