If you have just taken up a new role as a leader, you probably feel the pressure to prove yourself quickly.

One of the ways to do this is to get some early wins. It is important how you choose what to focus on in the early days. You do not want to spread yourself thin, so select one project and make it matter. Here are some aspects to consider while choosing your early win project –

This is your first project in the new organization. It might take a couple of months or more to finish. You can not ignore your prime goals in the interim, therefore, choose a project that 

  • supports your overall objective, 
  • you can deliver on time, with available resources, without compromising other ongoing initiatives.

For a project to make a mark, it needs to deliver business benefits, e.g., improved customer satisfaction, reduced cycle time, cut in defects/rework, decrease in cost, increase in revenue, etc. Making a business impact early in your tenure will give you the rope to make bigger changes in the future.

It is your first exposure to the systems, structures, and processes in your new organization. Use it as an opportunity to figure out what works effectively and what does not. Be curious and open-minded at this stage.

While there is a saying that it is lonely at the top, you can not be a leader if you are not leading and influencing people. Your early win project is an opportunity to build support and alliances for your long-term success.

Just as you are cautious while stepping into the new role, your team is wary, too. It is as much a transition for them as it is for you. They want to know what you stand for, your values, your prime agenda, and behaviors that are important to you. It is a chance for you too to get to know your team, their ideas, motivations, individual and collective strengths, and their chemistry with each other. Have your team members play key roles in the project. It will enthuse them and introduce them to your leadership style – how you delegate, monitor, give credit, share stage, influence, etc. It is an opportunity for you to show that you are open to learning from them as much as to mentoring and coaching them. It is a window to reveal yourself to them, shed inhibitions, and build bonds.

I will finish with what not to do while gunning for early results –

  • Lose focus on your broader business responsibilities. Choose a project that supports your overall mandate.
  • Choose a project that looks good only on your personal scoreboard. A collective win will pave the way for future success.
  • Consider comments from colleagues a criticism and resistance to you. Use it as an opportunity to learn existing systems, processes, and culture.

Thanks for reading this edition of Your Career Matters newsletter. I hope you enjoyed it. This write-up draws from the work of Michael Watkins.

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