‘Often the things that made us successful in the past are not the same skills required moving forward. In fact these skills can sometimes hinder you in their new responsibilities. ‘

In Part 1 of this series (Transitioning to a new role – The key challenges), we identified some of the most common challenges you might face as you transition from one role to another. Now let’s look at a step by step approach on how to approach your first few months as you move into your new role.

1.Partner with your previous leader – moving out of your old role

This is often an overlooked component of your transition, as people tend to focus on their new role and working with their new leader. Gaining the support of your old leader, particularly before you make the move, can give you a great head start. Your previous leader can help you coordinate the hand over of your existing workload and help you free up time for you to prepare for your new role, they can help you coordinate the logistics of your transition with your new leader, and they can provide invaluable insight and coaching during and after your move.

Discuss with your previous leader:

  • Closing out your old role – timing and process for hand over your old responsibilities. How best to get your replacement up to speed. What expectations are there of your time and availability in the hand over process as you transition into your new role?
  • Your past performance – reflect on your strengths, weaknesses. How can you manage your weaknesses and leverage your strengths in the new role. What do they see as my development opportunities in the context of the new role?
  • Any other advice or guidance they can give you as you move into your new role.

2. Build a support network

You’ll be more successful if you can leverage those around you. Think about the people around you and how you can enlist their support in your role change.  Find a mentor who can support you as you move into your new role. This could be someone who has gone through a similar role change or someone who has particular skills that you’ve identified as a significant learning need for you. It could also be someone who you know has a particular perspective or understanding of the organisation or team that would help you make your move smoother. Work with them to help you understand the challenges you are likely to face as you make your move.

Your peers are also an important group of people to get to know. They will have an invaluable understanding of the team, culture and the way to get things done in the organisation.

Your most important supporter will be your immediate leader. Set up regular meetings (weekly to start with) with your leader to discuss your transition, your goals, your development, challenges, feedback and ongoing achievements.

3. Build an effective relationship with your new leader early

If you have a new leader as a result of your promotion spend some time understanding how your leader likes to work.  Building a successful partnership between you and your leader is just as much your responsibility as theirs. Consider how you can work with your leader most effectively so that you can build a successful relationship that allows both you and your leader to reach your goals.

Here are some suggested questions to consider. You can use them as discussion starters in your regular one on ones or you can use them to make your own observations as you gather some key insights about how your leader likes to work.

  • What is your leader’s preferred management style and how does this fit with your preferred style of being managed? If there are significant differences in preferences, how will you manage this tension?
  • How does your leader like to communicate with you and what expectation do they have of how you communicate with them? For example, do they prefer phone calls, emails, face-to-face meetings weekly, informal drop ins, a weekly email to update progress? Do they prefer to be briefed in writing before meetings to avoid surprises or to brainstorm new ideas together? Do they appreciate being “kept in the loop” continuously, or do they prefer you to act more autonomously? What will be your approach to communicating achievements, progress, challenges or potential difficulties with them?
  • How does your leader tend to make decisions? Are they intuitive or do they need facts and numbers? Understand their decision-making style so that you can proactively provide the necessary information required for them to make decisions.
  • How much feedback does your leader tend to give their direct reports? Do they have regular one on ones with the team?
  • How close to the detail does your leader like to be and how much involvement do they want to have in your work on a day-to-day basis? Do they operate at a high level and only want to know high-level outcomes or do they expect to be kept abreast of the details? How will you work with this approach?
  • How much direction, structure and support does your leader tend to provide? What is their approach to delegating tasks? How does this match how you like to operate and how will this impact the way you will work together?
  • What matters most to your leader? What do they value? Knowing this helps  you frame your communication in those terms, e.g. if they are a numbers person quantify all your results and know which numbers matter most. If they are customer focused, frame your communication in terms of the customer impacts.
  • What are your leader’s current priorities and what key projects are they working on? How do your priorities align with theirs? Where do your skills fit in and can you help you’re your leader reach their goals?

    4. Understand your new role – Clarify expectations and set some goals

    Schedule an expectation setting session with your new leader within the first week of your new role. Clarity around the expectations of your new role as well as how the new role is different to the old, and how you’re expected to step up to the new challenges in the short and longer term is an important component of transitioning to your new role. Spend some time with your leader on the following:


    • Your role profileidentifies not only the ongoing responsibilities for the role but also the skills and behaviours you are expected to demonstrate. Take the opportunity to work with your leader to create one.
    • Discuss how to balance immediate deliverables and results versus learning goals, that will bring you up to speed. Use a 90-day planto articulate the short-term transition goals. These goals become your yardstick for evaluating your initial progress in your new role. (At the end of your first 90 days, you’ll be able to set your longer-term objectives that will guide you through the remainder of the performance year). When building your 90-day plan, look to build in some goals that allow early wins. This will not only build your credibility with others in the organisation but also build your confidence and motivation.
    • If you’ve moved into a leadership role, you may now find yourself part of more than one team. You’ll now be a leader of your own immediate team as well as a member of a leadership team. Discuss with your leader the different responsibilities you have to those teams and the expectations for each role. Consider some of the conflicting demands that can sometimes arise when you have these multiple roles to fulfill.
    • Discuss how your role contributes to the broader organisational goals. Your leader might have a team business plan they can share with you. If you’re in a leadership role, you’ll be responsible for developing your own team’s goals. Get your team members involved in this process. They can then start to build their own achievement plans, which make them individually accountable for contributing to these team goals.
    • Start the discussion with your leader around the longer-term expectations and KPIs for your new role. This allows you to understand what success looks like in the longer term. While the conversation is best started early around what these KPIs might look like, they may not be finalised or agreed until the end of the 90-day period of transition. Create longer-term objectives for the remainder of the performance year.

    5. Build stakeholder connections

    The objective of this process is to identify key relationships, exiting or new, that are critical to the success of the role, to gather critical information about their needs and expectations, and to build relationships with them.

    The importance of spending time mapping or re-mapping stakeholders can sometimes be underestimated for internal moves and promotions. Since there are often existing relationships in place with the stakeholders it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this activity is not necessary. In reality, however, the new role brings with it the need for a different type of relationship with each stakeholder. As the role changes in scope, expectations change, as can power balances. The stakeholder analysis in this instance can incorporate an analysis of the nature and strength of the current relationship and how these relationships may need to change.

    Ask your leader to help you identifying the key people to connect with. Share the insights you gain through the meetings with your leader. They may have their own observations that could be critical to developing relationships with those individuals. Here’s an example stakeholder map. Any actions you identify in building relationships can be added to your 90-day plan.

    Stakeholder map

    Stakeholder How critical are they to my success? Their key priorities Their expectations of me Strengths of this relationship currently How to develop this relationship further

    6. Reflect on your key transition challenges(see Part 1 article in this series)

    An important step in moving up is letting go Clarify your expectations of each individual’s role

    • Clarify their current priorities

    7. Give and receive regular feedback throughout your transition

    Make sure you get regular time in your leader’s calendar to catch up (initially weekly). This way you can proactively request feedback, let them know of your progress, and make sure that both you and your leader are aligned on priorities and expectations.


    • How you are tracking overall
    • How well you feel you are integrating into the team

    How you are developing your of the previous role. This includes not only letting go of old responsibilities, but also some of the skills and behaviours that you needed to be successful in that role. A new set of skills and behaviours will now be needed. Understanding your strengths, motivators and transferable skills will help you understand the skills you bring to the role, your key strengths to draw on, and what skills you’ll need now to be successful.

    Refer to the critical transition points referred to earlier and then reflect on the questions below and discuss the implications for your transition to your new role with your leader.

    1. a) How did you get to where you are now?

    Often the things that made us successful in the past are not the same skills required moving forward. In fact these skills can sometimes hinder you in their new responsibilities.


    • What are the key strengths that have helped you become successful so far? (These strengths can include the skills you bring to the role as well your character strengths). Are these strengths useful in your new role?
    • How can these strengths be applied in the new role?
    • How do make sure these strengths do not derail you in your new role?
    1. b) How is the new role different?

    Review the competencies needed for your new role to determine the skills and behaviours expected at the new level.  Consider how these differ to those skills and behaviours required for the role you are leaving. This will give you an insight into the shifts you will need to make as you move from your current role to your new role.


    • How does the new skill set needed differ from that of your old role?
    • What do you need to do more of?
    • What do you need to stop doing?
    • What changes will you need to make in the way you do things?
    1. c) What other challenges will you face in your transition? 

    These challenges could include skills or knowledge gaps, challenges with existing relationships (e.g. moving from peer to leader), team or cultural challenges, self-perception or confidence, reputational issues, or external non-work related factors.


    • What things will make your transition to the new role more difficult?
    • What can you do to address these issues?

    Once you’ve reflected on all of these areas, translate your insights into actionable goals to include in your development plan.

    8. Plan your ongoing development

    You may already have a development or growth plan that has helped you grow towards your new role. If you don’t have one, now’s the time to build one. Your growth plan is more crucial than ever now as you strive to achieve the skill and knowledge requirements of you new role. You can also include growth goals based on any insights you’ve gained about your transition challenges.

    Check your skills against those needed for the new role. This will give you some insights into where to focus your development. Share the outcomes with your new or even previous leader to get their perspective.  Use your growth plan to reflect on your learning, achievements and experience throughout the transition process. These reflections can be incorporated into your regular catch up sessions with your leader.

    9. Build your team (for leaders only)

    1. a) If you have moved into a team leadership role, particularly from an individual contributor role, consider your approach to addressing the following team issues
    • Defining expectations of the team and of individuals (both in terms of role and in terms of team behaviours)
    • Establishing team ground rules and operating practices (how will the team interact and behave, how will it make decisions, how will it communicate)
    • Building credibility and trust
    • Defining boundaries with former peers
    • Defining or re-defining the team goals
    • Developing commitment to the team objectives
    • Being aware of the previous leader’s leaderships style and how this differs to yours
    • How to engage those team members who may feel disappointed at not being promoted themselves
    • Understanding the team’s capability, strengths and gaps

    Your leader might also have some important insights about your team, their strengths, their working style and what’s made them successful or unsuccessful in the past. Devise some key actions to add to you 90-day plan around building your team.

    1. b) Get to know your individual team members. Catch up with each individual to understand
    • Their career background
    • Their strengths and known gaps
    • Their achievements and performance to date in the organisation
    • Their development plans
    • What motivates them and what’s frustrating them
    • How engaged they are feeling
    • Their career goals
    • internal networks
    • Any necessary tools, information and resources lacking
    • Any road-blocks or barriers you are facing
    • Progress against your 90-day plan and growth goals.

    Invite feedback from your stakeholders throughout your transition. This feedback provides an invaluable perspective on how you’re progressing and allows you to address any issues early, before they start to become a problem. It’s also a great motivator to hear when things are going well. Be proactive by inviting feedback from key people who you’re working with.

    10. Review your 90 day plan and finalise your longer term objectives

    At the 90-day mark review our 90-day plan with your leader. This will be an indicator of how successful your transition to your new role has been. By the time you reach the end of the 90-day plan you also need to have finalised your objectives for the remainder of the performance year.

    Give yourself the greatest chance to be successful in your new role by being prepared and having a plan for how you transition into your new role. The activities we’ve suggested will help you focus on the things that will have the greatest impact on role change. Be prepared for the challenges you may face, build key relationships, engage your team, set goals early, enhance your credibility through quick wins, and get the support you need.  Now you’re set up for success.

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