Mills: Strategies for new leaders

My book club recently tackled an interesting book entitled The First 90 Days.

My book club recently tackled an interesting book entitled The First 90 Days.

The author is Michael Watkins and his book offers a framework for success to organizations generally, and individuals specifically who are in new leadership roles.

I should mention that this book is very dense with information. It is impossible to cover anything more than a basic overview here. What I personally like about this book is that it offers a unique take on what a new leader can do to build their credibility and show their worth within a specific time frame—the first 90 days on the job.

Watkins’ 90-day time frame includes a key concept which is the “break even point.” According to him, at around the 45-day point in the transition period, the organization’s investment in the new leader needs to start paying dividends as a sign that there will be longer term success.

He is quick to point out that there are some specific things that need to be in alignment for this payoff to happen. While the organization has an important role to play in supporting new leaders, it is the individuals themselves who need to actively build their own momentum.

According to Watkins, the very first thing new leaders need to do is invest time and energy in their own learning. That means getting familiar with their new environment—the people, culture, processes and systems that make it tick.

Charging in and making changes without first understanding what currently exists is a recipe for disaster. One of the things that makes The First 90 Days interesting is Watkins’ STAR model, which is basically his guide for the type of leadership that is needed for a particular setting.

In other words, the new leader needs to know if the situation is a Start-up, Turnaround, re-Alignment or is Sustaining Success, because each of those scenarios requires a different approach.

The rest of book outlines numerous strategies and tactics that new leaders can use to improve their chances of succeeding, covering such themes as the importance of early wins, the need to align the culture, and improving systems or structures within the organization.

Despite the fact that The First 90 Days was published eight years ago, the information in it still has value. Anyone in a new leadership who is keen to prove their value quickly will find it to be a great reference tool.


Laurie Mills is a certified coach and human

resource professional. Her company is Lighthouse

Professional Development Consulting Services.



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