The First Quarter: Things to consider when starting new gigs

Gear up

Having had the opportunity to work in diverse setups like Search, Google Mobile, Google+, Motorola and now Flipkart, I have had the fortune of being exposed to everything from a maturing product to a complete turnaround situation to an exploding market.

I have noticed there are some things that we can do early on in new gigs that set us up for success later on. I will add a caveat that its not necessary that a single playbook will work blindly in all situations, but the following rule set provides a framework to fill in depending on the context you are in.

So without further ado, here are my 10 (perhaps obvious) things to do when starting a new leadership gig:

  • Go crazy on every doc, site, design, PRD you can lay your hands on. Read everything. Avoid forming opinions immediately (this is hard)
  • Kick off deep dives into various product and functional areas, and spend the first few weeks learning from the rest of the leadership. Be very hands-on, very detailed and do not be afraid to ask questions no matter how dumb and naive you end up looking. Trust me, you will feel way smarter later on!
  • Meet everyone. Get to know as may folks as possible. Depending on the size of the company, do random brown bags, take walks in the corridor, conduct all hands, do tons of 1:1s, whatever it takes
  • Start creating a list of problems that people tell you about. Some might be real, some might be imaginary. All provide valuable context
  • Start creating a list of all the things that are working well. These could be people, processes, products. Making sure good things continue is as critical as solving problems when starting a new gig
  • Figure out your recruiting setup. Regardless of when you will be smart enough to figure out what the right org is (or if the existing one is perfect), you will need to hire a bit. So get that machine oiled up asap
  • Start hiring. Even as you start working on understanding and having a point of view on overall strategy, there will be a few obvious holes. Nothing teaches you the culture, people, processes of a company better than when you kick off hiring for it
  • Every company has a communication setup. This includes how/if they articulate a mission, set goals, communicate strategic shifts, work tactically between teams, break dependencies, and make decisions (there is a whole post on this topic at some point). Understand it. Figure out the holes. Start cleaning this up. This is usually the point of biggest impact early on in your new gig
  • Form an incoming thesis. Do not be afraid to share it. Be prepared to throw it out of the window. Most of the time, you will be wrong. But having an opinion gives you the starting point. Being open-minded will take you the end point
  • Articulate your style, ideas, thoughts to the team. Any leadership change brings some level of anxiety. The more transparent you are about your passion, style, motivations, the more comfortable your new team will be

Finally, I will end this post with one thing I really work hard to avoid doing (and fail a bit too). Do not make significant strategic choices very early on in your gig. There is always this subtle need to have a big impact quickly but almost every time I have made big calls very early on, I noticed that I could have been more nuanced and could have benefited from more time spent deeply understanding the context and company. Feels obvious, but this is one of the big pitfalls I have seen folks do when they start new gigs.

I will write a post on the second quarter at some point. Also on the communication setup. I believe its the biggest thing we can do early on that can have an immense impact on the company.