It is part of human nature to bring to any new situation our wealth of past assumptions, beliefs and experiences.  As we travel down the various paths of professional advancement, we accumulate a hoard of internal rules and logic based on our successes and, more painfully, our failures. This lifetime of accumulated learning makes future decisions easier and easier – if it worked before, do it again.

But past learning can actually be a handicap when moving into a new leadership position. This is especially true when the new position is in a new organization. When joining a new organization, success depends on being totally open to the nuances of the new culture and people.  Nothing causes a new leader to lose credibility faster than the statement, “In my old company, we did it this way ….” Bringing old bromides to a new company makes it look like you are not seeing this organization as unique and fresh but simply a place to reuse old solutions.

So how can a new leader transition smoothly into a new organization? Here are some transition tips to help in acclimating to the new environment:

  • Beware of the Big Head Syndrome. The interview process is all about “me.” Endless cycles of relaying your strengths and assets that culminate with the job offer is heady and ego inflating. Put all that behind you and swallow a big piece of humble pie before your first day on the job. Meet and greet your new colleagues with a true excitement about joining their firm and what you hope to learn from them.
  • Focus intensely on building interpersonal relationships. Realize that new leaders rarely derail from a lack of technical or professional expertise. The real threat to your success is from making interpersonal blunders. So focus on building interpersonal relationships your first 30 days. Strong allies are assets far greater than financial data or annual reports.
  • Ask your new boss why you were selected for the position over your competition. Get him/her to articulate the perceived value that they saw in you during the hiring process. Relentlessly deliver this value to meet and exceed these preliminary expectations.
  • Know your enemies. Abe Lincoln is famous for putting his political enemies on committees close at hand where he could keep an eye on them. Find out who viewed your hire negatively then determine their impact on your success. Take steps to keep close to them and try to make them allies over time.
  • Build an advisory board of key insiders. A good advisor is someone considered an opinion leader and a credible and trusted person. He/she may or may not be a member of the leadership team. Rank matters much less than quality of thought and influence.

Lastly, listen, listen, listen.  Monitor each and every interpersonal interaction. You should be speaking less than 50% of the time and listening the majority of the time. This sends a powerful message, that you don’t think you have all the answers and are eager to use the wisdom and collective experience of existing staff and colleagues to guide your decisions and actions.