The a cofounder of a leadership development company,

The
digital article was published in the Harvard Business Review, under the topic
of ‘Leadership Development’. The author, Michael D. Watkins, is a cofounder of
a leadership development company, Genesis Advisers, and has also authored the
book ‘The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders At All
Levels’. He is also the developer of ‘The Leadership Transitions e-learning
system’.

 

Though
the article was published in the year 2009, it is relevant in the current
scenario too. The reason is trite. It is because companies are constantly
expanding their businesses, in the process hiring new recruits- at all stages
of the hierarchy. This includes new and young managers too.

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The
article takes the reader through a journey- talking about how the new leaders’
first decisions are important. The author mentions that the most important
principle in taking charge is to “get early wins to build momentum fast”. He
then discusses the keys to an early win, and how to go about the process.  In concluding statements, the author
emphasizes on how it is necessary for managers to find the right fit with the
organization.

 

 

Summary

The
article starts with reiterating the fact the steps the new leaders take in a
firm can have a huge impact on their success or failure in the future. The
managers of any company can take it in a new direction. Which direction that is
depends upon the decisions that the manager takes at every juncture. What more?
The leader can “open up” a new direction by coming up with innovative ideas of
not just coming up with a radically different product, but even minor changes
in the way things are done to improve the company’s performance.

 

Take,
for example, a newly appointed Sales Manager in a rural area. They come to know
that the sales of the assigned region is not going well. The reason can be as
trivial as “people are unaware of the product” or “there is no demand in the
market for the product”. On diving deeper, they realize that the competitor
offers a similar product in the area, and that their sales are growing. Here
comes the part which can define the manager as “good” or “bad”. One can easily
take the back seat and opt to take a market research- one of the fancy terms
often used to “know” the consumer- when in fact it should already be known!
Anyway, the other option? Go to the field yourself! Only then can one very
easily realize that the cause lies not in the product or the consumer, but in
the distribution channel. No. There exist enough shops offering their product,
but the game is based on margins given to retailers. Quite naturally, the
retailers will themselves push a product that provides them greater margins.

 

Now
was that so difficult? Probably not. Is it what all the managers would have
thought of? Probably not.

 

 

 

 

There
are various principles that can act as the guiding beacon to the young leaders.
The author mentions the single most important one- “get early wins to build
momentum fast”. It is vital to give vitality to people and solve business
problems in ways that have a quick, dramatic impact.

 

The
key to an early win is to identify problems that (a) can be tackled in a
reasonable period of time and (b) have solutions that will result in tangible
operational and financial improvements.

 

The
author then mentions three “dos” to score an early win- prioritize, chose a
center of gravity- what is important and can cascade to the benefit of the organization
as a whole, and take initiatives within that center of gravity.

 

It
is then explained that in addition to “what to achieve” being important, “how
to achieve” the goals is also important. New models of behavior telling how the
new manager works and what motivates them is important. It basically means that
the team should “be on the same page” when it comes to work and what drives
them. It does not mean abandoning the organization’s vision and mission, and go
on a completely different path. It is imperative for young managers to handle
the balancing act well by aligning their own vision with that of the company.
This can guide them on whether what they are doing even “counts” as a win or
not.

 

In
concluding terms, life is about learning- so is the journey a person embarks
upon with an organization. Take the example of Lee Iacocca. He had joined
Chrysler Corporation on such an abrupt note that he didn’t have much knowledge
about the firm or its workings- more so the loopholes in management and finances.
It is how he shaped the company and took it to a new path- going against the
storm to approach the government for capital- that marks the legendary leader’s
story.

 

Review
and Analysis

The article intrinsically deals with
the behavioral theories- giving more emphasis on leading by giving more
emphasis on tasks than people. It gives a “quick mantra” on how to score “quick
wins”.

 

However, this is taken forward by
Mark E. Van Buren and Todd Safferstone in the HBR article “The Quick Wins
Paradox”- where they don’t completely do away with the theory put above. They
first agree on the point that a visibly new contribution to the success of a
business made early in their tenure can result in high-performing leaders at a
later stage in life. It is a sort of reassurance to the leader’s recruiters
that the candidate they chose was the right one.

 

What next?

 

It is natural human tendency to
become complacent. But the authors have something more insightful to offer.
Another instinctive behavior of humans. The manager can become so goal-oriented
that they forgo or ignore the other aspects of the functioning.

 

This, in fact, reiterates the behavior
theory aforementioned. The managers can get into tunnel thinking- ignoring all
else and running after achieving a single set “win”.

 

Is it really that important? Have you
thought of the implications? Not just internally, but externally. Have new developments
taken place in the macro-environment when the process began? Is it possible to
come up with and implement changes midway?

 

These are just some of the questions
that a leader should ask themselves before diving deep into a problem. The
authors mention four traps in which the young leader can fall. These are
mentioned below:

1.      
Focusing too heavily on details

2.      
Reacting negatively to criticism

3.      
Intimidating others

4.      
Jumping
to conclusions

5.      
Micromanaging.

 

It
is finally, and correctly mentioned that more than personal gains, it is
“collective quick wins” that matter and make the entire team look good.

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