Plan Your Transition as a New Leader
We all fail in isolation. Many of the C-level executives I coach find it difficult to establish open communication with others and restrictions inherent in the position prevent a free exchange of information. Recognizing both your strengths and weaknesses allows you to make informed decisions regarding your behavior, interpersonal relationships and assessment of risk.

The dynamic executive creates an environment of trust that permits feedback, honest assessment and mutual respect. These are the tools to prevent silos, evaluate risk and make informed decisions.

When transitioning into a new leadership position it is critical to create an environment of learning and support. To accomplish this, feedback should not be regulated to issue of performance.

Feedback should identify weak behaviors and effective behaviors to enable the receiver to determine exactly what actions were detrimental, the impact of those actions on you, and how different actions will benefit all involved.

A Questionnaire

To encourage your staff to give you feedback, consider introducing the concept of on-going feedback with an anonymous feedback questionnaire. You might find that you solicit the same reaction as one of my clients did when he was assigned to a new location and a new team. He created a feedback questionnaire to monitor how his new staff evaluated his performance, informing his staff that for him to succeed, he had to know what he was doing right and what he could do differently to improve. He distributed a two-page a list of questions, asking his staff to complete the form and return it the next day: it was up to them if they chose to supply their name or remain anonymous.

The first time he distributed the questionnaire to his staff of 27 he received 5 completed forms, all anonymous and offering valuable observations. He shared the observations with the group and asked for their help to monitor his ability to address the behaviors mentioned.

Six months later he distributed the same questionnaire, receiving 18 completed forms, three of which were signed! Again he shared the results and asked for support to adapt the new behaviors, and again after another six month distributed the form for the third time. This time the results were surprising. Several individuals requested to meet with him privately. They brought the form with them uncompleted and unsigned, sat in his office, and said they would prefer to tell him directly what they were observing. He was thrilled and felt he had succeeded at his goal. There is an interesting follow-up to this tale: within two years this manager was promoted and has since risen to a C-level position in his firm and continues the practice with every new team he creates. 10 QUESTIONS TO ASK

Whether I am working with an Executive who has achieved a C-level post or a newly appointed manager, there key management skills that you can incorporate into a Feedback Questionnaire to help you successfully transition into that new position.

  1. Are instructions clear or do you often feel confused and uncertain where to begin a task?
  2. Are you confident that I will listen to a new idea you may have?
  3. Do you sense I am stressed and make decisions as if in crisis too often?
  4. Once I assign a task, do I regularly ask you to stop and alter the assignment?
  5. When you make a mistake, do I tell you what you did right as well as what has to be changed?
  6. Do I support your growth by allowing you to develop new skills?
  7. When you need to talk to me, are you able to schedule a few minutes?
  8. When I change your work, do the changes have value or are they perceived as changes for change sake?
  9. Do you trust me?
  10. Do you feel I respect you?


If you feel the above list is overwhelming, try this approach: chose one person who is important to you — a direct report, peer or boss — and ask for one piece of feedback. Tell them to take their time, and when they are ready to offer you just one observation that they feel will benefit your performance and support of their work, to please share it with you.

When the intent of feedback is respectful and genuine sharing of information, there is a better chance that the person getting the feedback will be motivated to begin, continue, or stop behaviors that affect performance.

When that individual approaches you and offers the feedback, thank them. They have taken the time to think about what is important to you. Explain that you appreciate the information and would like to think about it, then get back to them. Here is the important step for you: be certain you get back to them. Discuss with them the value you gained form the feedback and what action steps you plan to take. Ask them to kindly monitor your actions and let them know if they see any change.


I am interested in learning how others have used feedback to advance in their career. If you have a good story to share about how you used feedback to overcome an issue, build support from others or achieve at your career, please send me a note. I will gladly share your story with others!