The 3 Most Critical Things Managers Should Do in Their First 90 Days
New managers are eager to make their mark and, as a result, are apt to try to do too much too fast. What managers should do in their first 90 days is just the opposite: slow down, take stock, and focus on what matters most. Do not overload the system or you will end up overstressing and wearing out yourself and your team with little to show for it.
Unfortunately, most new manager training programs do not teach the most critical three things that managers should do in their first 90 days. Instead of brushing up on soft skills like communication, decision-making, and feedback, take the first 90 days as a new manager to understand what your boss expects from you, develop your team strategy, get to know your people, strengthen the team culture, and serve as the leader that others can loyally and proudly follow.
- Understand What Your Boss Expects from You
Your first step as a new manager is to understand how success and failure will be measured for you and your team by your boss and how your team fits into the big picture. Without this context it will be difficult to create a clear, believable, and implementable strategy for you and your team. Here are a few key questions that you should ask your boss:
- What are the top 2-3 priorities of the company? Of your team? Of my team?
- How does your team and my team fit into the company’s overall plans?
- How is your personal and professional success measured? By whom?
- How will you measure my success? My team’s success?
- How would you define high performance for me? For my team?
- Understand the Context of the Current Situation
Now that you know what is expected of you, your boss, and your team, your next step is to understand the current situation and ensure that everyone knows where things stand now. This baseline will serve as a starting point from which to improve in terms of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to your team’s strategy, culture, processes, and people.
The importance of current state analysis cannot be overstated. To succeed as a leader, you need a complete picture of the context of changes you wish to make before you can thoughtfully design, communicate, and implement the new ways of thinking, behaving, and working. Remember your success as a people manager will be measured on the success of your team.
Get to know your team both personally and professionally. Talk with them individually and in team meetings about what is working and what is not working. Listen carefully and show that you value their opinions by incorporating them in a way that makes sense. Ultimately, the final decisions will be yours, but, for effective implementation, you need to know that you have team buy-in and ongoing support.
- Co-Define Your Team Charter with Your Team
Your next step is to define WITH your team clear, believable, and implementable team goals, roles, and success metrics that are aligned to the overall strategy and expectations. The payoff of actively involving your team in defining your team charter is increased team engagement and performance by creating clear line of sight to the contribution and value of your team in the bigger picture.
Your team charter also serves as the foundation to confidently communicate your team’s value to your various stakeholders.
The most effective team charters answer questions like:
- Team Purpose
What is the fundamental reason that our team exists?
- Team Focus
What are the top 3-5 strategic priorities the team is dedicated to focusing on the majority of their time? How do those priorities align with overall corporate priorities?
Who are our team’s key stakeholders in order of priority? And what do they expect from us?
- Success Metrics
How will success and failure be measured at the individual, team, and organizational levels? What leading and lagging metrics will let you know if you are on the right track?
- Team Roles and Responsibilities
What is the primary role and responsibility of each team member? What are the key internal and external interdependencies?
- Team Skills
What are the most important skills this team needs to deliver on our work? Set the tone in those first 90 days with a healthy respect for learning and career development. Show some humility as you acknowledge that you have much to learn.
What are the resources and support required to deliver on our priorities? It is important that you do what it takes to help your team easily accomplish their tasks.
What key constraints does the team have that may get in the way of delivering on our goals? What is your plan to overcome them?
- Team Norms
What are the non-negotiable behaviors (i.e. communication, decision-making, accountability, transparency, recognition, etc.) we expect from each other? Do not underestimate this portion of the team charter. Our organizational alignment research found that culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing teams. When your strategy, your talent, and your culture are aligned, you will be firing on all cylinders.
The Bottom Line
The first 90 days as a new manager establish what kind of manager you will be going forward. Take the time to be purposeful about the kind of manager you want to be and set yourself and your team up for success.
To learn more about what managers should do in their first 90 days, download Stop Doing This! 5 Management Misperceptions that Slip Up Too Many New Managers