Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Take Charge (Part II)

In this series of posts we are taking a look at what it means to take charge, to take command, to assume the role of a leader. As we approach the President's 100th day in command, I hope you are able to stop for a second and think about your own transition into your current position and whether you (or the Commander in Chief) have effectively taken charge.

Before taking charge

Rushing head first into any leadership role without having done your homework is a recipe for embarrassment and mission failure. Understand the environment in which you will operate. Look internally and examine the functions of the current organization. Assess existing strengths and weaknesses. Look externally to understand current and future trends and organizational opportunities and threats. Understand the financial underpinnings of the company. Know where you fit in the larger corporate picture.

Take time to think. Capture your initial findings and arrange a list of questions you might wish to explore upon commencing your new position. Prepare an initial set of goals and objectives based on your research and understanding of the operational environment. Think about your vision for your position, for your team, and for those you will serve. Be ready to hit the ground running!

Prior to assumption of any new position, leaders should prepare or update their leadership philosophy. Deliberate efforts to capture, in writing, issues that describe one’s approach to leading others will help eliminate uncertainty with future charges and proactively describe the likes and dislikes of their new boss. Just as importantly, evaluating one’s existing leadership philosophy serves as an opportunity to reconsider the culture and leadership climate you seek to create in the new assignment.

As soon as possible, meet with the higher headquarters boss and their key staff members. Clearly identify your superior’s expectations, goals and objectives, performance criteria, and reporting requirements. Identify a time to report back (often 90 – 120 days) with initial perceptions, major organizational or operational changes, and needs for assistance.

As an incoming leader I always wanted to ensure I understood my superior’s FARs (Flat Ass Rules) and their CCIR (Commander’s Critical Information Requirements). The former are those absolutes that I had better obey (and needed to understand quickly before I would violate them unknowingly). The latter are “wake up the boss” reporting requirements. There must be no doubt about those issues that the higher commander wants to know immediately – and those general categories of potential issues which require approval or notification before action. I have always found that empowerment comes from clearly knowing the left and right limits in which I have the freedom to operate. I similarly wanted to develop these lists that I could share with my own teammates.

Consider media and public speaking training. Even if you are an “old pro,” leverage the occasion of a new assignment to take your skills to the next level. You must be prepared to stand before new employees, customer or consumer groups, board members, or stock holders (groups whose members may not agree with your positions) and articulate your observations, concerns, and vision for the future. Get a coach if you need one.

Before assuming command, develop your “30-second commercial.” Be prepared to describe, in a concise “elevator speech,” who you are and what you do. Those opportunities to deliver your pitch will present themselves on your first day. Don’t let a lack of preparation cause you to lose a new customer or a future business relationship. Be ready!

This is the prep work that get's you ready to take command. Before any test, it always makes sense to do your homework. Especially when the test involves testing your ability to lead a team. We get graded from DAY 1. That's Leader Business.

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