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6 Strategies For Success In A New Role

“You want me to do what?” Those were the words I spoke when I was asked to run the Psychiatric Care Unit at a major level one trauma center. Nothing in my past would indicate that I was qualified for the position. Why were they asking me to take on the challenge?

Then, I remembered a brief request that I made to the VP of Human Resources sharing that I was open to a new challenge. If I could contribute to the organization at a greater level, I’d love to be considered. About a year later, the organization fell on difficult times, and the decision was made to reduce staff. Every employee who didn’t “touch the patient” became concerned about their job, including me. Then, in just one day, more than 150 positions were eliminated. We were stunned and hoped it was over. Those of us who didn’t “have the talk” thought we were safe.

The next morning, I was summoned to the office of the vice president of patient care. We had a leadership workshop planned for her leaders, so I grabbed my folder and headed over assuming she wanted to make a few changes to the topics. As I walked into the office, there sat not only the VP of patient care, but also, the VP of human resources, the same two women who had conducted many difficult conversations the day before! Instinctively, I decided that I was there to be laid off and felt panic. I looked at the two ladies and said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that was what this meeting is about. I didn’t bring my employee badge.” The two ladies laughed and said, “Well, that’s not what this is about. You are not about to be laid off.” “Then you better get to the point quick,” I replied. The VP of patient care looked at me and said, “OK, we want you to run our psychiatric care unit.” I laughed and responded, “No, really, why am I here?” However, they were telling the truth.

During the next two years, I met the bomb squad, the SWAT team, and I had my life threatened by an anonymous caller. Although all of that rose my adrenalin level, and were rare events even for a psychiatric facility, I learned, and grew, so much during those two years. I learned about people and their real challenges, the desperate need for community mental health services, a new way to lead people during significant change, and how to navigate a very complicated insurance payment system.

Having now experienced multiple transitions throughout my career, I realized often limited resources and little time is spent on preparing people for their career transitions. There are many people, like me, who move into new roles and struggle with new expectations.

If you in a new role or are about to move into one, consider these six strategies for success.

1. Know Yourself. Understand your strengths and how they can be beneficial to the new organization. Take personality inventories, self-assessment quizzes, and ask for feedback, with the intent of gaining a better understanding of yourself. Take assignments and roles that may leverage your strengths and help you become a strong contributor quickly.

2. Know the Industry. Join industry email threads. Research articles, journals, blogs, and other sources that provide updates and trends.

3. Adapt Your Communication Style. Review the website, recruitment material, emails, and other communications you receive from the organization. Look for hints as to their culture and communication style. Determine communication norms and adapt your style to one that will help you become the most effective.

4. Be Positive. Not only is it important that you are positive about your current role, but discussions regarding previous roles and teams also need to stay positive.

5. Ask for Help. As with any new role, it is important to seek the help you need. Even if you come with extensive experience, it is tempting to move forward as if the things that made you successful elsewhere will work in your new role. If you are unsure, ask for the help you need, thereby demonstrating a willingness to learn and building solid relationships and trust with the team more quickly.

6. Build Relationships. Build strong relationships at every level in the organization. Ask for suggestions of people throughout the organization whom you should meet. That includes people in the department you will need to work with on projects, people who are the best at a particular skill, and people who understand the politics of the organization. Proactively set up meetings with them to learn their perspective and what is known to contribute to success.

My transition experiences led me to write a soon to be published book, That Would Have Been Nice To Know. Insights and Advice from People Who Have Made Successful Career Transitions. The book compiles the information gained from 28 people who have embraced significant career changes and their tips for success. If you want to learn more about the book or if I can help you with your career journey, please don’t hesitate to contact me at!


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