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2 Things You Can’t Lead Without: Day 30-60 as a New Manager

In my last blog post, I walked through a plan for the first 30 days as a new manager. Now what? Buckle up, your next 30 days are not for the faint of heart.

In your first 30 days, I recommend you assess the pains, the culture, and your people. Now you’re ready to take that information and build. 2 things to focus on for the next 30 days:

1. Build your system to manage daily performance

2. Declare the culture you want and leverage your system to drive it

Build your System to Manage Daily Performance

Why? Often the struggle to meet individual or team performance is the result of process/system issues. No amount of motivating people will undo the impact of duplication, redundancies, searching and waiting for people, information, answers, etc. On top of that, about 45-55% of our time is spent engaged in unplanned work. That is work that is unaccounted for, adds to our frustration, increases the amount of work we have in-process, and isn’t taken into account at times of recognition or performance review.

Managers don’t need to rush to solve problems. The work will create more problems than we have time to deal with. Managers need to create systems to SEE problems, SEE issue trends, and CLARIFY which one(s) to focus on addressing. Managers that know the 20% of problems that create 80% of their time-suck are ahead of the game. In doing so, managers will have a platform to eventually developing OTHERS how to SEE and SOLVE problems.

The system a manager builds should follow 4 Disciplines:

1. Make the Work VISIBLE

2. Make the Work MOVE

3. Make Obstacles VISIBLE

4. Initiate a Cycle of Continuously Alignment

This becomes the structure that is used to balance work-in-process, dependencies, conflicting priorities, manage unplanned work, and eventually track performance. It gives the team a way to see their work and a place to have say on which problems they want to address & how. By making the work visible and making it move, teams begin to think about what comes next. Often that leads to predicting potential issues, mitigating instead of triaging, and engaging in real-time problem-solving for emergent issues.

If you don’t have a process/system to manage obstacles, they will manage you.

Declare Your Culture and Leverage Your Systems to Drive It

As a new manager, you are entering a team that already operates with a set of unwritten rules. Some of it is useful, some of it isn't. Your job will be to declare the culture you believe is needed to be high performing. You don't have to do it alone... engage your team. At the very least, engage your influencers. But be bold and declare it. Most of us don't.

Be concise and visual. And remember it's about your people. I was with a manager once that declared they wanted an adaptable team, but when I looked, I saw a pretty adaptable team working in systems and processes that were confining.

Build a culture of curiosity, a culture of experimentation, a culture of inclusion, or a culture of accountability. You'll know what's needed. Your next step is to define the behaviors; how would people be living this culture? Define 3-5 behaviors that someone from the outside would see happening if your team was living this culture. What are the 20% of behaviors that will drive 80% of your performance?

Avoid concepts like, "People are respectful" and opt for behaviors you can SEE/OBSERVE. Here is what one team used to define their behaviors around a culture of adaptability:

  • "Issues are made VISIBLE daily for all to see."

  • "Tests of change are attempted every week, by every team and are VISIBLY TRACKED for everyone on the team to see"

I'm big on systems & structures because they tend to be one of the biggest drivers of behavior in organizations. The new manager has the opportunity to leverage their system to drive the behaviors they believe will create the culture they want.

For example, imagine a new manager institutes a daily stand-up (or call-in). They assemble their team in front of a visual that shows the planned work for the day and ask about any unplanned work items.

BOOM- They just made the issue of unplanned work visible for all to see.

Then they ask if there are any other issues or obstacles that might get in the way of moving their work forward. Someone shares that they are missing information on a request that has been sitting for 2 days. The manager writes it up on their Issue Tracker Board.

BOOM- They just made the issue visible for all to see. They are getting their team used to raising issues and talking about them. The manager also has better insight into the daily issues the team deals with AND can plan a faster response.

The manager then asks, "We seem to keep having this issue. Is someone willing to either learn more about what is happening or run an experiment to see if we can get a better result?" Someone volunteers. The manager writes it up on the Experiment Board.

BOOM- Tests of change are attempted every week, and are VISIBLY TRACKED for all to see.

The manager thanks everyone for taking 5 minutes to align on how the manager can best support their work and how they can support each other.

Over time, a manager now has a platform to understand if they are creating the right culture, if they are driving the right behaviors to create that culture, and if that culture is driving the results they need. They have built a reliability into a workplace to buffer the variability work provides.

What I'm proposing isn't easy. It isn't hard either. It's just not easily understood or widely practiced. But it can be. You can be who you were meant to be as a leader. And you can lead the team they were meant to be.

60 days down. . . stay tuned for the 60-90 plan next week!