Setting yourself up for success - By Louise Ellekilde Fogstrup

You are a leader taking on a new challenge and wish to hit the ground running to make an impact – and fast.

Many of us will be familiar with this situation and the challenges and opportunities it provides. Only very few organisations hire leaders in order to simply maintain the status quo. Often, there is an expectation that they will bring something different to the table and make an impact.

Over the years, I have been called upon by many experienced leaders who have either taken on new roles within their current organisation or who have accepted a new challenge at a new company. I have had the opportunity to follow many of them, supporting them from the sidelines to ensure they were able to hit the ground running: thus, they made the impact they were hired to deliver.

Here I will share some of the learnings which I have seen make a huge and quick impact on whether you as a leader on board successfully and make an impact or whether you merely land.

Before you start your new role, take some time to prepare yourself: Not so you can rigorously follow your own plan, but to ensure you give yourself the freedom to improvise.

“The basis of improvisation must be preparation. If I haven’t prepared, I can’t improvise. If I’ve made careful preparations, I can always improvise. Then I know I have something to fall back on.”

Ingmar Bergman

As a first step, take some time to reflect on the impact you wish to make (the value you wish to create) and your desired end-state - your vision or North Star. This should be short, precise and easy to communicate.

Take some time to address the impact you wish to make and map out your vision and goal. Then use a sparring partner: explain your vision to them and get them to mirror what they hear and help put it in writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect - simply spending two 1-hour slots by way of preparation can go a long way. It will get you off to a good start by helping you set out a clear direction for your next challenge.

Next, address the first days and weeks in your new role. Who are your key stakeholders and how will you engage with them? In many cases, you will already have met some of the key stakeholders during the process. However, consider how you will reach out to them and engage with them during the first few months.

When and how will you meet your organisation? What is the key message you will communicate and how will you develop trust? Will your initial meeting be an informal session in person or one of several virtual introductions? Also, consider what you wish to focus on and how to use your introduction to initiate the change you wish to implement.

Let me present a real-life example from a CEO who was hired to build a more agile organisation, and lead the transition into the organisation as a whole is comfortable with change. In the beginning, the organisation was known for resisting new initiatives. When the CEO first took to the stage to introduce himself, he highlighted that the organisation's language, German, was his third language, which he hadn’t used for some years. He made the commitment to be agile and ready to learn, promising to speak German from 7 am to 7 pm. He freely admitted that yes, he would make many mistakes and would have to learn and adjust. This was his way of clearly signalling a shift in the organisation's culture from a 'no mistake' culture to a 'learning culture’.

Finally, you also need to consider how you will meet your team and how you plan to onboard them to take ownership of the journey. Try to look beyond the initial 1-1s and plan how to involve the entire team in building both the journey and your leadership team itself. For further information on how to achieve this, please take a look at my podcast >


4 key questions for your preparation

1. What is your vision for this challenge, your North Star? Can you communicate this clearly?

2. Who are your key stakeholders when you arrive at the organisation and how will you engage with them?

3. How will you meet the wider organisation? What is the key message for your initial introduction?

4. How will you onboard your leadership team and ensure you are off to a good start?



Louise Ellekilde Fogstrup is the Founder of Enabling Change, a boutique consultancy for leading and implementing change and transformation. Louise has more than 15 years experience in change management and transformation. She is an experienced management consultant and leader across Europe, and an experienced facilitator and speaker. 

Louise is currently based in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.