News & Insight
August 2005

Your Career Path to Success

Bill Morin<br />Chairman & CEO<br />WJM Associates

Newly hired executives are often so focused on meeting their managers' expectations during the on-boarding process that they frequently neglect to build strong relationships with key "stakeholders." These can include significant clients, important peers and senior executives with clout -- especially those who are not necessarily in the new hire's chain of command.

The important steps are to:

  • Identify up front who the key stakeholders are;v
  • Make a solid first impression on them; and
  • Learn what you can do to support and work with them.

Identifying stakeholders begins during the recruiting process. Oftentimes, the people you meet when you interview include many of your important internal stakeholders. For example, a candidate for the position of chief financial officer (CFO) will likely meet the chief operating officer, chief technology officer and several board members, including those who serve on the audit committee. These individuals are all stakeholders with a vested interest in the CFO's success.

Make a list of these stakeholders as you meet them. Research their backgrounds on the Internet, looking for common ground you can use to build relationships. When you join your new organization, ask your assistant who else might be important for you to meet. Names will surface in your discussions with your direct reports as well.

As you begin to settle into your new job, call your stakeholders to introduce yourself and schedule a meeting. Remember, it's not their responsibility to seek you out (although it is nice when they do). If calling is difficult, you can introduce yourself by e-mail, but do so as a last resort and do so humbly. For example, "I've just begun in my new role and was told that you are someone I should meet. I'd like to schedule lunch or a meeting with you at your convenience." In your first few weeks, always have your assistant or your manager's assistant review your messages for content and tone before you send them - particularly your initial messages.

Those First Meetings

If your first meetings are not breakfast or lunch, hold them in your stakeholders' offices. Use the opportunity to do a lot of listening, ask questions and take notes. Display an eagerness to work together. Learn what experiences your stakeholders have had with your team and department. Conclude by thanking them for their time and support, and follow up promptly on any inquiries, action steps or assignments they gave you.

Remember: You're not there to be an order taker, but you can still be an excellent listener and learner. Share your views sparingly, and don't dominate the discussion. The main thing you want your stakeholders to get out of these meetings is that their opinions were thoughtfully considered and their time was valued. The main thing you want to get out of this meeting is a solid footing for your relationship and good information that will help you move forward.

Pay attention to assistants, too. One of your most influential stakeholders is your manager's assistant. Be sure to enlist his or her support as you go forth. Your stakeholders' assistants are also stakeholders. Introduce yourself, address them by name and show respect for their roles in the organization.

Things to Learn from Your Stakeholders

Early on, find out how you can best work with your stakeholders. If your organization has provided you with an executive coach to help with the on-boarding process, make this subject a principal focus of your meetings.

In particular, discover your stakeholders' most pressing business challenges. Learn their business priorities, if they wish to share them; and if they are a client of yours, identify any immediate needs that they have to which you can respond. Assure them you'll look into it and get back to them quickly - and then do so post-haste. You will find that your stakeholders will quickly become your allies and biggest supporters.

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