LONDON, United Kingdom — For today’s fashion workforce, a leadership position is the driving force behind career progression. In BoF’s Best Companies to Work for in Fashion 2017, a third of 2,600 survey participants said that leadership and development opportunities was their number one driver for overall job satisfaction. However, BoF’s survey also found a third of employees were not satisfied with their managers’ leadership style.
To help you navigate your ascent to authority, BoF sat down with Musa Tariq, who shares advice from his experience in senior leadership roles at Burberry, Nike, Apple and Ford Motor Company.
First Impressions Count — The First 30 Days
As a new leader, your appointment is to challenge the status quo and improve the organisation. However, avoid the temptation to launch straight at the weakest assets before assessing the team’s current way of working. You need to understand why the team went down that route in the first place. As a leader, you are accountable for your decisions, and if you cannot explain why the previous method of working was not effective, your workforce might not cooperate.
“The first 30 days should be focused on listening to people and spending time with all the stakeholders in that organisation to try and understand why things are done the way they are. Listen and ask important questions,” advises Tariq.
Formulating a Strategy — Days 30 – 60
For your next 30 days, you can write your initial strategy — informed and equipped with your team’s support and cooperation. This plan will help you achieve your objectives, set out what you hope to learn in that period of time and how you are going to bring about change. Your schedule might differ from the 30/60-day approach — you might not have the luxury of time on your side. However, collaboration with your team over any period of time allows for a firm grounding at the start of your leadership role.
“Set that expectation up with your boss on your first day,” says Tariq. “Let them know that you're going to take 30 days to listen and 30 days to put a plan together.”
You're Never Too Senior to Make Friends — Day 60+
To succeed in any role, optimising your social capital remains fundamental. Retaining working relationships should not end once you reach a leadership role — in fact, it is crucial when you rely on your team and other departments for support. Indeed, entering a leadership role can also be the hardest time to make friends. Some former colleagues might feel threatened by your new position; some new colleagues might be sceptical of your abilities. This is the time to show them that you are not there as a threat, but as a team player.
“I would encourage you to make friends in this period of time,” suggests Tariq. “This is the time to build relationships with people. You have to make time for lots of people. If you're the chief executive officer of a company, you're likely to be working a lot harder than someone who decides to be on the director level of marketing the organisation. This impacts the life and lifestyle that you live.”