Your First 21 Days (part 3 of 3) Getting Off to a Great Start

By Tom Davidson

Stakeholders are anyone who has a stake in what you do and anyone with whom you have a stake in their success. Find our they relate to you as a leader and what you need to do in the first 21 days of your new job!

Just like a competitive runner, you need to get the best possible start out of the blocks when entering a new job. It’s a critical time to (a) learn, (b) establish your priorities, and (c) build equity with the people you will be working with, including the following:

1. Your Supervisor – Understanding your supervisor’s goals for you and expectations of you
2. Your Staff – Learning each person’s history, goals and expectations of you
3. Your Stakeholders – Getting to know each of your primary stakeholders and their needs

In the previous two blogs on this subject, we discussed what you need to do with Your Supervisor and Your Staff. This post is about the third group of important constituents, Your Stakeholders.

Your Stakeholders
Stakeholders are anyone who has a stake in what you do and anyone with whom you have a stake in their success. While this could be anybody in your organization, there are always a critical few that you need to distinguish as key stakeholders. Depending on your job, organizational structure and the inevitable politics of your role, you and your supervisor should consider the following kinds of individuals:

1. Peers
2. People with similar functions in other departments or groups
3. Opinion leaders in the organization
4. Primary customers (internal or external)
5. Your supervisor’s supervisors

Working with your boss, make a list of these key individuals and a game plan for meeting them, including introductions by your supervisor if appropriate. Your first meetings should be framed as introductory and information-gathering meetings. If you do this early, your requests for meetings will be seen as logical, appropriate and appreciated. If you wait too long, you run the risk that these key stakeholders will feel unappreciated and/or disrespected.

Once you have identified these VIPs, arrange an initial in-person visit with each of them within your first 21 days, and prepare to ask them the following kinds of questions:

• What is their role and what are their highest priorities for the business?
• What is the history of your role with them?
• What is already going well that you should continue?
• What should you start doing more of that your predecessor did not do enough of?
• What had been done in the past that they recommend you stop doing?
• How can you help them achieve their goals?
• What advice do they have for you?
• How can you best stay on the same page with them going forward?

By meeting your key stakeholders early and learning as much as possible about their perspectives and needs, you will establish a partner-like working relationship that will help you lay out your work plan, create the vision you will need to share with your team, and stay in close touch with your constituencies over time. As a result, you will demonstrate your good leadership and establish the reputation you need for reaching your goals and theirs.

What better way to start a race, than with a good start? What other questions should you ask your key stakeholders, and what other ways can you use this important information to help your supervisor and staff?

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