In today's business climate, the pressure on new leaders to quickly produce a notable business contribution is enormous, and too many struggle to get their feet beneath them. According to a Corporate Executive Board (CEB) study of 5,400 new leaders, more than 40% of leaders underperform when transitioning into a new position, affecting the productivity of nearly half of an organization's workforce in any given year.
While CEB's research found that achieving a "quick win" is perceived as critical, those leaders who achieve a victory early in their roles actually stand the best chance of going off the rails in the future. They fall prey to the quick win paradox. These leaders feel an urgent need to demonstrate success quickly in their new roles, but engage in destructive behaviors such as focusing excessively on details, reacting negatively to criticism, jumping to conclusions, and micromanaging employees. These behaviors undermine longer-term success in their new role.
CEB research found that the best new leaders avoid the risk of long-term underperformance by scoring collective quick wins instead of trying to achieve immediate successes on their own. By excelling at team-building, managing change, and developing people, these leaders work with their teams to achieve early wins together and in turn better position the group for long-term success
To help new leaders sidestep the quick wins paradox, companies should redefine their expectations for early success. Recognizing the uncertainty of this adjustment period for new leaders and their teams, companies should also develop leaders' change-management capabilities and engage the leaders' peers, direct managers, and teams in the pursuit of collective quick wins.