The First 90 Days - Betties Book Brief

Betties Book Brief | The First 90 Days

The First 90 Days - Betties Book BriefMost failures can be traced back to the first 90 days of a new job or changed position. Crazy, right? We were really curious about this, so for this month’s book brief, we read The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael Watkins.

At Back Office Betties, we really care about our team and want our employees to have the success we know they are capable of when we hire them. While this book was written for all levels of management, up to the CEO, much of it can also be applied to new entry-level employees.

Watkins explains throughout this book that it’s imperative to manage your transition well in any career change to ensure your success. Okay, so how can we help our new hires and promoted employees to manage their transition?

Tips to Starting Off on the Right Foot

The following tips are for employees making a transition. How can you help your new hires to understand that their success relies on the first 90 days?

  1. Take a mental break before starting a new position. The danger of sticking to what you know is failure. Employees need to do a mind shift to prepare for their new role. This is especially true for anyone who believes they were promoted due to their stellar skills. For example, Julia was amazing at marketing and was promoted to project manager for a new product launch. She immediately failed because she couldn’t let go of micromanaging projects, causing her to alienate her team. The strengths that made her great at marketing were liabilities in a management role.
  2. Assess the situation and make a plan from there. Your approach will need to be different in a startup versus an established business. Consider your role, as well. Moving from marketing to sales or production will need a new plan.
  3. Secure early wins. Build a productive relationship with your new boss and learn what their expectations are.
  4. Create coalitions. Figure out who is most important to your success and nurture those relationships.


Recruiting is Like Romance, Employment is Like Marriage

Your team has built their relationships and know each other inside and out. Hiring management from outside the organization can oftentimes seem like an affair and the organization may reject the new hire. Reasons most often cited for rejection:

  • The person is not familiar with the informal networks of information and communication
  • They’re not familiar with the corporate culture
  • They are unknown and lack credibility
  • There is a long tradition of refusing to hire outsiders, making it difficult for the organization to accept this one

It’s important for new leaders to build relationships with their peers, top to bottom.


Embrace the Need to Learn

New hires, especially managers, need to spend time learning as much as they can about the history of their new company. This is especially important to keep in mind before coming in with guns blazing to fire up change.

  • Learn why team member performance is poor or why they’re good at what they do. Do they have issues residing in strategy, structure, culture, or the individual?
  • Learn what the vision and strategy are. Do the team members know this information?
  • Learn about your people – understand who is capable and who is not, who is trustworthy, who has influence, who takes ownership in their work.
  • Begin to document a list of challenges and opportunities, as well as any barriers. Do you have the resources to overcome any barriers?
  • Meet with every direct report and ask them 5 questions.
  • Find out from the current team what they would like to know about the new leader. Ask what they would like the new leader to know about them and the business. Facilitate a group meeting to discuss with all.


Other Takeaways From The First 90 Days

  • There are 5 common situations a leader might be moving into: STARS. Start-up, Turnaround, Accelerated Growth, Realignment, & Sustaining Success. It’s important to understand which you are entering to have a solid plan of attack.
  • It’s okay to have different styles as long as everyone’s work is done as promised and on time. It is also okay to push back on the boss. For example, Michael was pressured by his boss at 3 weeks to make a final decision on a major purchase. However, he had told her that he needed 30 days to evaluate it. Michael pushed back and held firm to the 30-day schedule by acknowledging that their styles are different, but that he should not be judged on how he gets his job done. He should only be judged on the fact he is doing his job and doing it well.
  • Clarify communication styles. What does your direct report want from you? Email, phone calls, facetime? How do you best communicate? Have the conversation so that there is a good understanding between you.
  • Talk about future needs. Once you hit your current goal, what happens beyond that? What do you need from your team once you hit that goal?


Ultimately, The First 90 Days has given us some great insight into how to better prepare our team members for success. Have you read this book? What were your takeaways? We’d love to hear your thoughts!