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Michael D.

Watkins Some Impressionistic takes from the book The First 90 Days
( Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders)

by Ramki

About Michael D. Watkins
Michael D. Watkins – A Harvard business school professor and in this book –first 90 days he presents a road map for taking charge in a management job. The first days are critical because small difference in your actions can have a huge impact on long-term results . Leaders at all levels are very vulnerable in their first few months in a new job because they lack in-depth knowledge of the challenges they’ll face and what it will take to succeed with their new company. Failure to create momentum in the first 90 days virtually guarantees an uphill battle for the rest of an executive’s tenure. The first 90 days will equip you with strategies and tools to get up speed faster & achieve more sooner. This summary will show you how to diagnose your situation & understand its challenges & opportunities. You will also learn how to assess your strengths & weaknesses , how to quickly establish priorities, and how to manage key relationships that help you to succeed. Happy reading !!!

Welcome & Introductions

 Name + Affiliation  What brings you here today ?  What do you do to prepare for a new role ?

The Challenge for first 90 days
Opportunity  Clean slate  Honeymoon Period  Free License to Question Risk  Savior Syndrome  Having the answers  Too much/Too Soon

The Big Idea  You have 90 days to prove that you are an asset to the Organization upon entering a new job or getting promoted to a higher position within the same Organization.  With such a short span of time to “ Prove your worth & value” time becomes a high-priced resource.  A Leader transition causes the so-called “ ripple effect” .


Promote Yourself  Promoting yourself in no way means self-serving.  The ways to promote yourself are  Establish a clear breakpoint  Hit the ground running  Assess your vulnerabilities  Watch out for strengths  Relearn how to learn  Rework your network  Watch out for people who want to hold you back .  “ Let it all Sink in”  Transition of authority also means transition of habits & responsibilities. grandstanding or advertising.First Challenge.

First Challenge.Promote Yourself     Define the role Stop & then Start Be specific with milestones Finding success means preparing yourself to fail  It takes a tribe .

Ivester could not free himself from day-today operations enough to take on the strategic. proved to be a hindrance in his new position. visionary roles of an effective CEO. Ivester appeared to be the perfect candidate for the job. Ivester resigned. but what he couldn’t let go of.  The cause of Ivester’s failure wasn’t what he couldn’t do. which had been a virtue in his previous jobs in finance and operations. An accountant by training. Ivester was unable to make the leap from COO to CEO because his extraordinary attention to detail. In 1999.  To outside observers. after a series of blunders that eroded the confidence of Coke’s Board of Directors. .A New job requires A new approach  Douglas Ivester was promoted to CEO at Coca-Cola in 1997 after working as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer at the company. An impressive career came to a deeply disappointing conclusion because he persisted in focusing on what he felt most competent doing instead of focusing on what the CEO position required.

.  Find people in the new organization who are skilful and learn from them.  Evaluate your problem preferences – the type of problems you prefer to work on. team building and get advice and counsel.  Creating this type of imbalance leaves you vulnerable in situations that call on you to be “ ambidextrous. but doing so is like exercising your right arm & ignoring the left arm .”  Develop self-discipline.Assess your Vulnerabilities  You have been offered your position because the people who hired you think you have got what it takes to succeed.  Everybody likes doing some thing more than others.  But it can be disastrous to rely too much on the skills & knowledge that made you successful in the past.


Adapt or alter to cultures you will discover .Second Challenge -Accelerate Your Learning  All Leaders feel the need for an action imperative.  Lack of learning may seem unimportant.  What do you want and need to know ?  One of the hardest things you will have to learn about as a leader is the organizational culture. but must be kept to a minimum to form better decisions & possess better control of the responsibilities  Change is a cycle.

.Defining your Learning Agenda  Define your learning agenda is the starting point.  Talk to people and spend time with the team  Identify the promising sources will make your learning more complete & efficient.  As you learn more . operating reports. strategic & function plans etc.  This establishes your learning priorities & consists of a focussed set of questions that will guide your inquiry. you will make conclusions about what is going on & why ?  During your transition you will learn from various types of hard data – Financial.

the next step is to understand the best way to learn. what would you focus on? . start by meeting with your direct reports one-on-one and ask them these five questions:  What are the biggest challenges the organization is facing (or will face) in the near future?  Why is the organization facing (or going to face) these challenges?  What are the most promising unexploited opportunities for growth?  What would need to happen for the organization to exploit the potential of these opportunities?  If you were me.  When diagnosing a new organization.Adopting Structured Learning Methods  Once you have an idea of what you need to learn and where to seek it.

Second Challenge.Accelerate your learning  Learn with a purpose  Analyse your early wins/losses  Schedule your learning  Become the teacher  Be the student  Know your learning style .


You take a unit or a group that is in trouble & work to get it back on track. You have got to assemble the capabilities –people. product or project off the ground . technology needed to get a new business. . process or project that is drifting into trouble. funding . product.Third Challenge -Match Strategy to Situation Diagnosing the Business Situation  There are four major situations for any organization  Start-up – Require to build and enforce systems from scratch.  Turn-around  Situations that require a quick mind and fast action. Challenge is to revitalize a unit.  Realignments  Call for critical thinking and convincing people that something will go wrong. Reinvent the business.

 Different situations have different problems & opportunities  Let the situation be your guide . Keep motivating the people by inventing new challenges. Responsible for preserving the vitality of a successful organization & taking it to the next level.Third Challenge -Match Strategy to Situation  Sustaining success  Call for the ability to fix small problems before they morph into big ones.  The approach or strategy you will employ to succeed differs from situation to situation.

Understanding the History  How much emphasis will you place on learning as opposed to doing ?  How much emphasis will you place on offense as opposed to defence ?  What should you do to get some early wins ? .

Third Challenge -Match Strategy to Situation Typical Challenges  Behaviours no longer contribute to high performance  Change is not seen as necessary  Commitment to the new reality Typical opportunities  Areas of strength  The positive side of the change .

Secure Early Wins .

Fourth Challenge-Secure Early Wins  Securing an early win is similar to the action imperative with the exception that the action follows in the wake of an educated thought when securing early win.  Early wins are processes or systems you can change rapidly & improve outright  What must you prioritize when deciding what to change early into your transition ?  Carefully analyse your organization’s situation  Get your people to bring about the changes .

As you secure these early wins. The problem with this is that the longer the list.  Secondly. it’s easy to fall into the trap of creating endless “to do” lists.  Instead. focus on no more than the 3 or 4 most critical wins to be secured. When evaluating the areas on which to focus. it is too easy to just pick the easy wins and allow the resulting adrenaline rush of checking things off fool you into believing you are making progress. Clarity  An essential part of focus. with a long list. move on to the next most critical.Fourth Challenge-Secure Early Wins  Focus  With everything you want to accomplish. ensure that you are properly identifying what constitutes a critical win. the more paralyzing it becomes. ask yourself:  Does this build momentum?  Is it meaningful to other team members?  Is it important to leadership?  Is this something on which I can build future wins?  .

Fourth Challenge-Secure Early Wins Behaviours –  If a win requires you to behave in a way that will be seen negatively. if you are truly committed. you will selfreport. your early win may be something as “simple” as changing behaviours. It is a given that your ability to achieve the longer term goals are dependent on making behavioural changes today. Accountability –  Don’t be secretive about your long-term goals or your short-term focus.  Successfully adapting a new behaviour will definitely build confidence and create momentum. you won’t make them ask.  Behaviours become habits and habits drive results.  In fact. it isn’t really a win.  Be very public about what you are going to do and why you are doing it.  Give permission (and set the expectation) for those around you to check in on your progress. .  I would challenge you to be just as public about your progress and setbacks as you were about your original commitment .  Of course.

Negotiate Success .

Negotiate Success  It is impossible to succeed at everything you set out to do & accomplish all your goals within a 90. The style conversation.  Communicating effectively with your boss to negotiate success will often take the form of 5 dialogues     The situation period. and Personal development conversation.Fifth Challenge. The resources conversations. The expectations conversation.  Negotiating success is all about communicating with your boss in a way that sets your guidelines & allows you flexibility for reaching your goals. .

 The Expectations Conversation  Include sharing both you and your boss’s expectations about the job on hand.  The Style Conversation  Different leaders have different ways of achieving success so find out what your boss’s style is & try to align yourself with it .  The Resources Conversation  The resources you will need & ask for must be in tune with the Organization's situation  The Personal Development Conversation  Ask you boss for feedback on issues you feel will affect your personal development .Negotiate Success  The Situation Conversation  Aims to reach a unanimous agreement about the organization’s situation & where it should go.Fifth Challenge.

to request time on her calendar.Negotiate Success Some things you DO want to do: Do take 100% responsibility –  Assume it will always be up to you to communicate to your boss.  Identify three things that are critical to the boss and be sure to give an update on them every time you interact.g. the definition of success).  At any point in time. Do please the boss –  Be sure you know what are the highest priorities for the boss and aim for early and tangible results in those areas. although it may very well be different than the original definition. Do clarify completely and often –  Check in regularly to make sure both sides understand if circumstances have changed expectations (e..  If you have a boss who meets you halfway.Fifth Challenge. both sides should have the same definition. to request the support you need. then consider it a bonus. .

but too much can be devastating.Fifth Challenge.  When discussing your own success/failure. but leave that to other conversations.  Just because whomever you are accountable to isn’t pushing for regular communication. you have to own it.  That isn’t to say that poor performance should be tolerated.  Blaming those who came before or even those who are still there is wasted time. that doesn’t mean it isn’t absolutely necessary.Negotiate Success Some things you DON’T want to do: Don’t blame others –  Be sure to negotiate success based on those things within your control. Don’t not communicate –  A little bit of freedom is liberating. .  You are responsible for your success and you need to be the one pushing conversations to ensure everyone is still on the same page about expectations and progress.

” Don’t show up with only a problem –  Your boss is there to help solve problems. but “help” is the operative word.Fifth Challenge.  The eventual conversation will be much more effective as a result.  Spend some time thinking about possible solutions to take along with your problem. but bad news delivered too late is even worse. “You can tell me the good news whenever you get the chance. you have to make time to tell me the bad news right away. .Negotiate Success Some things you DON’T want to do: Don’t surprise –  Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news.  As I heard one leader say recently.

Achieve Alignment .

all the systems & units in the organization must be working together in a concerned effort.  Systems.  Structure.  Skills & Culture  All elements must undergo change.  To achieve goals. the bigger your responsibility is to improve the organization’s overall structure.Achieve Alignment  The higher up the Corporate ladder you are.  Five elements must be in sync for an organization to work  Strategy.Sixth Challenge. all at the same time .

If you are regularly frustrated in your efforts to get yourself and those around you to adopt more productive behaviours.Sixth Challenge. Systems and strategy misalignment – Imagine your strategy is to be more accountable to your clients by more proactively reporting on the results you have delivered. However. .Achieve Alignment Some key misalignments to watch for: Skills and strategy misalignment – Let’s assume you have set a strategy of becoming more profitable by only working on larger accounts. your skills will never develop to the point of supporting the strategy. your systems will fail to support your strategy. There are countless other examples. but hopefully you can see why the alignment is so critical. step back and ask whether organizational misalignments might be creating the problem. If you don’t establish an effective way to compile and report the information for those customers. if you don’t educate yourself and the rest of the team on the issues important to those larger accounts.

Build Your Team .

 To begin assessing your team.  Review how you want your team to work.  Establish a way to measure & reward both individual & group performance.  Come up with a plan to restructure your team.Seventh Challenge. create a list of criteria you will want to consider when you evaluate your direct reports.Build Your Team  When you assume a position of leadership a team is already in place for you to direct. .

Create Coalitions .

it is critical for you to create coalitions in order to get the necessary things done. silos separating one production team from another.Eighth Challenge.      . even if they will directly benefit. and silos separating sales from service. Besides. remember that your silo is a part of a larger organization and building those horizontal connections is important. Your co-workers will always appreciate having the opportunity to be a part of a new solution. Not provided that opportunity. don't be surprised when they fight against a new directive for which they had no input. which is ripe with silos. While it is natural to focus on those individuals in your silo (above and below you in the reporting chain). Building your influence among your colleagues is important to get backing for new ideas and goals.Create Coalitions  Your success depends on the support of people outside your direct line of command (and it almost always does). If you are going to be a change agent within your agency. good ideas become great ideas when enhanced with the benefit of multiple perspectives. This is ignored in our industry. it is critical to force yourself out of your natural silo and work to build support and conversations around new ideas and initiatives throughout the whole agency. There are silos separating P&C from benefits.

.Create Coalitions  Influence provides a nest-egg opportunity  Forming new relationships is important to strengthen the system support  Learn what leverage may be used for convincing power & what competing forces may have to offer.Eighth Challenge.  Hone you ability to influence others & re-shape your team’s perceptions of choice.

Keep Your Balance .

Seek a good mix of people who can give you unbiased counsel both inside & outside your organization .Keep Your Balance  Keep a balance between personal & professional life is an essential part of becoming a successful Leaders  Three Pillars to form a solid foundation for balance  Adopting Success Strategies – Seeing each strategy yield positive results.Ninth Challenge. you will feel more energy & confidence to take on more tasks  Enforcing Personal Disciplines – Keeping within strict boundaries of discipline helps one stay focussed & alert  Building your support systems.

Keep Your Balance To help stay focused on the proper areas and to keep a healthy perspective. . it is easier than ever to allow yourself to be isolated from the people you most need to help make your transition successful.  Undefended boundaries – If you don't establish appropriate boundaries of what you are willing and not willing to do.Ninth Challenge. Know when to cut your losses. direct reports – won't know what is appropriate or inappropriate to bring to you.  Riding off in all directions – You can't hope to focus others if you fail to focus yourself.  Isolation – As you work through your transition. but only a few that are critical. There are an infinite number of things you could do. Focus on the critical. it is critical to recognize and avoid the following traps.  Brittleness – The uncertainty of transition can cause you to over commit to a failing course of action. those around you – bosses. peers.

too much is. Know your breaking point and be sure to stay on the healthy side of it. Because of our transition. well. too much. .Ninth Challenge.Keep Your Balance  Work avoidance – With a transition. we may have incomplete information. take the bull by the horns and tackle the task at hand. Instead. some decisions take on a new level of importance. Consciously or unconsciously.  Going over the top – While a little stress is good for us. this may lead you to avoid making the decision.

Expedite Everyone .

The best companies are those who foster a healthy competition to reach the top. but the following areas of common language are required at a minimum: Type of transition  Have ways of identifying and communicating the unique circumstances of the transition under way.g. realignment. but who provide a level playing field complete with rules. and support. (e. The reality in most organizations is that people are thrown in to the "deep end" of new roles and responsibilities. in many instances survival seems to be a test in and of itself. regulations. Not only do most organizations not create a plan to help ensure success. Is this a turnaround. The key is to institutionalize the transition process. start up. not just preventing those in new roles from failing. The needs for a common language are many. Create a Common Language  A common language makes everything make more sense. or is the goal to sustain a current success?) .Tenth Challenge -Expedite Everyone  Organizations tend to border on dysfunction in the way they approach new roles for their people. but for the organization to also find massive gains by moving everyone along the learning curve faster..

expectations. resources.Tenth Challenge -Expedite Everyone  Agenda for the types of learning required  What are the technical. style. and personal development.  Priorities and goals for behaviour change  Priorities for strengthening their advice-and-counsel network . and political learning goals that are required?  Progress  Specifically with the new boss in the five areas of situation. cultural.

day transition program to reach break-even points faster.  Create a 90.Tenth Challenge -Expedite Everyone  “Survival of the Fittest”  Help your direct people & team with their own transitions.  Create a common language  Working with a team  Bringing in people from outside  Developing high potential leaders  Strengthening succession planning  Accelerating post-merger integration .

Recap Interested & Not interesting Questions & Not answers Expectations & Not promises .

Reflections  Gain trust via Listening  Gain respect via Values  Gain buy-in via incorporating Be Interested and Not Interesting Team will be examining you through the lens of. “How will this person affect me “? .

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