The 3 conversations you must have first

“My challenge has become how to stay on top of everything,” Doug wrote in a question to our Ask the Editor feature on As the new head of a division with hundreds of employees and 30 operating units, he’s concerned that he’s learning about issues at the same time his boss and peers hear about them.

We offered advice on and in the The Organized Executive’s Priority One e-letter for dealing with the situation now, but when you take a new position, there are three types of people you should talk to on Day 1. Conversations with these people set you up for success:

  • Your boss. Schedule an appointment with your boss to discuss the priorities for your position. Clarifying what your boss expects will show you where to focus your attention. Ask whether there have been issues in the past that you should be aware of to be effective now. If your boss previously held your position, he or she also may have some specific advice about how to oversee all those people. (Note: Even if you’re the CEO, you have a boss. It may be your shareholders, your board of directors or your customers. We’re all responsible to someone.)
  • Your direct reports. In addition to a group meeting, talk with each person alone. Pay careful attention to whether there is more on their minds than they are revealing. Pave the way for them to be open with you. And if one of your direct reports also was vying for your new position, you will need to clear the air and discover whether you can count on that person’s support.
  • Your employees. Introduce yourself and begin to describe your vision, whether that’s through an email, voice mail or video conference. But also take a few minutes on that first day to talk directly with some of the people who are several levels below you on the organizational chart. You will need their support, so listen to them and, when possible, incorporate their ideas into your vision.

There are many more people you need to talk with in the coming days and weeks. If you are one of six vice presidents, talk with the other five. Tap their advice for leading at this level, discover their priorities and agendas, and look for ways to collaborate with them.

Carve time each day for your assistant because that person’s support will allow you to be more effective. Keep your assistant up to date about your priorities so that he or she can better manage your schedule and other assignments.

Build relationships with your partners, vendors and customers. By devoting time to them, you show that you recognize their importance.

Finally, if you don’t already have a mentor, find one. Taking on a high level of leadership is a learning experience, and having someone to guide you will allow you to avoid mistakes or fix those you do make quickly.

Add your advice in the Comments section below.

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