First, talk to your new boss. Find out what expectations she or he has in mind for you. Discuss your own goals and aspirations for the job. Write it all down. Keep a copy for yourself and give one to your boss. Make sure the goals are realistic but ambitious. If you aren’t certain what your boss expects, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll deliver. If you don’t know what decisions you should be making and which one you should be getting help with, ask about that too. There’s no such thing as too much information during these first three months. Most bosses aren’t particularly good at coaching their direct reports, so you might have to pull the coaching out of them.
Talk to the people who report directly to you, your direct reports. Mirror the discussion you had with your own boss. Make sure that you and they know what you expect and find out what they need from you to get results. Remember, they are more nervous about having you as a boss than you are about being one. Communication is the only way to ameliorate the tensions.
When appropriate, talk to clients or customers. What do they appreciate that they want you to continue to deliver? What do they see as areas of improvement? Giving them what they want is the key to your success, so don’t be tempted to overlook these conversations.
Find a mentor who is not your boss. Reams of evidence exist to support the conclusion that help from others is significant. The trouble is, you’re probably an independent sort who is where you are because you are self-reliant and resourceful. That worked then; other things work now. You are sailing in uncharted seas now that you have a new job, so you will need to benefit from the sage advice of those who have gone before you. The mentor can be a person in the organization who is more senior, or the mentor can be someone outside the company whose advice you value. Usually, just inviting the person to have lunch with you once a month will be flattering enough for most to accept. (By the way, you should pick up the check!)
Read. Read anything and everything. Certainly you should read a daily newspaper and the industry periodicals. But you should also read a news magazine and the Wall Street Journal. If your city has a weekly business journal, read that too. At any given time, you should have read at least two books on the best seller list. In addition to giving you valuable information, this reading will make you a more interesting person. When I meet successful executives, I am constantly amazed at the sheer volume of their reading. No matter what subject comes up, they have read a little about it. Successful executives also read challenging novels for pleasure. How do they find the time? They don’t watch much television, and they protectively guard their leisure time.