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Stepping into Leadership Remotely: First 30-Day Guide

As companies hire and onboard new managers to lead virtual teams, there is a premium on getting up-to-speed and making an impact quickly as 2021 is predicted to be equally as challenging as last year. However, given the virtual reality today’s workforce is experiencing, there is an added complexity to joining a new company as a leader of people – virtually.  

With reports of 69% of U.S. workers feeling more stressed during the pandemic in comparison to the financial crisis of 2008, leaders today are faced with a more stressed and fragile workforce. This can lead employees to feel even more cautious welcoming and trusting the direction of a new leader.  

Below we share a checklist of what leaders joining a new organization remotely must do before day one and within the first 30 days to kickstart their and their future team’s success.  

Prior to Day One 


Prepare a 30/60/90-day plan. 

As a leader entering a new organization, the changes implemented and progress made in the first 90 days are crucial to proving your potential, and provide company  leadership an indication of a satisfactory or unsatisfactory trajectory within the roleThorough preparation prior to joining a company in a management capacity is crucial, which is why every manager should develop a 30/60/90-day plan before starting day one. This plan documents intentions for the first 30, 60, and 90 days leading the new team, including high-level priorities and actionable goals for each week and the metrics used to track progress. 

Understanding the fundamentals of how success will be measured, along with a tentative timeline, is essential to creating a successful 30/60/90-day plan. Connect with your manager to ensure you have a clear understanding of the team’s challenges and recent successes. Understand what their long-term vision for the team is, as well as what progress they’d like to see in the first 90 days. Knowing the history of what has helped the team excel and where the hinderances are can help point out needed changes while also providing valuable context. 

If possible, request reports and/or information on the team's activity and productivity to understand their performance patterns. Highlight areas to focus on with the understanding that this year was unlike any other and that may have impacted performance . While collecting information to build a strong 30/60/90 plan, also consider helpful resources such as the book The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins. 

Here are some additional elements to consider while developing the plan: 

  • Why and how the organization plans to evolve in the coming years, what skills and expertise they are focused on cultivating, and why they opted for an outside hire for the job  

  • How to advance the team’s production, and how quickly certain goals are expected to be met 

  • How to identify potential areas for improvement and streamline processes 

  • What potential challenges within the organization, industry and team they may encounter 

  • What additional day-to-day responsibilities to account for 


Focus first on creating a detailed plan for the first 30 days, including ample opportunity to observe and learn the business, industry, team and culture. Throughout the first 30 days, you will add more detail and concrete strategies to the 60- and 90-day goals as you identify ways to make the team more successful. 

Connect with your manager prior to your start date ideally, to present the 30-day plan along with an outline for days 60-90. Request feedback, acknowledging that every company and team is different and will respond differently to various types of leadership.  

Connect with HR and IT 

As much technical preparation and organization as possible should be squared away before day one to ensure you can hit the ground running and are effectively prepared to lead a remote team. A key first step is connecting with members of the HR and IT teams to discuss: 

  • Completing required paperwork 

  • Setting up and downloading all appropriate technology and software 

  • Receiving all appropriate permissions to access needed company information and software 

  • Further understanding the role, responsibilities, metrics and goals for team performance 


The First 30 Days 


Observe. 

Especially in the first month leading a new team, and even more so in a virtual environment, leaders must be hyper-observant. There are nuances to every team dynamic and sub-culture that may be challenging to pick up virtually. Observe how employees, peers, and leaders interact. Take note of demeanor and communication styles. 

Avoid the impulse to immediately make changes, instead focus on learning and listening. Shadow the team to get to know how each person operates and begin to identify areas of opportunity. Don’t share suggested changes right away but use the first 30 days as an observation period. Allow the team to explain their processes and ways they execute their roles. Rather than dive into critiques or suggestions, ask questions. Build trust by inquiring their reasoning behind why they do things a certain way and consider the team’s feedback. 

While meeting with direct reports and shadowing in the first 30 days, learn from employees where they believe their strengths lie and what they believe their areas for improvement are. Compile information shared with what you observe and conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on the team members.  

Integrate. 

Get embedded into the company and team culture starting on day one. If possible, strive to meet with each direct report individually over the first 30 days to introduce yourself and learn more about them. After meeting with each team member, make a point to connect with other members of the leadership team at the same level, and one level above when appropriate.  

Join any training opportunities allotted. Make note not only of what is being shared in meetings, but how. The demeanor and communication style displayed in meetings and one-on-one calls can help provide insight into the culture and dynamic of the overall organization. 

Connect with key stakeholders. 

Set up regular touchpoints with your manager to ask questions, report on progress, and propose ideas regarding the team. Establish a regular cadence and means of communicating early onAsk your manager who else in the organization would be good to get to know in the first 30 days, including leaders of other teams who work closely with your own or whose metrics and goals impact the team’s performance. 

Set up virtual meetings (or safely in person if possible) with these leaders to learn their perspectives on the business and how your team supports the overall organization. Ask their perspective on your team and who the top performers are, and why.  

New managers should connect with the former leader of the team, if still at the organization, to discuss each direct reports’ strengths and pitfalls, as well as learn more about the team dynamic. If the former manager is not available, ask HR. Discuss unspoken norms to be aware of and use this information to determine best practices for easing the transition. Making personal connections and absorbing as much information as possible before stepping into the role is essential to laying a strong foundation with what is soon to become a new peer group to lean on for support and guidance.   

Be available.  

Spend the first few days getting to know the team on a personal level and getting integrated into the team and company culture. Learn what motivates them, what they enjoy working on and what they struggle with the most. Employees may be resistant to new leadership, fearing they will overhaul established processes and alter the team dynamic. Ease their anxieties that a change in management is not meant to turn the team on its head, rather to support and further develop the team so each person can grow, develop and achieve their career goals.  

While managing remotely, be especially cognizant of your perceived approachabilityThis means being available and present. Establish a regular cadence of communication. Turn off notifications that can be distracting during video calls and hide the self-view to look directly at the person on the screen. Pay attention to those you’re speaking with because they take notice.   

New leaders in a remote setting are given the challenge of building authentic relationships through a computer screen, which makes accessibility and vulnerability key. In order to establish rapport with staff, be willing to open up first. This includes being honest when unsure of something and asking staff questions when needed.  

 

 

Throughout the first few weeks, continue adding detail to the 30/60/90-day plan, including ideas for changes to make within the team to streamline processes and achieve growth. Present these ideas to your manager and ask for feedback on proposed changes.  

Above all else, be receptive to others and prepared to learn and adapt. The first month of leading a new team, especially with the added challenge of managing virtuallycan come with a steep learning curve, even for the most prepared and experienced leaders 

 

If among the first tasks is building out the team, we can help. Contact us here. 

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