For the teacher stepping into a new role. This is the first of a series of articles to help you smoothly transition into your new role and start kicking goals quickly.

So you got yourself a new job. Congratulations! Now what?

With schools starting back and your new role about to begin, I imagine you are full of excitement and proud of your efforts and achievements so far in landing the new position. The interview went well, you’ve read the Staff Handbook and are going diligently through the induction process. You’ve probably got some plans in place and set some goals for yourself and your team, if you are in a leadership role, but do you know if your plans and goals are actually what is wanted and required of you. Are you relying on the conversations throughout the interview process and the position description?

Well I’m going to put it out there, right now.

There’s the Position Description and then there’s the job to be done. You need to find out the difference and soon.

The interview was all about if you are the right fit for the organisation and if you have the skills and attitude that is needed in the role. It was also about whether you felt comfortable with the organisation and wanted to role after you had learned more about it. The roles you have held until now have set you up well for your new position and the projects and tasks you have completed give you a good grounding for what is expected by the company.  The Position Description in some cases is brief, a few bullet points. In other cases, to protect against litigation, have incredibly thorough Position Descriptions, to make sure they have covered off everything possible.

But what are the issues that the organisation wants you to tackle? Where is the pain in the role that needs to be addressed? What are the key aspects that your performance is going to measured by? What things will help you keep your job and what aspects if they are not fixed or improved will help you out the front door? This is where your focus needs to be.

The first three months in any role is a time of rapid learning about the organization, its culture and its direction; relationship building with colleagues at your new level of leadership; developing a communication plan and timeframe with your line manager and getting a very clear understanding of what is expected of you and ensuring you have a plan in place to meet those expectations. That’s a lot, I know, and you don’t have long to get that all sorted.

Transitions into new roles are the most challenging times in the professional lives of leaders.  Success or failure during the first few months is a strong predictor of overall success or failure in the job. It is widely understood that by the end of the first 90 days every new hire needs to have reached the ‘break-even point’, where you have contributed as much to the organisation as you have consumed from it.

If you don’t know what I am talking about, I strongly recommend you read, Michael Watkins,The First 90 Days, in hard copy and make yourself notes all over it!

I want to focus in this post about getting clear about your expectations. As I said before, the Position Description is not the role. Within that list of bullet points there are some points that will have peaked your interest and you will be excited to get working on those areas. If left to your own devices, those aspects that you are excited by are where you could most likely spend the majority of your time. But just because you like them does not mean that these are the areas where the organization wants you to spend the majority of your time. You need to find out! Out of all the aspects of your role, you need to find out what is it the organisation requires you to focus on.

How do you find this out?

You ask……during the meeting you are going to schedule with your line manager, if he/she hasn’t already set it up or held a team meeting with others also in your role.

You need to know:

  • What are the key focus areas for your role?
  • What are the 1, 2 or 3 aspects that need to be addressed/changed/improved?
  • What is the timeframe for achievement?
  • How are you to report on your progress?
  • What form of communication is requested and what is the frequency for reporting?

Your line manager may not know the HOW, ie, how to achieve the results, they may only know the WHAT, what needs to be done. The HOW you may need to work on yourself and with your team and come back to your line manager with suggestions before you go ahead. You have been placed in the role for your skills and attitude to get things done. Here is how you show what you bring to the organisation.

Getting this information clear early is vital.

The reporting process and timeframe is important. You need to know what is expected and how your manager likes to work. This will help to strengthen the relationship between the two of you. If your manager does not have a clear idea of what they want, discuss this together and come up with a plan. Don’t leave things hanging in the air. Uncertainty breeds fear and fear prevents productivity.

Next step. Document!

Write down what has been agreed. Step it out clearly so you fully understand and can see what you are to do, by when, and how you are going to report on it. Check it for errors! Twice! Sleep on it! Then email it to your line manager with an expression of thanks for the time they gave to this, and how much you are looking forward to working with them in this role.

Don’t ask your line manager to check it over. That makes you look like you are unsure of yourself. If they find anything they want to add or change they will. That’s their job.

Then get on with it.

My next post, next week, will be about the relationships you need to build in your new role. All the best this week and enjoy the start of your new role.

Janine Stratford is an Executive Coach working with school leaders. She provides Leadership Coaching developing greater clarity, consistency and confidence in leadership, direction and workplace relationships.