Thedigital article was published in the Harvard Business Review, under the topicof ‘Leadership Development’. The author, Michael D.
Watkins, is a cofounder ofa leadership development company, Genesis Advisers, and has also authored thebook ‘The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders At AllLevels’. He is also the developer of ‘The Leadership Transitions e-learningsystem’. Thoughthe article was published in the year 2009, it is relevant in the currentscenario too. The reason is trite. It is because companies are constantlyexpanding their businesses, in the process hiring new recruits- at all stagesof the hierarchy. This includes new and young managers too. Thearticle takes the reader through a journey- talking about how the new leaders’first decisions are important.
The author mentions that the most importantprinciple in taking charge is to “get early wins to build momentum fast”. Hethen discusses the keys to an early win, and how to go about the process. In concluding statements, the authoremphasizes on how it is necessary for managers to find the right fit with theorganization. SummaryThearticle starts with reiterating the fact the steps the new leaders take in afirm can have a huge impact on their success or failure in the future. Themanagers of any company can take it in a new direction. Which direction that isdepends 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 ofnot just coming up with a radically different product, but even minor changesin 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 knowthat the sales of the assigned region is not going well. The reason can be astrivial as “people are unaware of the product” or “there is no demand in themarket for the product”. On diving deeper, they realize that the competitoroffers a similar product in the area, and that their sales are growing. Herecomes the part which can define the manager as “good” or “bad”. One can easilytake the back seat and opt to take a market research- one of the fancy termsoften 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 veryeasily realize that the cause lies not in the product or the consumer, but inthe distribution channel.
No. There exist enough shops offering their product,but the game is based on margins given to retailers. Quite naturally, theretailers will themselves push a product that provides them greater margins. Nowwas that so difficult? Probably not. Is it what all the managers would havethought of? Probably not.
Thereare 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 buildmomentum fast”. It is vital to give vitality to people and solve businessproblems in ways that have a quick, dramatic impact. Thekey to an early win is to identify problems that (a) can be tackled in areasonable period of time and (b) have solutions that will result in tangibleoperational and financial improvements.
Theauthor then mentions three “dos” to score an early win- prioritize, chose acenter of gravity- what is important and can cascade to the benefit of the organizationas a whole, and take initiatives within that center of gravity. Itis then explained that in addition to “what to achieve” being important, “howto achieve” the goals is also important. New models of behavior telling how thenew manager works and what motivates them is important. It basically means thatthe team should “be on the same page” when it comes to work and what drivesthem. It does not mean abandoning the organization’s vision and mission, and goon a completely different path.
It is imperative for young managers to handlethe 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 ornot. Inconcluding terms, life is about learning- so is the journey a person embarksupon with an organization.
Take the example of Lee Iacocca. He had joinedChrysler Corporation on such an abrupt note that he didn’t have much knowledgeabout 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 thestorm to approach the government for capital- that marks the legendary leader’sstory. Reviewand Analysis The article intrinsically deals withthe behavioral theories- giving more emphasis on leading by giving moreemphasis on tasks than people.
It gives a “quick mantra” on how to score “quickwins”. However, this is taken forward byMark E. Van Buren and Todd Safferstone in the HBR article “The Quick WinsParadox”- where they don’t completely do away with the theory put above. Theyfirst agree on the point that a visibly new contribution to the success of abusiness made early in their tenure can result in high-performing leaders at alater stage in life. It is a sort of reassurance to the leader’s recruitersthat the candidate they chose was the right one. What next? It is natural human tendency tobecome complacent.
But the authors have something more insightful to offer.Another instinctive behavior of humans. The manager can become so goal-orientedthat they forgo or ignore the other aspects of the functioning. This, in fact, reiterates the behaviortheory aforementioned. The managers can get into tunnel thinking- ignoring allelse and running after achieving a single set “win”. Is it really that important? Have youthought of the implications? Not just internally, but externally.
Have new developmentstaken place in the macro-environment when the process began? Is it possible tocome up with and implement changes midway? These are just some of the questionsthat a leader should ask themselves before diving deep into a problem. Theauthors mention four traps in which the young leader can fall. These arementioned below:1. Focusing too heavily on details2.
Reacting negatively to criticism3. Intimidating others4. Jumpingto conclusions5. Micromanaging. Itis finally, and correctly mentioned that more than personal gains, it is”collective quick wins” that matter and make the entire team look good.