How can I get off to the best start as a new boss?

by Sam on February 7, 2011

When that next promotion comes, your first thoughts are likely to focus on the change you intend to make to overcome your team’s mistakes of the past, to take advantages of opportunities presented by the future, and to establish yourself as a confident, in-charge leader.


It’s human nature to have such thoughts; it may be foolhardy to act on them immediately. As you enter a new position of responsibility, this is a time to lead with your ears rather than your mouth. Someone once said that great leaders find out where their people want to go and then hustle to get in front of them.

Here’s a proven “on-boarding” leadership model to start off on the right foot.

Step One: Interview the senior leaders and the most critical employees on your team individually. Say little at these meetings. Ask questions like these. (You may want to show interviewees the questions in advance of your sit down.)

1. What do you like best (and least) about what you do for ACME?

2. What tomorrow (“vision”) do you intend to create in your area of responsibility?

3. What are the ten most important ways you add value to ACME?

4. What one added resource could make the greatest difference in the value you add?

5. What is the most challenging part of your job? Where do you wish there was even more challenge in your job?

6. What was your greatest success (and failure) in the past six months?

7. What is the single greatest barrier to your continued success?

8. With whom do you have a relationship that could stand to become more collaborative than it is now?

9. What ideas do you have for doing things better, faster, or smarter?

10. What one change do you hope will result (or will not result) from my presence as leader?

11. What are some of the best things I can do with my time to help you succeed?

12. How can we make better use of your interests, talents, and skills?

13. How could the strategic plan we have in place make even better use of ACME resources to hit the targets we have established?

14. What questions do you have for me?

Step Two: Meet with the team. Tell them what you took away from the interviews. Paint a picture of how that defines for you a team direction as well as strategic priorities that are both consistent with that direction and supportive of the quantitative targets the team is tasked to achieve. Enlist the team in owning up to the barriers that must be overcome to accomplish the priorities. Next, assign team members the actions you all agree will overcome the barriers, thus attaining the priorities and, as a result, hitting the bottom-line targets. Finally, put in place a process of accountability that measures and responds to progress over time.

Step Three: Call me at 412-487-2379 for ideas on tailoring the questions to your situation as well as facilitating the team meeting.

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