The First 90 Days

The First 90 Days is indisputably one of the most helpful books for leaders-to-be or newly promoted leaders in any management position.

Though the book addresses people in executive positions, the insights can benefit anyone going through a transition, like switching from a job role, promotion, or even starting a new job.

The book is written by Michael Watkins, the co-founder of the famous leadership consultancy - Genesis Advisers.

He believes that the first 90 days of a leadership transition are the most significant because of new challenges, new work relationships, new environment, and new responsibilities.

In any transition, one learns new things first and adds value to the role.

The breakeven point is achieved when the value you add reaches the value you consume in that role.

This breakeven stage is usually at the end of the transition and should ideally be completed within the first 90 days.

To achieve this, one has to accelerate their learning, secure early wins, and create alliances to speed up the process of excelling in their new role by 40%.

The Challenges of the Leadership Transition

Michael Watkins believes that, on average, the leadership roles experience a transition every one and a half years.

He points out some common traps that leaders fall prey to during a transition, including avoiding new learning, showing extreme action, setting unrealistic expectations, trying to do too much, thinking you know it all, engaging in the wrong type of learning, and neglecting horizontal relationships.

Steps to implement in the first 90 days

Watkins explains the ten steps to success in a new role. The book includes examples, a list of questions to ask yourself, tools, mental models, figures, checklists, and assessment sheets with each step to ensure that you follow these steps effectively.

The 10 Steps to Implement in the First 90 Days of Transition

  1. Pre-selection phase: As soon as you find out about an impending selection for a new role, you as the leader have to start preparing for the new position by looking at the demands of the new role.
  2. Pre-entry phase: Once selected, you should start learning the necessary skills needed in your new role. Don't assume that you know everything; everyone has to learn.
  3. Taking charge phase: When taking charge, match the strategy to your role. Here Watkins explains his famous STARS model - Startup, Turnaround, Accelerated-growth, Realignment, and Sustaining success to consider the appropriate strategic options.
  4. Set the right expectations with your boss: In your new role, communicate a clear set of expectations with your boss and your direct reports. Discuss the five critical areas of your job, including situation, expectation, style, resources, and personal development. Outline the role mandate and targets and then analyze the roles of other stakeholders that might affect your evaluation process.
  5. Speed up early on: Watkins explains that the early wins in the first 90 days can speed up the transition process. With behavior change and other initiatives, one can learn things quickly and move forward faster.
  6. Align strategy, structure, processes, and resources: In the first 90 days of transition, it is essential to understand the alignment between different components of your organization. Identify misalignments in there and address them on priority.
  7. Assess, align and mobilize your team: The team is crucial to your success as a leader. Therefore, assess, align and mobilize every team member to match your team's goals.
  8. Build Alliances: Make strong relationships within your team and outside. This book gives us valuable examples of developing your influence among your new colleagues and reports.
  9. Self-management: There can be many challenges in balancing the work-life ratio; hence, listening to others' advice or judging situations independently is critical. Managing yourself to get through is the key in weighing every situation and achieving the required balance & results.
  10. Accelerate your team and organization: If you speed up your learning and transition process, you can contribute to the organization's accelerated growth and your career by saving time and thereby increasing the ROI of your business and proving yourself to be the most suitable person for the job.

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