How do you make an impact in a new role?

Updated: Jul 8

co-workers in a large open plan space with desks and computers

Last week two people mentioned the same book to me on the same day - “The First 90 days” by Michael D Watkins. One of them was a new coaching client, who was day two into a new job and was already wondering “what if they’ve hired the wrong person”?

If you are in a new role in this New Year (and judging my Linked In feed, a lot of people are), congratulations! Don’t expect to get everything right from day one, particularly if you tend to be a perfectionist. Show that you are learning, improving and increasing your visibility.

Here are some ideas to give you confidence and make you feel “at home” in your first 90 days.

Learning - ask questions

Ask lots of questions. You will have asked many of these before taking the job, but inevitably, more things will crop up as you get going. Some questions you may want to ask questions are:

  • The business priorities. What’s important at the moment? What is the focus of the Board and the senior leadership team? How does your role fit into this?

  • The expectations of you and your role. How does your boss like to work? What is she/he expecting of you? You will have read a formal role definition (hopefully!), but the unwritten expectations are just as important.

  • Your team. Meet your direct reports and other key stakeholders. What are their career ambitions? What do they like and not like about their current role? How can you support them in their career progression?

  • The culture. How are things really done around here? The best people to ask these questions to are trusted peers, so this may come a little later when you have managed to build strong relationships. Ask more than one person, as everyone will have a different point of view.

Make notes of these meetings, and refer back to them and apply your learning in your decision making.

Improving - focus on one or two key objectives
woman in black top holding mug saying "like a boss"

Don’t take on so much so that you risk failure. Choose one or two critical objectives for your first 90 days aligned to your role’s expectations and the business goals. Focus on them. As a fresh pair of eyes to the business, you are the perfect person to take on an improvement project. Is there anything you have seen that you think could be done a little better? Making your mark with something simple but effective can help you prove that you are the right person for the role.

Obviously, you don’t want to spend your first 90 days criticising everything or constantly referring to how you did things in your previous organisation! However, you were hired for your creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking ideas, so do make suggestions for improvement. Start small and leave more extensive structural changes until you have won trust and are more established in the role.

Have a point of view. Make sure you speak in team meetings - even if it’s to introduce yourself. Take part in the conversations around the table.

When working on your objectives involve others, even if it’s just as sounding boards or to gauge opinions. A collaborative approach will help with the next point….

Be visible - build strong relationships.
three woman chatting and lit up by reflections

Get to know as many people as possible. As well as your line manager, some people on your list should be:

  • Your direct reports. Understand their career ambitions, agree how you will work together, get to know them as individuals, hear what’s working for them and what’s not.

  • Your bosses’ boss. Introduce yourself and your ideas for your role. Find out more about the organisation’s strategy and business goals. Understand their expectations of you, and how you can get their buy-in for any projects you may be doing.

  • Other key stakeholders. Depending on your role, there will be other people with whom you want to build relationships. These may be internal customers, functional heads or account managers. Have conversations similar to that for your direct reports. How can you best support them in your new job?

  • Peers. Make a point of attending department meetings and introducing yourself to one or two people (virtually if needs be). If you are reading this post-pandemic when we are back in the office, say hello to people at the coffee machine. Ask your line manager who they could introduce you to. Having an informal support network of allies is vital.

Finally, beware of imposter syndrome. My client and I talked about this impacted her thoughts and behaviour, and she took away strategies to help her work through a tricky people issue that she had inherited.

If you’re in a new role, it’s natural to have some nerves, but if a lack of confidence is impacting your performance and would like to come up with your own strategies for a successful first 90 days, then I would be delighted to help - just send me an email at

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