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7 Tips For Managing In A New Industry

As we all know, business is about driving results. Given the dynamic nature of the modern workplace, businesses hire managers who have a history of leading teams who successfully deliver great results. But, sometimes that leader does not have deep experience in the industry or sector where the company earns its revenue.


If you find yourself in that situation, here is a simple guide and framework for you to rapidly ramp up and quickly drive meaningful results for your new employer.

Over the last 20+ years of professional experience in the IT world, I have been fortunate enough to have been dropped into many employment situations where I lacked deep industry or domain experience. I say fortunate enough because I embrace the challenge of learning and continuing to "sharpen my saw" to steal a line from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. So, let's jump right to the framework.

1. Prepare For The Challenge

Executive prepares for the challenge of leading and managing in a new industry

You prepare by getting your mind in the right place and orientation. I mean check your ego at the door and have a mindset of selflessness. Two ideas I try to deploy are having a beginner's mind (the Japanese word is Shoshin) and "Seek First to Understand," again a nod to "7 Habits."

The challenge here is keeping an open mind to learn before forming too much of an opinion.

2. Identify Areas Of Opportunity

Manager identifies areas of opportunity at his new executive job in a different industry

Use whatever reporting tools the organization has and gather existing data that helps you get a clear picture of where the team or organization is today. Most likely, you'll find that everything is not broken, and you will need to identify areas where you can gain some quick and important wins which will help you gain organizational credibility.

3. Stratify Your Environments

Manager makes sure to stratify her environments by following a specific business matrix

Not every element can use enhancing so you need to focus your energies on where you can really make a difference. I use this following matrix to stratify my environments:

  • Bottom 20 % - Engage in a 1: many model to maximize your time investment.
  • Middle 70% - Focus your energies in the upper, middle as your next superstars live here.
  • Top 10% - Learn from this group, surround yourself with top performers, and be a liaison for great ideas.

4. Learn From Industry Experts

Two executives learning about each other's industries

Ask lots of questions and really dig in. Figure out what is working, where are the opportunities to improve. What unique levers are successful people pulling? Where are your best informational resources? Online? Industry journals or blogs? And be willing to share your learnings as a sort of success currency.

5. Execute Your Vision

Manager executing his vision for the company in a new industry

Be brave enough to take action and own the results. Outstanding results will be self-evident as will the path forward with continual improvement. When things are not going well, be willing to adjust, learn, and re-engage. Do this over and over again looking for improvements in each iteration.

And don't rest on your laurels for too long. There is very little time at status quo in business. In general, things are either growing or they are not.

6. Lead With Transparency

Managers lead their team with transparency during a meeting

It is critical that the team is given clear, concise metrics and results expectations. A few focused goals are better than many, scattered goals. Your communication must be frequent, consistent, and direct. Make sure the individual contributors know clearly how their efforts will impact the goals of the larger organization. Remember SMART goals and, finally, reward good results in public.

7. Monitor Your Results

Executive monitoring her results as she manages in a new industry

Review your reports; learn to see "into" the numbers. And remember, there is no "finish line" here.

This is a journey, always. Think of your portfolio as a living, breathing thing that requires constant nurturing and feeding. Anyone can pull data out of a report; you have to give that data meaning and relevance when you present it.

It is easy to get comfortable after some success. I challenge you to start back at the top and go through the process again when you have been successful. Success can lead to complacency, and that is a short ramp off the highway of top performance. Be willing to go back to a beginner's mind and learn new. It will likely be a bit unpleasant but the investment in time will be well worth it.

One final thought. All the processes in the world will not cover for you if you are missing the single predictor of success, and that is passion. You can't fake passion for very long as people will figure you out. You have to be honest with yourself about how passionate you are for the company, the environment, the role, or the actual work. To be successful in management roles takes time and energy. If you are not passionate, you will not engage with your best effort and do the hard work necessary to be effective.


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