Your ‘stepping-up checklist’ for that demanding new role

Your ‘stepping-up checklist’ for that demanding new role Getting that coveted position is not the end of the transition from one job to another

Ed Batista

Stepping up: we can fail to appreciate how much hard work is required after we’ve made taken on a new job to ensure that it’s a successful one

Stepping up: we can fail to appreciate how much hard work is required after we’ve made taken on a new job to ensure that it’s a successful one

Careers involve numerous transitions when we “step up” into a new role, typically one with greater rewards, bigger responsibilities and higher stakes.

We’re well aware that these opportunities come as the result of effort and diligence in our previous role, but we can fail to appreciate how much hard work is required after we’ve made the transition to ensure that it’s a successful one.

The senior leaders in my coaching practice and my MBA students at Stanford are often in the midst of one of these transitions, and my work with them has highlighted a set of issues that we should address when stepping up, along with a corresponding set of critical questions to ask along the way as a kind of “stepping-up checklist”.

A new culture

Even when we’re staying within the same company, we may be moving into a new subculture, where the formal signs and artefacts look the same, but their informal meanings and interpretations are quite different. Before stepping up, consider:

- How would we characterise our previous organisational culture – and how has that culture influenced us?

- How would we characterise the culture we’re entering?

- What might feel different in the new culture – and how might we turn those differences to our advantage?

- What might we miss about the old culture – and how might we compensate for those changes?

- How can we get feedback on our efforts to adapt to the new culture?

- How might we influence the new culture to adapt to us?


There’s generally a great deal of continuity between roles when we set up, but it’s important to look for the differences and to anticipate where they will challenge us.

- In what ways does this new opportunity differ from our previous role?

- How will those differences require us to stretch beyond our comfort zone?

- How far are we prepared to go? How far is too far?

- What support will we need to stretch ourselves successfully?


Typically the more senior the role, the less structured the onboarding process, and this is particularly true in startups and other small enterprises. The key is to think like an organisation and take responsibility for our own onboarding.

- What do we need to do the first week, 30 days, quarter?

- Who do we need to meet, and what’s the best way to connect with them?

- What don’t we know – and what will we be expected to know?

- How do we ask for help or guidance if we are struggling?


Sufficient sleep, regular exercise, a healthy diet and some form of mindfulness practice are the essential building blocks of self-care. At more senior levels, optimum performance isn’t the result of intellectual horsepower or longer work hours – it’s about being in the best possible mental, emotional and physical condition to maximise our focus and to support effective decision-making and interpersonal interactions.

- What forms of self-care – sleep, exercise, mindfulness, diet – have the greatest impact on our personal effectiveness?

- What are our most effective self-care routines, and how might we keep these routines intact?

- What routines do we struggle to maintain – and how might we get some help?

Professional development

Finally, stepping up means taking ownership of our long-term development as professionals.

- What developmental resources are available to us in this role?

- What resources might be made available if we asked for them?

- How might we sustain those informal relationships - or cultivate new ones - with people who have an interest in our continued development?

- How might we establish some regular time for reflection?

- What sources of feedback are available to help us gauge our progress? –

Copyright Harvard Business Review 2015


Previously published in The Irish Times.


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