The importance of the first 90 days in a new leadership role is undisputed. In The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins notes that, “transitions are critical times when small differences in your actions can have disproportionate impacts on results (p. xi). Knowing that is true, why is it commonly reported that 40 percent of newly promoted leaders fail within 18 months of their promotion? A statistic that hasn’t changed much in a decade.
Is it possible executive failure rates have something to do with where new leaders focus their efforts? Finding two or three quick and significant wins shouts “results-focused” to the people that hired you. But if the people following you don’t know enough about you to trust you and buy into your vision, those quick wins may be all you get.
In Leading with Intention: Every Moment is a Choice, Mindy Hall points out that establishing trust is the foundation for a leader’s future success. She believes connections with people must come first, that people won’t commit to a leader’s cause and vision unless they feel they know the leader well enough to have confidence in him or her.
The risk of failure remains if a leader does not recognize that there is a distinct difference between building relationships and valuing people. Getting to know people, telling the team you can’t do it without them, and giving people challenging opportunities will feel more like manipulation than effective leadership if the leader does not genuinely care about and value the people he or she leads. Valuing people is a belief before it is a behavior. A leader cannot show value without genuinely holding value. Executive development programs that focus on techniques without an equal focus on character, poorly equip leaders to achieve sustainable results.