What to do in the first 30 days!
So you’ve just accepted the offer from the new company to be their CTO and you start in two weeks. Lots of things are probably going through your mind like will you get along with the CEO, will the team respect you, will you meet all the goals, etc. Hopefully one thing that you will spend some time thinking about is what you will do in the first thirty days of the new job. Here are some do’s and don’ts that we have either done or seen over the years. And yes, for those of you who we’ve managed in the past no need to comment that we’ve done some of the don’ts…that’s how we know not to do them. In all seriousness feel free to comment and call us out on them, they might serve as reminders to others.
Don’t make edicts. A big no-no is to jump in demanding that things be done a certain way. For better or worse the company has run for a while without you and unless it is critical do not change their path until you understand what decisions brought them to this point.
Don’t try to be their best friend. You are ultimately there to be the boss and will have to make some very hard decisions about people including salaries and employment. You can be social, informal, casual, and easy going but there is a line that you should not cross.
Don’t keep saying “this is how we did it at my old job”. You are no longer at your old job and everything you did there will not work here for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that the new company is a different culture.
Don’t try to impress them with your brilliance. There is no need to be overbearing with your knowledge of design patterns or the newest version of Hibernate. There will be plenty of time for people to figure out your skills and intellect, let it come out naturally, not forced.
Do meet everyone 1-on-1. Definitely meet every one of your direct reports and if possible their direct reports in the first thirty days. Ask questions and learn about their career, family, goals, and challenges. Answer questions about yourself but stay away from spending 2/3 of the meeting giving a speech about your background.
Do get involved in discussions but listen more than talk. Attend all the important meetings such as Architectural Review Boards, Product Council Meetings, Change Management Meetings, etc but listen at least 3 times as much as you talk.
Do get hands on training on the application, source code control system, environments, etc. Learn what the developers, QA engineers, and others go through by getting some of them to stop by and help you setup an environment on your desktop. You might not be a programmer and you might never check-in a line of code into Git but you should understand the basic process.
Do set goals. Work with your boss on setting goals for yourself and your teams. If goals are already set this is a great chance to review the progress and modify them if necessary. This will probably be your only grace period so take advantage of the opportunity to have frank discussions on why these goals and not others.
Obviously there are a lot of other tactical and strategic things you will need to accomplish during your first thirty days but hopefully these will give you some ideas of thing you should work towards as well as what things to avoid. If you have some do’s and don’ts for your first thirty days let us hear about them.