Beyond Congratulations: A Strategic Approach to Excelling in Your New Role

Excelling in Your New Role

Congratulations, you just received a big promotion.  You’re excited about this new opportunity and can’t wait to get started.  But you’re asking yourself where do you start?  How do I set myself up for success in this new role?  This post will help you answer those questions by asking a series of smaller questions to help you build your transition plan, because everything should start with a plan.


  1. How can you become more “Coach-Like”? As you begin your new role many of us feel like we need to know all the answers and go in and start fixing things.  I strongly urge you to avoid that trap and become more coach-like.  According to Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of “The Coaching Habit” and “The Advice Trap”, he recommends to become more coach-like you should say less and ask more.  Essentially, as a leader you don’t have to know all the answers.  Don’t rush to fix things, but rather go in seeking to fully understand and proceed from there.  If you approach your new role and the other items below with this mindset, your probability for success will increase exponentially.  So, begin by asking yourself the following questions.

How can you be more patient and not rush into providing advice and fixing things?

How can you be better at asking good questions?

How can you be comfortable being uncomfortable and not knowing all the answers?

How can you become coach-like more often?

  1. What does success look like? As Stephen Covey says, “begin with the end in mind”.  So, what does success look like in 30, 60, 90 days, 1 year or longer?  Get as much clarity as possible on this from the beginning and it will allow you to make sure you’re working on the right things.

How does the job description define success?

How does your manager define success?

How do you define success?

  1. How can you help your boss win? Understanding how you can help your boss win is critical.  It’s also important to understand how to best work with your new boss so you can start off aligned and remain so over time.  Now’s the time to make a concerted effort to get to know your boss in every way.  Here’s a few example questions, but I’m sure you can come up with many others.

What is your manager’s professional and personal aspirations?

What are your manager’s key performance goals?

What is your manager’s core values and how do those play out at work and home?

What is your manager’s communication style?

How does your manager like to be updated and how frequently?

How do you effectively manage up moving forward?

  1. How can you learn and get up to speed quickly? Even if this promotion is within the same company and department, there’s a lot to learn in the new position.  Now’s the time to observe, ask great questions, listen, and learn.

What input do you need prior to developing your Vision and Strategy, and how will you get it?

What are the key issues, root causes, and potential solutions you need to address and how do you learn as much about them as you can before you act?

What are the most promising opportunities you need to learn about?

Are there any primary or secondary research studies and trade publications to review to learn about the industry and competitors?

Are there any key items you can review including: strategic plans, financials, literature, websites, competitor reviews?

  1. How can you understand the “true” culture and fit in? During the interview process you probably asked about the “company culture”.  I’m sure they described it to you to the best of their ability through their eyes.  While they were being transparent and authentic, sometimes it’s not completely accurate and many times there are sub-cultures within the overarching culture.  Now’s the time to understand how you and others would answer what the culture is, how decisions are made, how work gets done, and how you can best fit in.

What is the stated Mission and Vision statements?

What are the stated Values of the organization and how are they embodied and expressed?

How do they truly align with your values?

How does work actually get done?

How are decisions made and who are the decision makers?

How will you adapt to the culture?

  1. Who are the key stakeholders and decision makers? This question is critical because knowing who you need to align yourself with to get things done will ultimately open your door to success.  Many individuals can throw up roadblocks to impede your progress, while others can help break down barriers, so the sooner you know who these individuals are and get their buy-in the better you’ll be.

Who are the Key Stakeholders to connect with?

Who are the Super Stars in the organization?

Who are the under performers, naysayers, and rumor starters?

Who holds formal power?

Who holds informal power?

For each individual above…What motivates them? What is their communication style? What do they value?  What value can you bring them?  How can you build the relationship?

  1. What political landmines do you need to avoid? There are always pet projects, special agendas, and sacred cows in every organization.  As a new leader, it’s likely best if you avoid these for atleast a period to time until you learn the lay of the land and build trust within your role and organization.  While no one likes politics, unfortunately it’s part of being human so you need to find ways to work within or around them.  Sometimes there’s an opportunity to be disruptive early on, but make sure you understand the risks, consequences, and appetite for such action so you go in with your eyes wide open.

What are the “sacred cows” that you shouldn’t touch?

What are the pet projects and special agendas that powerful players are promoting?

What are the things you shouldn’t say, and to who?

  1. What is your Vision and Strategy for your department and/or organization? Now that you have the lay of the land and ramped up your understanding of the industry, the organization, and your role, it’s time to start thinking about the future and how to impact it in meaningful ways.  You should have started thinking about this back in number four above.

What is your vision for your area of responsibility?

What is your strategy(ies) to achieve your vision?

What is your plan to get buy-in for your vision and strategy and from whom?

How will you communicate your vision and strategy and to whom?

  1. Do you have the right team to execute your vision and strategy? I have learned over the years that no matter how great your plan or strategy is, without the right people in the right roles to execute the plan you are likely to under achieve.  As a result, you need to critically assess your team and  I’ve identified a few example criteria below to help you do so.  As you evaluate against each criteria your goal is to determine their overall fit short and long term and what action steps you need to take as a result.

Do they embody your “Core Values”? This is a really the showstopper.  If they don’t embody your core values, then they won’t be a good fit.  You should only be hiring individuals that embody your core values.

Do they “Get It”? Do they truly know what their role is, what they need to do, and what value they bring to the organization?

Do they “Want It? Do they really want to do the job to the best of their ability and put the time and effort in to make a big impact?

Do they “Have the Capacity”? Do they have the capacity to do what you need them today?  Do they have the capacity to grow and do what you may need them to do in the future? This is different than having the skills and behaviors because many times you can help someone develop those, but sometimes we’re asking them to do things that’s just not in their DNA and they aren’t capable of doing for whatever reason.

Do they “Love It”? Do they have the passion for what they do?  If they do, they will likely be internally motivated and willing to go the extra mile and put in discretionary effort.

How are they “Performing”? What is their performance like today and why?  Are they a high performer (knocking it out of the park), just doing what’s necessary, or underperforming?

What is their “Attitude”? While skills are important, attitude is everything.  You can develop skills; you can’t develop attitude.  Are they eager to help themselves, you and the organization be successful?

  1. What is your action plan, especially early wins? If there are early wins you can make happen along the way with little risk, go for it.  Sometimes these early wins can go a long way in setting the tone moving forward.  But also define key priorities for execution within your strategic plan to drive your long-term results.

What is the action/ priority?

When does it need to be done?

Who is responsible for completing?

What is the measure of success?

  1. What is your personal development plan? If you’re a lifelong learner, and hopefully you are, you are always seeking ways to develop.  While you were working through the various elements above, I’m sure you gained some additional clarity regarding your strengths and where you could seek improvement.  As a result, create your development plan that will help you succeed in your new role as well as help you begin preparing for your next role.  It’s never to early to be preparing for what’s next!

Which of your strengths can you build on to be more successful?

Which behaviors do you need to change or adopt?

What skills and knowledge do you need to acquire?

What attitudes do you need to change or adopt?

Success in a new role is a journey, not a destination, but there are definitely elements you can focus on to increase your chance of success. By embracing these elements and being strategic about them, you’re not only setting yourself up for success now but also for the future.

For additional reading on this topic please check out the following book and international bestseller “The First 90 Days” by Michael D. Watkins.