Jan 12 was officially the 90th day for me. To be honest, I didn’t follow first 90 days to the extent I imagined – with a timeline etc. But certainly there were some key things that I leveraged which proved useful.

  1. Promote yourself – it is not to go around with tantrums but to actually imagine yourself in the changed job/role for one or two days before the switch
  2. Build network – understand people as much as the new processes and tools.
  3. Build learning agenda/plan – I think this is one area which has helped me immensely. In what could have been a case of drinking from a fire-hose, I now feel very comfortable with the new setup.
  4. Securing early wins – not necessarily a big win – but what I like to describe as “moments of truth”. In a relationship role this would be credibility building. Performing value-creation activities and communicating an image consistently. If the image involves few values – these moments of truths should highlight them.

I will leave you all with a final insight – Shut the doors!

Shut the doors on other options – the biggest deterrent to success is doubts, allowing buyer’s remorse to build and loosing focus on job-at-hand. It is related to what Watkins says as “promoting yourself”. I will say after ‘promoting yourself’, stay there. Especially for next 30 days, do not keep “testing” – any testing on whether it is the right job/role should be before joining! You will give yourself a best chance to succeed if you “accept” the change completely and put your wholehearted effort. You will find a similar point in “trust your boss”.

I can describe what I am saying above in an “emotions” curve.

The Emotions Curve [I preferred to embed – but couldn’t get it soon enough. Don’t have the time, for now, to figure out which widget/plug-in/codex to use. Please bear with me and click this link.]

This is so true for first job after MBA. The problem with the first cycle is that you will never know if the job was alright or not. This is no survey of all MBA pass-outs. Just, my honest observation from people I have interacted with. Please note the y-axis is not “success scale”. It’s an engagement scale. Staying involved doesn’t mean success and vice versa too. Also, engagement depends on multiple factors – some of which you can, and some of which you can not, influence. Going through emotions curve-2 is one of the things you can control.

The First 90 Days and the series end here! A lot of you, my friends, followers and mentors, have been encouraging me consistently and have liked/followed this series. My sincere thanks to all of you – only because of you I feel a lot energized everyday I write about this series.

The entire series:

(1)  First 90 days – prelude; This is about strategies for leaders in new roles/jobs.

(2) First 90 Days Insight-1: Trust your boss

(3) First 90 Days Insight-2: Be Sympathetic

(4) First 90 Days Insight-3: Be Decisive

(5) First 90 Days Insight-4: Where to?

(6) First 90 Days Insight-5: Shut the doors & Conclusion.

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First 90 Days Insight-4: Where to?

Pre-read

(1)  First 90 days – prelude; This is about strategies for leaders in new roles/jobs.

The First 90 Days book elaborates a lot about matching strategy to situation. But really where to?

Here’s a thought:

Don’t take it to where you WANT it to go! Don’t take it to where it WILL go!

Take it to where it CAN go!

The “It” above can refer to organization or a team depending on if you are a CEO or a team leader. For now, I come somewhere in between :) and I have found it true till now. There are two aspects to “Where to” – First, to know where to; next, to take it there. To be aware of the difference between these destinations (WANT TO, WILL, CAN) is, in a lot of ways, a gift. The next takes skill. Successful people have both or do both well. Time will tell, if we can do both well!

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(2) First 90 Days Insight-1: Trust your boss

(3) First 90 Days Insight-2: Be Sympathetic

(4) First 90 Days Insight-3: Be Decisive

Pre-read

(1)  First 90 days – prelude; This is about strategies for leaders in new roles/jobs.

(2) First 90 Days Insight-1: Trust your boss

(3) First 90 Days Insight-2: Be Sympathetic

I wrote about this in the first insight itself that you can’t really postpone decisions in first 30 days. In the next 30 days, the problem is different. You know stuff but you don’t know enough probably. You could fall into the trap of indecisiveness and/or less communication.

The thumb rule is – you will never know enough. Especially, so, if you continue in this state. From whatever you know you will have an opinion. State it openly and confidently if in a brainstorming session or act on it if in a decision making situation. The catch is, be open to be corrected. But demand enough information before being corrected.

How many of us believe that Decisiveness and Flexibility do not go together? I believe they are a strong combination.

I must share (without specificity for obvious confidentiality reasons) an experience recently about how people reacted to such decisive remark in a brainstorming session. Few reacted with disdain and dismissed it. The official discussion took a more objective and constructive approach and I felt it led to meaningful dismantling of few myths. During the lunch/coffee people had thought about it and gave some excellent counter-arguments which I agreed on.

Overall, the discussions certainly made me wiser. I believe vice versa is true too, but I can’t be the judge.  For me, I understood about some nuances of the business I was getting into and got closer to few people.

Pre-read

(1)  First 90 days – prelude; This is about strategies for leaders in new roles/jobs.

(2) First 90 Days Insight-1: Trust your boss

One of the concepts I liked from the ‘First 90 Days’ book is the “STaRS” framework.  Every business situation can be categorized into one of these: Startup, Turnaround, Realignment, Sustaining Success. Each situation needs a unique approach because the priorities and challenges are different. For example, quick decisions are critical in turnaround versus realignment. In realignment and sustaining success scenarios measuring success is not easy as against startup or turnaround. What is considered ok performance could have been worse and what is seen as good could have been better! In turnaround the focus is on dropping dead-weight, in startup it is on building solid team and so on and so forth… While I am at it, ensuring key personnel in organization go through STaRS situations grooms them. In fact, its one of the four ways selected people can be groomed:

1. Give cross-functional exposure

2. Expose to different geography

3. Prepare for career crossroads

4. Increase breadth of exposure to STaRS business situations

Hmm… makes a lot of sense! Anyone who has gone through all of this will be a lot wiser!

By the way, the insight I wanted to register was related to STaRS – Keeping my promise that you don’t have to read the book, I wrote a bit about it.

Unless you are in a turnaround situation, you are likely to encounter pockets of excellence in your new organization or group especially in a realignment or sustaining success situations. Consciously look out for these islands! General tendency is to be skeptical  or create a completely fresh setup. More often than not, if you are sympathetic to what is being said – you will realize there are interesting stuff that exists which can be leveraged or built upon. Some of this holds good for a new bride or groom – you enter a new system which needs to be respected. Understand first. Later, tweaking can be done for peaceful co-existence.

So, be sympathetic – this will help you spot more of those pockets of excellence!

Pre-read: First 90 days – prelude; This is about strategies for leaders in new roles/jobs.

MW makes two points relating to initial 30 days. First, he says refrain from taking ground breaking changes and focus on learning in first 30 days. Second, refrain from key decisions before forming your informal network.

But that is easier said than done. You will have to make a call on few things. Steve Jobs says follow your instincts you will one-day be right. But this is about following standard framework when possible. We will use Steve’s dogma when pushed to it :-)

Remember, you are walking blind (and naked) in the first 30 days. Blind – because you don’t know the environment; naked – because you don’t know the informal network and alliances; In most cases, it is not possible for you to make the right decision just by yourself. So trust your boss’s decision. He/She is aware of the environment and current situation, certainly more than you. And, remember, your win is important for his/her win too. So the decision will be more grounded.

What if that does not work, what if you believe your boss is not making the right decision. Try telling what you feel. Mostly you should get a reasonable logic or may be they will brainstorm from that angle. This is also a great way to know about the environment. In the brainstorming, you will get to know key details about people, their preferences; system, its behavior; and strategy. Besides, you already took a call to take this job/role and this is not the time to judge. If you fail, you can always change course later or, perhaps, even change role/job. Given the choices you have made, you will give yourself a best chance to succeed if you trust your boss.

I was starting from Chennai to Madurai. It was going to take 8 hrs by train and I will reach by 8:30 PM. So my anni (bhabhi) gave me a box with lunch. Usually I am against carrying such stuff. But perhaps ageing (31) has changed me a little bit. I did not make any fuss and accepted the “tiffen box”. There was only one request – “don’t forget to bring it back” :) I have to give some background here. I have a notorious reputation of forgetting things (in fact it’s so common among my bros that all bhabhi’s gang up on this topic when we meet together). My brother came to rescue, “amaa thanga thatta koduthu vidura” (hmm… that is a golden plate or what). I promised myself that I will not forget and decided that I will be “double” careful. My bro gave me a tip, after eating put the box in your laptop bag!

When I reached railway station, I realized my e-ticket for AC chair car got cancelled as it did not move. I decided to take an unreserved ticket and travel with the crowd so that I did not have to wait longer to see my son and wife. In a way I did want to enjoy going in unreserved compartment. :) After 7 years in US one misses a few things I guess. I was lucky to get a seat. I was trapped in a seat with so much crowd standing that moving out of seat for say going to loo was out of question. The problem with unreserved compartment is that food or pantry services are not available when the train is in motion – partly because of the crowd and mainly because the unreserved compartment is cut off from the rest of the vestibules without a connecting path. So the personnel from pantry car can’t come to UR compartment. So the tiffen box was a boon – really! I felt hungry in between the journey and ate the delicious contents of the tiffen box. I had a good habit of thanking people then and there. So I called up my anni and conveyed how tasty the food was and how I would have had to stay hungry had I not carried it in unreserved compartment.

I stacked some more “Manapparai” murukku, a delicacy from the place I grew up (Manapparai) on the way, in the bag I carried for the tiffen box.   Because of incessant rains, I reached Madurai one and half hours late. I just had to get in the crowd and the next thing I found myself in the platform ;) Took an auto without wasting much time and was on my way to wify!

Half way thru a lightning struck! What the heck? I had forgotten to take the bag with tiffen box and manapparai murukku!!! I asked the auto to turn about and go back to station. It was not about the monetary value or anything just that when someone had been so kind I can’t be so careless. I was so ashamed that I spent about one hour searching, walking all the way to the end of the train to the unreserved compartment, asking people whom I should talk to for “lost and found” service(in Indian Railways unreserved compartment!!?? I just lost my sanity). My efforts turned futile. Not losing hope I went to the railways police station and gave a verbal complaint (!!! Come on) b4 leaving to my in-laws place. This time I did not want to take an auto instead took a public bus. I felt so bad that I wanted to deprive myself of any comforts!

I started lamenting to myself on my way. What the heck – I called her up thanking when the true thanking wud have been to bring back the box thoughtfully filled with other delicacies and then thanking in person. If only I had not forgotten! After two stops in the bus one thought came to my mind. Was calling her less important than not forgetting? Isn’t it a paradox that when reflecting on past we always want negatives to have been avoided and take the positives for granted??? Like in this case, I should have avoided the “forgetting”; calling her back was not a big deal against not forgetting. Let us for one minute think of the vice versa: Negatives would have happened and the positives doesn’t happen. Had I not called her on the way, I wouldn’t have had the face to show up and say “I forgot”! Since I called her in between that at least gives a true picture of me – that I am careless in some things and I am caring (show love/thanks) in other things. Wud our life be better if we don’t take our positives for granted and be over critical on our negatives??!!