To successfully enter a new role and set yourself up for long-term success, you need to balance “now-ahead” planning with “future-back” vision. In other words, you must start with the end in mind, imagining what you want to accomplish during this period of your leadership and what needs to happen before that to take the next step. This mindset will empower you to make early decisions that will facilitate your transition, pave the way for long-term impact in the new role, and contribute to your continued career growth.
When taking on a new leadership role, it’s natural to focus on the immediate challenges of making a successful transition, including accelerating your learning, building relationships with stakeholders, and ensuring early gains. However, it’s important to complement this “now-ahead” planning with “future-back” thinking about your desired destination and what it will take to get there. As Stephen Covey states in his best-selling book, The Seven Traits of Highly Effective People, you want to “begin with the end in mind.” This means envisioning what you want to accomplish in the new role so that you are ready to move forward with it and then work backwards to map out how you will get there. By doing so, you can shape your early actions to lay the foundation for long-term success.
The starting point is to join what Dan Ciampa, the famous executive coach, defined as “time planning.” Your period is the expected length of time you think you will be in the new position. Of course, you can stay longer or leave earlier, but try to make a rough guess as to when you’re done enough to “finish.” You want to ask yourself two important questions: “As I finish this job, what is true?” and “What can be done?”
Imagination Your Leadership Legacy
The first question — “What is true?” — asks you to outline the legacy you want to create and the story you want to tell about your accomplishments. Focus on what you want to be remembered for in your new position and what you want your team and colleagues to say about your leadership.
Consider important features such as:
- Performance results: What tangible results – for example, in terms of increased productivity or profits – will you achieve?
- Organizational change: How can you change the team and its culture?
- Innovation: What do you do to foster creativity and develop new areas for growth?
- Talent development: How do you hire and train people to take the organization into the future?
Put it into a short, written personal narrative. Then, think about what you need to do, starting now, to realize this legacy.
creating Future Possibilities
The second question – “What can be done?” — encourages you to envision a future beyond your current role and strategize the steps you will take to make these viable options. This process involves identifying the many potential paths forward and focusing on the skills you need to acquire and the connections you need to build over the course of this time to make the options viable. By exploring different scenarios and proactively planning your progress, you will be better equipped to adapt and seize emerging opportunities.
Do these steps:
- Create a list of potential futures, considering the logical next steps in your organization and your industry, as well as less conventional but attractive options that take you in different directions.
- Assess if there are skill gaps you need to close to achieve some or all futures by reflecting on your existing strengths and areas for improvement.
- Identify the bridges – the steps and connections – that will allow you to move from your current role to your desired future options. This may include expanding your professional network, deepening your industry knowledge, or participating in what Ken Banta and Orlan Boston described as “strategic side gigs,” such as teaching or working on boards of directors.
- Make a plan for how you will acquire the skills and build bridges to turn the potential futures you know into realistic options, set specific goals and hold yourself accountable for achieving them. ot this.
As Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” By envisioning multiple potential futures and working toward them, you’ll make real choices for yourself when you’re ready to move on from your current role.
To successfully step into a new leadership role and set yourself up for long-term success, you need to balance “now-ahead” planning with “future-back” vision. This mindset will empower you to make early decisions that will facilitate your transition, pave the way for long-term impact in the new role, and contribute to your continued career growth.