The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins

Posted on January 4, 2010


In his book, The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins discusses how individuals unconsciously carry with them their successful leadership styles from their previous appointment to their new appointment, believing that what worked for them in the previous team would continue to work for them in the new team. As such, the relative inexperience of being in transition mean that many leaders start off on a bad note. In the corporate world, this wrong step could well be the end of their career.

Watkins advocates that rather than having the sink-or-swim mentality, leaders would be much better off being educated on how to transit to a new job. After all, mistakes made in transition are very often a function of ignorance and in no way mean that the leaders are incapable.

He goes on to share 10 key aspects new leaders have to consider when taking up a new appointment:

  1. Promote Yourself. This refers to the mental breakaway from our previous appointment and recognition that what used to work with our previous team need not necessarily work in the new team.
  2. Accelerate Your Learning. This chapter takes us through what to learn, how to do it, and the importance of planning and deciding what to learn.
  3. Match Strategy to Situation. Here, Watkins introduces four states that a team could be at: the Start-up, Turnaround, Realignment and Sustaining Success, and shows us how we can deal with the various challenges and opportunities each presents.
  4. Securing Early Wins. We will learn how we can start building rapport and gaining credibility from the start by scoring early goals.
  5. Negotiate Success. It is crucial that we establish clear communication with our bosses so as to be clear of our tasks and have a similar definition of success. Having the five conversations of Situational Diagnosis, Expectations, Style, Resources and Personal Development will ensure that we build a productive working relationship with our bosses.
  6. Achieving Alignment. Here, Watkins discusses how we can align the structure, systems, skills and culture with the strategy of the organisation or team in order to see to the effective execution of the higher intent.
  7. Build Your Team. This chapter teaches us how we can evaluate our team members and structure our team to ensure maximum alignment to our objectives. It also discusses various decision making processes we may employ.
  8. Create Coalitions. Here, we learn the importance of gaining allies, laterally within the organisation and externally.
  9. Keep Your Balance. Acquiring the right advice and counsel network will allow us to tackle the danger of loosing perspective, getting isolated and making bad calls.
  10. Expedite Everyone. By helping our bosses, peers and subordinates accelerate in their own transitions, we are able to ensure an efficient management of the team, hence boosting our own performance.

This book is certainly a must-read for all leaders as we would all be facing the task of taking up a new team one day, and it is certainly critical that we have the resources to handle the situation aptly, isn’t it?

You may purchase this book  Here or from the Books page.