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The First 90 Days | Book Summary | How to Fast Track Onboarding into New Roles

"The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, Updated and Expanded" is a comprehensive guide for leaders who are transitioning into new roles. Authored by Michael Watkins, this book provides practical advice and proven strategies to help leaders succeed in their first 90 days on the job.


IS THIS BOOK FOR ME?

"The First 90 Days" is relevant for anyone who is transitioning into a new leadership role, whether they are a seasoned executive taking on a new position or a new manager starting their first leadership role. The book is also relevant for professionals who are seeking to better understand how to manage change, build relationships, and achieve early success in their careers.


The book provides practical guidance and tools for navigating the complexities of the transition period, including developing a clear plan, building relationships with key stakeholders, and establishing credibility in a new role. It also highlights the importance of self-awareness, feedback, and continuous learning to develop as a leader.


Overall, "The First 90 Days" is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to make a successful transition into a new leadership role or looking to develop their leadership skills. The book's focus on practical strategies and real-world examples makes it accessible and relevant for professionals in a variety of industries and leadership positions.



KEY TAKEOUTS


Introduction: The Importance of Transitioning Well

In the introduction, Watkins stresses the importance of transitioning well into a new role. He cites research that shows that the first 90 days are critical for a leader's success, and that many leaders fail in their new roles because they don't manage the transition process effectively.


Chapter 1: Prepare Yourself

In the first chapter, Watkins encourages leaders to prepare themselves before they start their new roles. He advises leaders to do their research, learn as much as they can about the organization and its culture, and identify potential challenges they may face. He also recommends that leaders clarify their goals and priorities, and develop a plan for achieving them.


Example 1: Julie is a new marketing director for a startup. Before starting her new role, she researches the company's history, mission, and goals. She also talks to her predecessor and other employees to learn about the company culture and the marketing team's strengths and weaknesses. She identifies potential challenges, such as the need to build a strong brand identity and increase website traffic, and develops a plan to achieve her goals.

Example 2: John is a new CFO for a large corporation. Before starting his new role, he researches the company's financial statements and reports, and talks to other executives to learn about the company's financial challenges and opportunities. He identifies potential challenges, such as reducing costs and improving cash flow, and develops a plan to achieve his goals.


Chapter 2: Accelerate Your Learning

In the second chapter, Watkins advises leaders to accelerate their learning in their new roles. He recommends that leaders build relationships with key stakeholders, seek feedback and advice, and establish a learning agenda. He also emphasizes the importance of balancing learning with action, and taking small steps to build momentum.

Example 1: Sarah is a new HR director for a medium-sized company. She meets with each member of her team to understand their roles and responsibilities, and to learn about their goals and concerns. She also schedules meetings with other department heads to build relationships and gain a deeper understanding of the company's culture. She establishes a learning agenda that includes attending HR conferences and workshops, and reading industry publications.

Example 2: Tom is a new sales manager for a software company. He meets with each member of his team to understand their sales goals and strategies, and to identify potential areas for improvement. He also schedules meetings with key clients to build relationships and gain a deeper understanding of their needs and challenges. He establishes a learning agenda that includes attending sales training programs and webinars, and reading industry reports.


Chapter 3: Match Strategy to Situation

In the third chapter, Watkins advises leaders to match their strategy to the situation they are facing. He introduces four different situations that leaders may encounter when transitioning into a new role, and provides strategies for each situation. The four situations are: starting up, turning around, realigning, and sustaining success.

Example 1: Mark is a new CEO of a startup. He faces the challenge of building a strong team and establishing a clear vision and mission for the company. He develops a strategy that focuses on hiring talented individuals with complementary skills, and developing a product that meets the needs of a specific market segment.

Example 2: Lisa is a new vice president of a struggling division of a large corporation. She faces the challenge of turning around the division's financial performance and improving morale. She develops a strategy that focuses on reducing costs, streamlining operations, and building a culture.


Chapter 4: Accelerate Your Learning

In this chapter, the author emphasizes the importance of learning quickly in the new role. The author suggests that the best way to accelerate learning is to find key stakeholders, learn their priorities and build relationships with them. The author also suggests that the new hire should have a good understanding of the organization's culture, politics, and history. The new hire should also focus on building their knowledge of the business, industry, and customers.

One example provided by the author is about the CEO of a company who was hired to turn the company around. The CEO realized the importance of quickly learning the company's culture and gaining the support of key stakeholders. He made a point to meet with each department head to learn about their priorities and concerns, and also held town hall meetings to build relationships with the employees. He also worked to build his industry knowledge by reading industry publications, attending conferences, and meeting with industry experts.


Chapter 5: Match Strategy to Situation

In this chapter, the author discusses the importance of matching the right strategy to the situation. The author explains that there are four types of business situations: start-up, turnaround, realignment, and sustaining success. Each situation requires a different strategy, and it's important for the new hire to understand which situation they are in and which strategy is appropriate.

One example provided by the author is about a new CEO who was brought in to turn around a struggling company. The CEO quickly realized that the company's problems were due to a lack of focus and a scattered approach to the market. He decided to implement a new strategy focused on narrowing the company's focus and targeting specific customer segments. This strategy allowed the company to become more profitable and successful.


Chapter 6: Secure Early Wins

In this chapter, the author emphasizes the importance of securing early wins in the new role. The author suggests that early wins build momentum, confidence, and credibility with key stakeholders. The author recommends that the new hire identify low-hanging fruit and focus on achieving quick wins in the first few months.

One example provided by the author is about a new CFO who was brought in to improve the financial performance of a company. The CFO quickly identified an opportunity to reduce the company's inventory levels and free up cash. He worked with the operations team to implement a new inventory management system, which resulted in a significant reduction in inventory levels and an increase in cash flow. This early win helped the CFO build credibility with the CEO and board of directors.


Chapter 7: Negotiate Success

In this chapter, the author emphasizes the importance of negotiating a clear agreement on what success looks like in the new role. The author recommends that the new hire work with their manager to identify specific goals and metrics for success. The author also suggests that the new hire negotiate for the resources and support needed to achieve those goals.

One example provided by the author is about a new sales director who was hired to increase sales for a company. The sales director worked with their manager to negotiate specific sales goals and metrics, and also negotiated for additional sales support and resources. This clear agreement and negotiation helped the sales director achieve success in the role.


Chapter 8: Achieve Alignment

In this chapter, the author emphasizes the importance of achieving alignment with key stakeholders. The author suggests that the new hire identify the key stakeholders and work to align their goals and priorities with the organization's goals and priorities. The author also recommends that the new hire communicate a clear and consistent message to all stakeholders.

One example provided by the author is about a new product manager who was hired to launch a new product. The product manager identified the key stakeholders, including sales, marketing, and engineering, and worked to align their goals and priorities with the launch of the new product. The product manager also communicated a clear and consistent message


Chapter 9: Secure Early Wins

In this chapter, Watkins emphasizes the importance of achieving early successes to build momentum and establish credibility in a new role. He explains that early wins not only increase the leader’s confidence and influence but also create a positive perception among colleagues, employees, and stakeholders.

Watkins offers four strategies for securing early wins: 1) Find ways to achieve visible results quickly, 2) Leverage existing resources and relationships, 3) Negotiate success in advance, and 4) Secure early wins that build for the long term.

For example, Jeff Immelt, the former CEO of General Electric, successfully secured an early win by launching a new initiative to streamline the company's global supply chain, which led to significant cost savings and improved efficiency.

Another example is Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox, who negotiated a deal with the city of New York to digitize its records, which generated significant revenue and established Xerox as a leader in digital document management.


Chapter 10: Manage Yourself

The final chapter of the book focuses on the critical importance of self-management for leaders during the transition period. Watkins explains that successful leaders understand their own strengths and weaknesses, recognize their blind spots, and actively seek feedback to continuously improve.

Watkins offers practical advice for self-management, including techniques for managing time, setting priorities, and staying focused amidst competing demands. He also highlights the importance of staying grounded and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

For example, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, emphasizes the importance of taking time for introspection and reflection, which he credits with helping him develop his leadership style and driving the company's success.

Another example is Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, who makes time for family and hobbies outside of work to stay balanced and maintain perspective.


Conclusion

"The First 90 Days" is a practical guide for leaders navigating the challenging transition period into a new role. By following Watkins' advice and leveraging the tools and strategies he provides, leaders can accelerate their learning curve, build credibility, and achieve early successes.

The book's focus on self-awareness, stakeholder engagement, and early wins provides a roadmap for leaders to make a positive impact and set themselves up for long-term success.


LEARNING BOOK SUMMARY

  1. "A successful transition into a new leadership role requires a clear plan that takes into account the organization's culture, goals, and challenges."

  2. "Building strong relationships with key stakeholders is essential to gaining buy-in, building trust, and achieving success in a new role."

  3. "To establish credibility as a new leader, it's important to listen, learn, and ask questions before making significant changes or decisions."

  4. "Self-awareness and the ability to recognize and address blind spots is critical to developing as a leader."

  5. "Feedback is essential for continuous learning and improvement, and leaders should actively seek it from a variety of sources."

  6. "Early wins are important for building momentum, establishing credibility, and creating a positive perception among colleagues, employees, and stakeholders."

  7. "Successful leaders prioritize their time and energy, focus on high-impact activities, and delegate effectively to maximize their impact."

  8. "Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is critical to staying grounded, maintaining perspective, and avoiding burnout as a leader."

By understanding and applying these key learning statements from "The First 90 Days," leaders can accelerate their learning curve, build credibility, and achieve early successes in a new role. The book's focus on practical strategies, real-world examples, and the importance of self-awareness and continuous learning provides a roadmap for leaders to make a positive impact and set themselves up for long-term success.



EXERCISE


Here is a 90-day exercise program to practice the key learning outcomes from "The First 90 Days" book summary:


Day 1-30: Planning Phase


Step 1: Reflect on your new role and your personal goals. Write down what you hope to achieve in your new position, what skills you want to develop, and what challenges you expect to face.

Step 2: Conduct research to understand the organization's culture, values, and goals. Review company documents, talk to key stakeholders, and ask questions to gain a deeper understanding of the organization's goals and challenges.

Step 3: Develop a clear plan for your first 90 days. Identify the top priorities and create a timeline to accomplish them. Ensure your plan aligns with the organization's goals and values.


Day 31-60: Relationship Building Phase

Step 1: Identify key stakeholders and set up meetings with them. These could include your team members, peers, customers, and other key players in the organization.

Step 2: Listen actively during these meetings and ask open-ended questions. Try to understand their perspectives and priorities.

Step 3: Follow up with stakeholders after the meetings to reinforce your commitment to building relationships and address any concerns they may have.


Day 61-90: Execution Phase

Step 1: Begin executing your plan and prioritize your time effectively. Focus on high-impact activities and delegate effectively to maximize your impact.

Step 2: Seek feedback from your stakeholders and colleagues regularly. This feedback can help you adjust your approach and course-correct if necessary.

Step 3: Celebrate early wins and use them to build momentum and credibility. Share successes with stakeholders and colleagues to reinforce your commitment to achieving results.


Throughout the 90-day program, prioritize self-awareness and continuous learning. Take time to reflect on your progress and identify areas for improvement. By following this program, you can accelerate your learning curve, build strong relationships, and achieve early successes in your new role.

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