Navigating your new role at the top

December 27, 2013

Nashville Business Journal


With a new supervisory role come new responsibilities. There are two different approaches to getting started. Dive right in, offering direction on day one and letting the whole team know there’s a new “sheriff” in town. Or take a few days, even weeks, to learn about your people and the unique aspects of your new business unit.

If you select the first option, as many do, you will probably achieve some immediate results and the confidence of knowing you took charge quickly. But while you may have firmly established yourself and rallied the team to follow your direction, you may have missed an important opportunity to really learn about your new responsibilities.

Rather than a sprint, option two is a methodical marathon. Pacing yourself allows you to spend some time learning your new job. It will take a little longer to show results, but you could be leading from a much more solid position that could yield greater productivity in the long run.

If you try this method, start by spending individual time with everyone on your team. Learn about each person and the history of your new business unit. Here are some questions to pose that may help you better achieve your goals:

  • What do like best about your job?
  • What frustrates you at work?
  • What support can I provide to help you do your best?
  • What advice would you give me to best lead our team?

This is your chance to get informed before you begin giving direction. At this point, withhold your opinions. Just listen.

Early learning helps you understand business issues from the perspective of those doing the work. Getting to know your team first will help you lead more effectively.

Joe Scarlett is the retired CEO of Tractor Supply Co. He can be reached at

Comments and Discussion:

Posted Jan 3, 2014 at 2:45 PM by Wolf Gugler
As usual, you're exactly correct Joe. I've seen the opposite lead to frustration, hostility and turnover. I appreciate the concise management info pieces you turn out that I can in turn recommend to my clients. Happy New Year!

Posted Jan 3, 2014 at 2:17 PM by Grant
Joe, Happy New Year! I hope 2014 is a great one for you and your family. I just wanted to drop you a note to thank you for your blogs on leadership. They often give me great, actionable nuggets of information. Take care, Grant

New HR Executive

Posted Jan 3, 2014 at 9:44 AM by Wendy
This is precisely what our new HR executive did and she quickly earned the respect and trust of the HR team.


Posted Jan 3, 2014 at 9:00 AM by Margaret Reynolds
Joe, What a great point! It is the "tortoise and hare" story. Happy New Year! Margaret

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