New Cyber Leaders Have 90 Days To Seal The Deal
Long careers within a single company are becoming increasingly rare. Most leaders will transition between roles and company’s several times.
In my own corporate career, I went through 10 different transitions.
What I didn’t know then, is that the actions you take during the first 90 days in a new role, largely determine your success in the position.
And depending on the level of the position, failure could have disastrous effects on your career.
Prepare for your transtion
Whether you are a new cyber leader, or an experienced one. All transitions are tricky.
They represent periods of acute professional vulnerability.
And they represent unknown environments, where you lack established working relationships and a detailed understanding of your role and responsibilities.
New cyber leaders are under a high degree of scrutiny from all sides. Your boss, your co-workers, and your employees are all try to figure out who you are and how you operate.
Early successes create tremendous momentum, while early failures will likely be difficult to overcome.
Opinions and impressions form quickly, and once formed are challenging to change. I’ve experienced this first hand.
At one point midway through my career, I went through a rocky transition.
I didn’t plan and prepare properly for the transition.
As a result, I got off on the wrong foot with two of my managers.
While I did repair and rebuild the relationship, I never completely overcame the rocky start.
Transitioning for New Cyber Leaders
Any new cyber leader moving into a new role, needs to secure early successes in two key areas: credibility and connectivity.
Credibility is an “expectation” created in the minds of others.
It usually conveys tangible qualities you possess, such as knowledge, experience, and expertise.
However, when transitioning to a new cyber leadership role, it’s important to “establish” credibility by securing early successes. Even small ones.
This is challenging because trying to learn about your new organization and assess what’s working and what’s not.
And sometimes you are called upon to make tough decisions early on, right after you have just “stepped in the door”.
Connectivity is understanding and establishing relationships with your team, your customers, and the larger organization.
Almost immediately people are trying to get a sense of who you are, and discern how you are going to lead, and most importantly, how they are going to be impacted.
Establishing connectivity is crucial for securing those early wins.
(More information here.)
Cyber Leader Transition Example
Here is an example from my career that illustrates the challenges and offers some strategies and solutions.
At one point in my cyber career, I accepted an opportunity to lead a newly formed cyber department, with over 150 employees.
Taking over a newly formed department is not without its own challenges.
But what made this even more unique and challenging, was that I was geographically removed from everyone.
My entire leadership team and all my employees were spread out over 7 different states – all different than my own home state.
Communication and Connection
In this situation, effective communication was critical in achieving those early “wins” needed for credibility. Equally critical was establish the connectivity I would need, to build trusting relationships.
Those early wins helped there as well.
Communicating virtually with people you are expected to lead, but have never met before — is challenging.
I couldn’t just assume my team would intuitively understand where I was coming on anything I said. So I had to be very intentional with my messages and delivery.
When you are physically together, it’s easier to connect with people. You can take advantage of drive-by conversations, or walking the halls and engaging with people in an impromptu way.
(The added kicker here is that this was during the COVID pandemic. So traveling and meeting people weren’t an option.)
I needed to adapt how I communicated.
In addition, I needed remain flexible as I got to know my team and how they responded to different forms of communication.
I had to prioritize my communications and make sure I communicated horizontally, with one-on-one meetings, and vertically, at support my manager’s staff meetings.
The dialog and Q&A that occured during these engagements, went a long way to helping me build credibility.
My department saw that I was focused on learning about them, and they learned that I had the knowledge and experience to lead the organization.
Indirectly, I established a connection with the larger workforce.
Authenticity and Credibility for Cyber Leaders
This has always been one of the balances new cyber leaders have to strike as they transition into their role.
Getting to know the lay of the land, but also trying to take some action quickly and get early wins.
One risk at this stage is spending too much time in listening mode and not moving to action early enough. Or moving to action too quickly without making the time to listen understanding.
Open lines of communication
One practice is to make sure your communication or your interactions are not just one-way. Create a way for your employees to have access to you.
Hosting periodic “all hands” meetings is one way to accomplish this.
Another common practice is to hold regular “round table” discussions with smaller groups.
One of my favorite methods is to schedule a weekly “office hours”.
I set up a regularly occurring virtual meeting that anyone could join and I would be available. Regardless of how many showed up, I would be there, and we would talk about whatever was on their minds.
Here’s the thing, authenticity means your personality and your management style come through – especially remotely.
This happens automatically with face-to-face interactions but it takes intention with remote meetings.
With the rise of email communication, texting, and even with social media it’s easy to think we “see” someone’s personality.
But we actually don’t.
There really is nothing like a live interaction to let folks see what you’re about, whether that’s through video conference or phone calls, or even a virtual town hall.
Keep showing them who you are until they get it.
And secondly, I think it’s important for new cyber leaders new in their role to not only show their style through these interactions, but quite frankly, be really explicit about what your style is. Talk about it. Tell them what they should expect in terms of your style.
Just be explicit about it. Tell people. Don’t keep them guessing.
This is the end of Part 1 of a 2-part series.
Leave a comment below and let me know if you found this information useful.
Or better yet, share one of your personal stories. I’d love to hear from you.