How to Ace your First 90 days in a New Leadership Role

The good news about transitioning into a new leadership role is that it gives you a chance to start fresh.

The bad news? A transition is a lot like an organ transplant. You, the new leader, are the new organ. Your host body must accept you—or else.

There are benfits and risks involved in a new leadership position. The main benefit is that the leader has a chance to to re-invent herself; a chance to recharge and fall in love with her work again.

The risk? Things can become overwhelming if the leader is missing a map to guide her through the first ninety days in her new position. Why ninety days? That’s the time most organizations give new people to build relationships, gain trust, and establish their credentials.

Most organizations give new people 90 days to build relationships, gain trust, and establish credentials.

The most common reason for host bodies rejecting their new organs comes from a leader’s failing to understand what people in the organization (her leaders and the people she leads) really want.


It is a mistake to accept at face value what those people tell her during the initial meet-and-greet. The new leader still needs to discover for herself what the people in her organization truly want and expect from her.

It is a mistake to accept at face value what you learn during your first interactions with new team members.

If you have just joined a new company in a leadership role or have been promoted into a managerial role for the first time, here’s a checklist of keys to your success:

    1. Discover the true expectations of your boss, your team, and the people outside your team whose support you need
    2. Develop an action plan for creating outcomes that will determine your success
    3. Identify the key metrics that will be used to evaluate your performance: both by your boss and your team members
    4. Implement your action plan and monitor its progress, eliminating, dampening, or side-stepping obstacles that are getting in your way
    5. Revise your action plan based on the outcome you are able and unable to create

Without a clear map of priorities, many new leaders soon lose their way. Come evaluation time, they have only partially completed initiatves, and little to show in terms of concrete business results.

To prevent yourself from falling into this trap, make a list of key questions and actions — and then put them into three categories:

What should I know and get done before I step into this new role?

What should I do as soon as I step into this new role? This list should include items you must finish before the first month is out.

Future Goals:
What should I finish before the first ninety days are over or before performance evaluation, whichever comes first?

Prioritize the items in each list and get the top item done before moving on to the next. Each time you’re finished with an item, reassess the items on the list—do not automatically go to the next item, as priorities can change over time.

Always reassess your priorities, as they can change over time.

How do you decide which items are your top priority?

In most cases, it should be the item that is most important and urgent for your boss, your team members, and other key stakeholders outside your team.

Find out if your organization can assign you a mentor or coach. Many first-time leaders try to go it alone, but you will be glad to have support from somone familiar with the whole journey.

If you do not have such support in your new organization, these books are excellent resources for learning the necessary skills to succeed in your first 90 days.

The first will help you prepare your action plan; the second, get things done.

The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins (

Getting Things Done, Dave Allen (

This is a guest post for the AmCham Advanced Learning Lab by William Zyzo (2016). William is the Advisor of the Advance Learning Lab at AmCham in Taipei. He is also the Managing Director of Z&A Knowledge Solutions, a firm specializing in providing performance solutions to executives and senior managers in multinational corporations in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and China. William can be reached at [email protected]
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