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Liz Cornish - Leadership Accelerators

Welcome to the Hit the Ground Running
Leadership Accelerators

Liz Cornish - The 100-Day Accelerator workbookIn this section, you’ll read useful tips for launching your leadership transition. Putting these tips into action will help you maximize success and minimize risk in the most critical, vulnerable phase of your leadership career – the first 100 days.

Leadership Accelerator #1: Take a Good Look at Yourself

Before you start, take a thoughtful look at who you are relative to the new leadership job: your skills, values, fears, quirks, survival instincts, and work/life preferences.

In the first hundred days you can then develop strategies to:

  • Exploit your potential
  • Help you establish the smartest first moves
  • Figure out what other help, resources or information you need
  • Determine what you need to do your best work
  • Identify your leadership anchors (more on that in our next accelerator)
  • Create a fail-safe support system

Don’t miss this important step! Even if you completed many assessments before, an honest self-assessment relative to your new leadership challenge will save you the regret of racing to a destination you don’t even like, or getting caught in a completely avoidable crisis.

Here’s the least you should ask yourself as you plan for this leadership task:

  • What are my unique abilities and strengths?
  • What do I need to do my best work? (This can include the physical setting, working environment, schedule, ongoing feedback, or the goals and values of the organization)
  • What holds me back? (Consider your family situation, habits, tugs on your time, fears, stress reactions, negative self talk)
  • What impact do I typically have on others? What impact do I want to have? (Do I inspire? Encourage? Challenge?)
  • When my back is against the wall and I’m under extreme stress, what are my automatic reactions? (Examples are hyper-focus, anger, and irritability). What helps me limit any negative responses?
  • Under what working conditions do I feel the most authentic? (Examples are supportive team environment, competitive setting)

Accelerator #2: Identify Your Leadership Anchors

Your “anchors” are the rules of engagement that govern your leadership style. For some, anchors are a personal vision, ambition, or mission. Others focus on values and behaviors that support them. For everyone, it should be your leadership DNA. Anchors are your rules of engagement—the blueprint of conduct you need for yourself and from others to be effective in your position. Anchors to create a foundation, build credibility, develop your team, and face organizational moments of truth.

Anchors as Personal Vision
For some, the principal anchor is their personal sense of purpose--an individual mission (like making a positive difference) or the mission of the organization. Living in congruence with your purpose gives you the courage to do what's necessary without second-guessing yourself.

Anchors can also be a set of personal values and guiding principles that govern daily interaction.

chart

Anchors as Codes of Conduct
Anchors can also be an explicit set of behaviors. They emerge from values and principles, but they are communicated as codes of conduct. Let’s say that you value efficiency. Your resulting anchors might be: (1) look for ways to save time, conserve resources, or eliminate unnecessary steps; or, (2) we take the time to get it right the first time. If you particularly value respect, you may believe: (1) staff should fault the plans, rather than people; or, (2) we deal with conflict directly—no indirect complaints.

Additional examples of anchors as codes of conduct:

  • “I told my staff to never, under any circumstances, lie to me.”
  • “What is said here stays here. We will present a united front to our external customers.”
  • “We have to have fun here.”
  • “If we say we will get it done, we will get it done. If we say we have a deadline, we meet the deadline.”

Your anchors are non-negotiable. If you suspect an organization will pressure you to act contrary to your anchors, you must seriously consider whether it is worth the stress and challenge. Many of the decisions you make as a leader are, of course, situational responses to strategic initiatives, performance, context, and market conditions. Your anchors should never be subject to these variables.

Anchors are not simply a buzzword concept. They are your leadership DNA and are as unalterable as your shoe size. If you ruled the world and faced no consequences for your actions, you would still live by them. Remember, we’re trying to help you identify and develop your anchors, not invent them. You already have a hardwired set of guiding principles. The process of thinking about, articulating, and living by those principles will ultimately focus your energies and increase your confidence.

You can’t change your anchors, and you shouldn’t profess to have a particular anchor just because it sounds appealing. If you claim to operate with an anchor that spins well but does not reflect who you really are, you’ll eventually, under stress, act out of synch with that anchor—and then you can kiss your credibility goodbye. You don’t want to end up as the professional equivalent of the televangelist caught having an affair.

Why Develop Anchors?
In later chapters, we will discuss how to use anchors during critical stages in your first 100 days. But before we talk about how to use your anchors, you need to understand why they’re so important. Why should you spend so much time learning about your anchors?

To create the first connections
When you haven’t had time to sort out the strategic and operational priorities, communicating your anchors settles apprehension and inspires confidence. Your key stakeholders can move from considering you as an unknown wild card to envisioning what their world will be like under your leadership.

For Example!
At her first meeting, an elected official told her team, “I will support you all the way, if you are honest and do your best to serve our constituents.” She did not yet know their strategic direction or her agenda, but it was a good framework for beginning their work together.

To give you strength
When your project is in crisis, working in congruence with your anchors will give you strength and courage to do what's needed. Knowing, communicating, and acting upon your anchors will help you land on your feet--no matter how slippery the slope.

To build credibility
To act authentically and in accordance with your anchors solidifies your credibility and increases the trust others have in you. Conversely, if you are pressured to act out of synch with what is important, your personal stress level will increase even as you lose standing across the board.

For Example!
Carrie’s new boss encouraged risk-taking, so she took him at his word. Her first effort was an embarrassing failure. However, her boss responded to her bleak report with, “That’s not so bad. Let’s see how we can move this forward.” Imagine her relief, appreciation, and loyalty. She would work for him in a snake pit.

To help develop your team
Teams can go through stages of development ranging from cocktail-party superficiality to the precision orchestration of a symphony. In Chapter 7, we will discuss how you can use your anchors to help accelerate a team’s development.

Accelerator #3: Start Working Before Day One

Don’t wait for the first day to get started. Maximize the time prior to punching in. First, you’ll want to finish the “due diligence” you probably began during your interviews. Then, take an honest look at yourself relative to this job. By doing so, you can develop strategies for a dynamic start, create a fail-safe support system, and develop your “anchors.” (see Accelerator #2)

Accelerator #4: Do Your Homework

Before you begin, dig for data. Use multiple resources to conduct due diligence—you’ve got talk to real, live human beings in addition to reading through records and press clips. Current staff, former or retired employees, vendors, analysts, and outside consultants are all potentially rich sources of information. Documents like strategic plans, annual reports, employee surveys, taskforce reports, business press, and board minutes will fill in the gaps. Be James Bond, sizing up a mission.

Don’t wait until your first day to learn your non-profit has only three months of operational funds or your boss is moving across the country. Keep snooping until you are mildly annoyed by the repetition of information. Does the data reinforce what you've learned and experienced? Use the “Due Diligence” link below to consider what you need to learn. At a minimum, learn about performance, organizational issues, the expected outcomes of your new position, and everything possible about the people and culture.

Remember, there’s nothing worse than watching your career start to slump over a problem you could have dodged with a little homework early on. If you’ve been promoted and already know the company, there’s still plenty to learn about your boss’s style, other departments, and operational issues See our work book example.

For additional information and questions for reflection, purchase Hit the Ground Running and/or the 100-Day Accelerator Workbook.

 
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