The Magic of Strategic Early Wins for New Leaders and Managers



The Magic of Strategic Early Wins for New Leaders and Managers

According to Gallup’s “The State of the American Manager” report, just 30 percent of employees and 35 percent of managers are engaged at work.

Managers, Gallup finds, account for at least 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement. Employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59 percent more likely to be engaged than those who are supervised by disengaged managers. 

Of course, managers’ importance to organizational success goes far beyond engagement. As executive coach, keynote speaker, and management professor Monique Valcour has noted, “Good managers attract candidates, drive performance and retention, and play a key role in maximizing employees’ contribution to the firm. Poor managers, by contrast, are a drag on all of the above. They cost your firm a ton of money in turnover costs and missed opportunities for employee contribution, and they do more damage than you realize.”

Clearly, every organization should make nurturing leaders’ and managers’ success and engagement a top priority. One of the most important steps in achieving this is enabling new leaders to succeed from the start by planning out some early wins during the onboarding process. For new leaders, the power of getting a few things done early and effectively is magical. It boosts their confidence, does the same for their teams, and supports everyone’s engagement. A poor start, on the other hand, has the opposite effect, and can be difficult from which to recover.

Plan Early Wins Strategically

Be careful.

While getting off to a slow start can be disastrous for new leaders and managers, coming on too strong or too fast can be equally bad—it can sabotage key relationships and future impacts.

The trick is to be strategic. Identify specific early wins that new leaders can complete that will gain them momentum and traction in the new role without moving too fast and upsetting their ability to fit into the organizational culture.

To plan early wins, identify the deliverables’ importance to your organization, how they support the larger or longer-term performance objectives for the particular new leader, and the resources required to accomplish them. Before implementing, review the plan with your HR partner and the hiring manager to align expectations, and to ensure the appropriate resources are provided.

Below is an example of how to plan an early-win deliverable for a new leader or manager.

Deliverable and Timing (and Related Expectations)

Overall goal: Leader establishes himself/herself as the leader and sets the team direction.

  • Actions to achieve goal:
  • Meet one-on-one with team members to get to know them on a personal and professional level (both direct and indirect reports), and understand:

           o Roles and areas of responsibility
           o Strengths
           o Areas to develop/provide coaching
           o Level of autonomy, direction, or support needed to enable direct reports to perform their responsibilities.

  • Begin or continue staff meetings
  • Establish team norms and team alignment sessions

How Deliverable Supports Larger (or Longer-Term) New Leader Performance Objective

  • Establishes leadership
  • Eases associates’ apprehension
  • Develops and/or strengthens relationships
  • Connects with leadership competencies including developing others, acting with integrity, and building effective teams

Resources Required

This example would require time from all members of the team.

Combine Early Wins with Other Success Drivers

While strategic early wins support new leaders and managers, alone they often aren’t enough to maximize success. For best results, combine early wins with development opportunities, leadership mentoring and other tools that both help new leaders succeed and support their engagement over the long term.

To learn more about nurturing new leaders’ success, read “The Talent Selection and Onboarding Tool Kit,” written by Connect the Dots Managing Director Erika Lamont and coauthor Anne Bruce.