A Winning Team in the First 90 Days

The most important decisions you make in your first 90 days will probably
be about the people on your team. If you succeed in creating a high-performance
team, you can exert tremendous leverage in value creation. If not, you will face
severe difficulties, for no leader can hope to achieve much alone.

— Michael Watkins, The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New
Leaders at All Levels,
Harvard Business School Press, 2003.

Assessing a team—deciding who should stay and who should go—is one of the most
critical tasks an executive faces when transitioning into a new position. It can create or destroy leverage—and leadership is ultimately about leverage.

Each year, about 25 percent of managers in typical Fortune 500 companies change
jobs. Most spend an average of four years in a given position. High-potential
leaders in mid-senior ranks move more frequently: every 2.5 to 3 years. These
statistics demonstrate why leaders must build strong teams, composed of the
right people in the right jobs, as quickly as possible.

The first weeks are crucial for learning and evaluating. Leaders must maintain
the right balance of confidence and humility, while asking probing questions and
actively listening. During this time, leaders are most vulnerable. Without a
firm support network in place, they must learn everything they can about the
organization, its strategies, customers and team members in the shortest
possible timeframe.

Leaders must dedicate a large percentage of learning time to getting to know
existing team members. If you are promoted to a new position from within the
organization, you are likely acquainted with some of its key people. Transition
from the outside, and you face the task of identifying and placing the right
people into the right positions—a much greater challenge. Either way, you must
choose wisely, without disrupting short-term performance.

How do you assess your existing team as quickly as possible? How do you reduce
your learning curve and jumpstart your team’s performance in the first 90 days?
What are the most common mistakes leaders in a new position make?

The full 1800 word article covers the following concepts:

How to Assess an Existing Team
Probing Questions
Testing for Judgment
Assessing the Team
Restructuring a Team
Alternatives to Termination
7 Common Mistakes

Resource: Watkins, M. (2003). The First 90 Days: Critical Success
Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels. Boston, MA. Harvard Business School
Press.

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