I was recently asked: “How do I get off to a great start in my new job, and position myself for senior management sooner rather than later?”

This was asked by someone going into a middle management role at a new company, as part of my Ivy Exec online master class, and frankly, this applies to all of us achievers.

Here are the five questions I think you must be able to answer in order to be successful.

1. What is success?

You’ve got to find out from your boss and your reporting line how they define success in your mission; what is your mission?

Then, secondly, you’ve got to ask yourself:

2. What are the conditions that I need to have in place in order for me to be successful?

These might be things like resources – staff, team members, budget, space.  Or it might be time – how much time are you going to be given? How much time do you have and bandwidth, are there certain things you need to delegate?

It might be formal recognition; do you need to have a particular title, or be part of certain committees, in order to be successful? Or, internal recognition – for me, I needed my boss to stand up and say, “Yes, this is May’s new mission, and I expect everybody to co-operate.”

When you know these conditions, negotiate for them. Negotiate means find the reasonable set of things that you need and then be able to explain them and position them in the context of making the business successful.

So, it’s not about a list of demands, but it’s sitting down with your boss and together, on the same side of the table, looking at this common objective of success. What needs to be in place and how do you put that in place.

Then, the third question is:

3. What is my strategic approach?

You’ve got to think about your own strengths, the landscape, how those two can come together in your business plan.

Whether you’re asked for a business plan or not, I recommend putting one together. It can be one page, two pages, three pages, but the benefit of that is your boss will see you being strategic, you can be consulting other people as well, and they will be buying in more as a result, and you’ll have a document that you can refer back to as a touchstone.

Frankly, it’s also going to help you figure out how you want to talk about your business and your mission in a way that’s engaging and dynamic.

4. Who are my key stakeholders?

You want to map these people out – map out the people that are senior to you, people that are peers, people that are junior, and also external clients. Then it's very important that you go and actually meet with them.

Most of the time you’re going to be meeting one on one. I’d recommend you do this as soon as you can, in order of priority, preferably, and that you are there in order to listen, more than you speak, to learn the “care and feeding” of the person and their group, and to find out things like:

  • What are their priorities?
  • How do they see success in your role?
  • What do they expect from you?
  • And, what advice do they have for you as you’re starting out?

Also, importantly, get permission to come back to them and have a further dialogue, and bounce ideas around; that’s going to be really important, that you continue to build that relationship.

Then, fifth question, very important, is:

5. How will I carve out ‘sacred time’?

Sacred time is two things.

One is the time that you need in order to think, strategize and plan, and that’s time away from the coal face and the hubbub of the regular day.

The second kind of sacred time is time to take care of yourself – your own mental and physical wellbeing, whether that’s mindfulness, exercise, meditation.

So you really must carve out those pieces of sacred time before you do anything else, and calendarize them, regularize them, make them habits. You’ll see from another post that I did on the 5 Mistakes That Almost Sank Me, that I was not very good at this last one, but now I know it’s super important.

So it’s best that you ask yourself and answer these five questions before you officially start, but frankly, it’s never too late, and we should always be regularly revisiting these questions anyway. It’s an iterative process. It’s about progress and not perfection.

So now, over to you. What tips can you share about getting off to a great start in a new role? I would love to hear.