New job: how to get started

August 03, 1992|By Jane Elizabeth Allen | Jane Elizabeth Allen,Knight-Ridder News Service

So you've just become a manager. You earned it. And you nTC know you have the skills to handle the new responsibilities.

But how to start? Since the moment they heard about it, some of your friends have been advising you to go slow in your new role. Don't rush in there and change things. Get the lay of the land first.

At the same time, a few voices have been counseling you to get in there and clean house. It's obvious what needs fixing. And you were chosen to fix it.

So who's right? What's the best way to take charge? Since so many before you have done it, aren't there any guidelines on how to do it best?

Yes, there are. John Gabarro, a Harvard Business School professor who has done extensive research on the dynamics of taking charge, found the process is characterized by predictable stages:

* Taking hold: orientational learning ("How are things done around here?") and corrective change.

* Immersion: in-depth analytical learning ("Why are things done the way they are done around here?") and virtually no changes.

* Reshaping: little new learning but major structural change.

* Consolidation and refinement: solidification of previous actions.

The entire cycle takes about three years, with the first stage, "taking hold," lasting about six months.

Too many new managers start with "immersion" rather than "taking hold" and never get out of the starting gate. Your first challenge in taking charge is to successfully take hold. And that involves both learning and action.

Essential at this stage is developing an accurate mental picture of the organization and your place in it. You must also learn who and what is working and not working.

Taking hold involves a lot of action. Mr. Gabarro found that nearly a third of the structural and personnel changes made by managers who successfully took charge occurred during the first six months.

These changes tend to be corrective. For example, during the taking-hold stage, successful managers evaluate the expectations of subordinates, comparing them to their own expectations.

When significant differences exist, the new manager transfers or terminates the employee. This may sound harsh, but Mr. Gabarro found it to be one of the most significant factors distinguishing successful managers from failures.

So get in there, learn fast and do quickly those things that obviously need to be done. Nine times out of 10, it's the best way to start.

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