You’ve arrived in your new role, leading a team or a project. Perhaps you’ve returned from a long leave, or started in a new organisation. Did you know you’ll need strong navigation skills to help you succeed quickly?
You’ll first need a map of the territory you’re heading into: an organisation chart covering all the key business areas. Using this, you can see where authority resides and who makes decisions. Perhaps there’s a strategy document or mission statement? You could create your own stakeholder map too, to help identify the people who’ll matter most to you and where you need to pay attention to key relationships. This is the domain of influencing, a high-order set of skills in the navigator’s toolbox.
To help understand the terrain ahead, it’s always good to refer to a legend that explains signs and signals, jargon and local terminology. With luck, your legend will be a real person; a mentor or coach gets you across the thresholds quicker.
For the sake of accurate estimations about how long it will take you to get anywhere, don’t forget to consider the scales that apply. For example, can you get promoted in three months or three years? How ‘close-up’ will you be managed? What are the norms in the organisational culture?
Now, assuming you have a destination in mind and a time-frame, it’s time to plan your route. Check you have adequate resources (e.g. budget, time, support, client accounts) to give yourself the best chance of success. What is the easiest way to step out of the comfort zone and onto the trail, picking up momentum quickly and demonstrating rapid progress? Your route choice will be affected by conditions on the ground (reality!) and environmental factors (your markets, the economy, competitors, etc).
Smart navigators know how to use their map to help them travel smoothly. They keep aligned with key features – in this case, organisational structures and processes – and they use check-points to see how they’re doing and whether they need to amend their plan or adjust their course. It’s better to stop, look around and think for a minute rather than hope you’re still going the right way.
When there’s a team of people coming along with you, it’s always good if you can make the navigation look easy. They don’t need to know your decision process at every junction, but they do want to enjoy the journey and feel motivated to get to the end of it together. Congratulations - you’re layering your group management skills on top of your navigational prowess, and you’re going to reach the top!