Starting a new job is an opportunity to re-invent yourself. It can be a chance to leave whatever baggage you might have had behind you and get a fresh start. Aside from doing the obvious like making a good first impression by introducing yourself to the various stakeholder groups, coming up to speed on what is going on, and doing a “listening tour”, which all are certainly good things to do, you need to consider the following:
- Be visible and accessible – attend school-community events, but most importantly create opportunities to interact with small groups and one-on-one with community members. Don’t just be a speaker or an attendee.
- “Pick low lying fruit”—this means find out what immediate non-controversial tasks must be accomplished, choose the fastest, most popular and easiest priority, and get it done. Word will spread quickly that you are a doer and not a “talker”.
- Be humble—don’t brag about you’ve done. Give credit to your team members. They will appreciate the recognition and in return speak well of you. No one likes a braggart.
- Keep your own counsel—Avoid sharing your personal opinions about anyone or anything. Keep your personal life private. Do not speak negatively about neither your prior work experiences nor work associates. School communities are rife with gossip. Never create opportunities for gossip to spread about yourself.
- Never over-promise or under-deliver—do not make promises that you might not be able to achieve. When you set a goal, make it measurable so that there is a standard that’s modest enough so that it will be readily achieved. It’s always better to exceed the standard so it’s perceived that you over-achieved.
- Do not criticize your predecessor— whoever your predecessor might have been or done, or whatever you’ve heard about him or her, be aware that he or she had admirers who would resent hearing that you are critical and will hold it against you.
- Don’t pick unnecessary fights—your early cheerleaders’ support is newborn and therefore tentative. It takes time to achieve solid support that you can depend upon should you run into a problem. If you do encounter a potentially divisive issue, then find middle ground and attempt a compromise. You can’t afford to go to war without strong allies.
- Seek out assistance and advice—most influencers are flattered when asked for their input. They feel respected, validated and appreciated. This is an effective way of building supportive constituencies.
- Build loyal relationships with your supervisors— effective leaders need to rely upon the loyalty of their direct reports. Leaking confidential information, criticizing and undermining decisions, and personality assassination are all examples of destructive actions that leaders can suffer from disloyal subordinates. Your boss needs your loyalty. Demonstrate your loyalty by never publicly contradicting them, speaking positively about them, and acting in concert with their priorities. Hopefully they will in return be loyal to you, however, too often loyalty is a one-way street.