I was speaking with a Vice President of a company recently, and he made me vocalize something that I had been thinking about a lot lately, but never said out loud.
We were having a conversation about a fairly new manager’s inability to set the correct tone for their team from the beginning. The manager in question had been running the team for a bit over a year, and the team itself is still fractured and confused. They never implemented a cohesive strategy and approach to culture, talent needs, roles, and even business pursuits. My analogy (I love making analogies, and thrive at making bad ones) was that they failed to approach this like when a new GM or Head Coach takes over a team.
In those situations, the GM/Head Coach comes in and immediately sets the tone. Initially it’s culture related; how are we going to carry ourselves, how will we interact with the each other, how we will interact with classmates/other teams/media. That then trickles down into the talent they bring in to support that culture, or talent they cut that conflict with that culture. They then install the plays and begin to define their identify, all while aiming for a specific goal. I'm sure there's more to it, but that's the gist.
I shared that analogy with the VP, and their response was that this manager never had managerial experience, so this kind of preparation wouldn't have been natural. Which actually supported the thoughts I had been having lately. When moving into that next role, particularly senior level roles, what's the playbook? Do you have one?
It's a conversation I've been having with myself. If given a certain type of role, and there's a role I have in mind, what's my plan? I have a lot of experience, and in my head (and files) I have a lot of information and resources to use to help me be successful. But that doesn't satisfy me. I've been asking myself, why don't I have a written blueprint for how I'd want to structure each aspect of that job? Sure, the exact role may require some modification, as a coach or GM has to modify to some of their talent. But having that playbook that outlines the culture (and why it's important), and a more thorough breakdown of what those cultural definitions actually mean and how they look in action (from communication, to respect), would go a long way in setting a tone when I walk in the door.
It's certainly possible that my playbook would rub some people the wrong way, or would be in conflict with what the group had previously. As I said, there's room for (some) modification, but I recognize that these feelings aren't necessarily bad. Being clear and consistent is most important, even if people don't like it. The alternative is much worse. I may even lose some people, but if they aren't bought in, it's more dangerous to keep them than to lose them. Sound harsh? Maybe, but these are decisions I would be held accountable for as well. I still would have to produce, so the steps I take need to produce results.
But even if they don't produce results..even if you fail, in my mind it seems more productive to fail from having a flawed plan, than failing from having no plan at all.
Also, I'm not naive and I understand that coaches and GM's "typically" come in during the off-season. That doesn't mean there's no activity, quite the contrary, but they are starting from a foundation that most new business leaders aren't afforded. The chaos can make it difficult to install your playbook, but the time and effort need to be made. It's too important. To help make the transition easier, you need to ask questions before accepting the role. Understand your autonomy, and your timelines. At this level, you're looking for a leadership team that tells you the what, and allows you to figure out the how. That's ideal.