5 Big Mistakes New Executives Make

Being a new executive in an organization is a precarious position. You have to be perceived as right for the organization, and their investment in you could easily backfire–within the first year and a half, there’s a 50% chance that you will leave an organization. While the reasons behind this are varied, most new hires seal their fate early on in their employment. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Sabina Nawaz describes five things new executives do that lead them astray:

  1. Propose a new vision for the organization immediately.
  2. Make too many big decisions too quickly.
  3. Tell people how you did things better in your previous organizations.
  4. Prioritize external relationships over internal ones.
  5. Go it alone.

New Exec on the Block

The first thing you should avoid doing as a new exec is proposing big changes when you’re still adjusting to your workplace. As an outsider, you need to take a step back and observe your new workplace. Let people inform you about some of the common practices and what’s been tried before. You shouldn’t sit back forever, but let your opening few months be a learning experience.

Making big decisions too quickly can easily backfire as well. A lot of big decisions were put on hold up until when you were hired, so you should take your time to consider these decisions with the gravity they deserve:

Create an interim decision-making process and ensure transparency. Set expectations that these decisions are only interim, and you might change course after the first quarter, once you’ve gathered more information. For example, you might freeze all open headcount for executive positions for the next couple of months. During that time, define interim measures for how to operate without key positions and create a process for submitting requests for potential exceptions, like a set of criteria to present to the C-suite to make the case for a new hire in a specific role, if you’re unable to wait.

As a new executive, it’s important not to dwell on the past too much, or to continually call upon things you’ve done in previous organizations early on. It can get very annoying, very quickly to have someone constantly talk about how great their old organization ran things. Along those same lines, put your internal relationships first. The people within your organization are the people you’re representing, and taking time to talk to some of them is a great way to build up their confidence in you.

Most importantly of all, do not go it alone. Create a team that can support you and help you with your adjustment. Find the people who have a greater understanding of the culture of the organization and have them aid you in future interactions. Ultimately, if you avoid all of these traps, you should be in the clear for your new position.

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