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The Seven Biggest Traps in the First 90 Days …and How to Avoid Them


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Learn the culture, meet people, and listen.

Trap #1: Not adapting to the new culture

Leaders who move between companies (or even units of the same company) risk stumbling into cultural minefields. When new leaders act in ways that are inconsistent with the culture, they risk triggering an organizational immune system attack. The result is that they become increasingly disconnected and isolated from the flow of critical information about what is really going on in the organization. This further increases their vulnerability to making bad calls, and contributes to a vicious cycle that ends in failure.

Trap #2: Not engaging in social learning

New leaders can become isolated because they spend too much time reading and thinking and not enough time meeting and talking. Sometimes this happens because the new leader wants to “know” the organization, by reading everything available, before venturing out into it. But the resulting isolation inhibits the development of important relationships and cultivation of sources of information about what is really going on. If this goes on for too long, the new leader may rapidly be labeled as remote and unapproachable. Impressions, ideas, and strong feelings about how to deal with issues are often more important than financial analyses in making crucial early decisions. New leaders must get out and into their organizations quickly. 

Trap #3: Coming in with "the answer"

Another common trap is to come into the organization with “the answer,” a well-defined fix for the organizational problems. New leaders fall into this trap through arrogance or insecurity or because they believe they must appear decisive and establish a directive tone. But employees who perceive leaders to be dealing superficially with deep problems are inclined to become cynical, making it difficult to rally support for change. When employees believe their leaders’ minds to be made up, they may become reticent to share information, thereby effectively impeding the latters’ learning about broader, more complex dimensions of the situation. 

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