3 Questions Leaders Must Answer to Engage Stakeholders in Change

I have made a career out of leading change.  I enjoy the change process.  It is time-consuming, always difficult, politically dangerous, and often frustrating.  It takes long days, short nights, and meetings.  Lots and Lots of meetings!  Why doesn’t everybody love this?

What makes change worthwhile is when the change has worth.  Change for change sake is a waste of time, energy, resources, and political capital.  The problem is, people never know if the change you are trying to engage them in is change for change sake until you answer three important questions.  If you can answer them to their satisfaction, you will be able to engage people in the change.  If not, well, better luck next time!

Why Do We Need To Change?

Stephen Covey calls this “beginning with the end in mind.”  Leaders must cast a vision.  There is a proverb that says, “Without a vision, the people perish.”  The same is true of a change initiative.  If you cannot connect your change initiative to the Mission and Vision of your organization, assuming that the Mission and Vision itself is accepted, your initiative is doomed from the start.  People will only endure pain, only if it is connected to a greater purpose.  As Quint Studer, leader of the Studer Group consulting firm whose mission is all about changing institutional culture, says, “We must connect to the Why” in order to experience “meaningful, purposeful work.”

What’s In It For Me?

This is a question you must answer for every individual you need to participate in the change.  I used to see this as selfish and annoying.  I believed the greater good should override any self-interest.  That is how I am wired.  As a leader, however, I cannot usually rally enough people to enact significant change without addressing this question.  Additionally, I have discovered by endeavoring to answer this question I achieve far greater results.  This is why.

Answering this question requires meeting with the individuals, hearing their concerns, understanding their current situation and how they believe this change will affect them.  Often you will start to hear major recurring themes among the people involved that will necessitate precursor change prior to the change you envision.  Without this process, the change you plan might fail miserably.  Addressing the issues of the individuals leads to a better outcome and also gains more engagement.

Will This Last?

There is nothing more disheartening to a team than to fully engage in a change and then have some new initiative pull away the focus, resources, and commitment to sustain the change.  Answering this question is always important and applies to any change.  Whether it is an individual person, a department, an entire hospital system or Fortune 500 Company that is engaging in change, people want to know that this is not the flavor of the month.

If you are not 100% sure of the change then consider using a “rapid cycle” change process with a small test of change that is much less resource intense than the complete change initiative.  Make sure the participants understand that this is a test, or a pilot so that if you back out of the initiative, you will not dishearten them and lose them for future change initiatives.  I do caution over-use of this process, especially in professional service industries.  No matter your good intentions, this can often lead to a culture of change fatigue and a perception that the organization enacts change for change sake, and that leaders do not use evidence based thinking.

Final thoughts:

We live in an age where the only thing constant is change.  As leaders, we need to assure our teams that the change we ask of them is ultimately for the long-term viability and stability of our organizations and the needs of the customers we serve.  It cannot be about our pet projects, adding to our fiefdom, or impressing the C-Suite.

Finally, if you do not need to change, don’t!

Good luck finding that scenario!

Want Results as a Leader? Respond, Don’t React!

In my professional life, this week, I had to deal with conflict.  Has anyone other leader had to deal with conflict in the workplace in their career?  If you answered no, please let me know where you work, and tell me if there are any openings!

Today on my “3Rs of Success” blog I will address the 3Rs of Conflict Resolution.

Dealing with conflict on the team is one of the biggest drains on my energy and enthusiasm as a leader.  Yet, if addressed in a positive manner, it can lead to some of the best RESULTS the team can produce.

In order to see those positive fruits out of conflict, the secret is to RESPOND rather than REACT.  Dictionary.com defines the two terms this way:

React:  to act in opposition, as against some force.

Respond:  to react favorably.

When faced with conflict, one can take either of these two approaches.  Which do you think will build the team?  Which do you think will tear it apart?  The answer is pretty self-evident in these definitions, right?  But, what steps do you need to take in order to respond to a conflict, rather than react?

1. Deal with it!  Now!:  The first thing you have to do about conflict is address it!  In my situation this week, conflict had been brewing for a couple of weeks, and I  ”had not had time” to deal with it.   We HAVE to TAKE TIME.  The sooner the better!  It can be the difference between a bump in the road to a 20 car pile up!

2. Begin with the end in mind:  What is the goal of conflict resolution?  Is it to get both sides of the story documented, assign blame and keep score?  I hope not!  The goal should be to bridge the gap caused by the conflict and unify the team.  If a leader keeps that goal in mind it will lead to the positive outcomes that can result from team conflict.

3. Find the underlying issue:  Bad behavior needs to be addressed, but often the behaviors stem from underlying causes that a leader can also affect.  If all we do is confront the behaviors it is like treating the symptoms but ignoring the disease!  If emotions run high because of perceived inequities, we need to address the perception of inequity.  If the inequity is real, we must address the reality.  If inequity is caused by lack of skill sets for part of the team, we need to add to the skills of team members.  You get the idea…   Great leaders dig deep to get at the root causes and effectively deal with them.  They do not believe in Band-Aid approaches!

Thankfully, I have a great team and we worked together to respond to conflict this week.  The results were positive and I believe we can move forward from here with greater trust and unity.  All because we chose to respond rather than react.

Special thanks to the team member who brought up the difference between responding and reacting, inspiring this blog post!

Does anyone else have tips to help us respond rather than react?

What Are Your Kids Learning From You?

I am living a blessed life.  A result, in part, of learning from my Father.

My Dad taught me a lot of important lessons by example.  He was a hard worker.  He was sent off to military school as a tween, then did a tour in the Marines, followed by cooking and managing in restaurants from the Ozark mountains to Washington D.C.  He often took second jobs in construction to make ends meet, and to pay finance payments on campers and boats, as well as fishing and hunting gear with which he had many bonding opportunities with his only son, me!  We probably went fishing, hunting, and or camping at least 15-20 times a year from age 4-13.

I played 3 years of baseball, 3 years of football, and 2 years of basketball before I was 13 and I can only remember my Dad missing 2 games, though he worked 50-60 hours a week.  In addition we shared a passion for Ohio State and Redskins football.  I remember many Saturdays and Sundays spent in our Volkswagen camper behind whatever restaurant he managed with a little 9 inch TV plugged in to an orange extension cord running out the back door of the restaurant, or listening to the game on a big battery-powered radio at a construction site while I “helped” Dad as he hung dry wall.  My Dad definitely taught me to value time with my kids and to find a way to make it work even when working hard.  He taught me to tell my kids I love them often and back it up with a commitment of time and energy.

Other lessons I learned from my Dad were not from things he did well, but from the things he did poorly.  At the age of 6 my Mom left my Dad and me and moved back home to her family.  My Dad never admitted a moral failure suspected by my Mom, nor did he admit to one when he got divorced from his 3rd wife when I was 15, nor did he see anything wrong with marrying his 4th wife, an 18 year-old, when he was 47.  He had no relationship with his two daughters from his first marriage before he married my mom.  Nor did he stay in touch with his three children from his fourth marriage that imploded.

My Dad put energy and effort into relationships as long as they were good for him.  When they were not, he just walked away and started over, but never learned from the mistakes of his past.  This fact marked me, and I have fought to never let that happen to relationships with the ones I love.

At age 11, after uninsured hospitalizations and surgeries for me (benign tumor) and Dad (double hernia) the mountain of debt he had accumulated fell in on him.  We lost our home and everything else we owned (or should I say owed) in bankruptcy.  I promised myself I would not allow that to happen to me, and have been debt averse and savings minded since.

Part of what contributed to the need to file bankruptcy was my Dad’s continuing devolving career.  When I was four, my Dad was on a very successful  management track with Marriott restaurants.  He left because of a falling out with his boss.  The same reason was given when he left employment of three other independently owned restaurants, and a stint at Ft Belvoir’s Army base cafeteria as well.  I remember at least 6 different restaurants he worked at between age 4 and 13.  My Dad was prideful and could not submit to authority.  I swore I would not make that same mistake and have probably been overly loyal to my employer’s in my career, but it has paid off with continued upward mobility.

I often wonder how some people, like me, learn from other’s failures, while others seem to be destined to repeat the same mistakes, generation after generation?  How can I make sure my sons learn from the good and bad they have seen in me to have a better life?  How can we, as leaders, help our teammates overcome their past so they can be productive, engaged and committed?  Finally, if you are a parent, what are your kids learning from you?  Is it what you intended them to learn from you?

FREE Book Offer: “Home Run” by Kevin Myers and John C. Maxwell

If you have been reading my blog (3rsofsuccess.com) you know that I believe that success is not rocket science.  I believe there are basic principles that, when mastered, lead to success.  Just like “Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic” (3R’s) are the building blocks of success in education, any endeavor in life has fundamentals that, when mastered, will cause one to succeed.

In the new book, Home Run, Kevin Meyers (pastor of 12 Stone Church) and his mentor, John Maxwell, give us a basic game plan for a successful life.  They use 4C’s instead of 3R’s but I can overlook that!  These basic principles can be applied to any and all areas of one’s life: business, relationships, artistic endeavors, sports.  I will give you the basics in today’s blog, but you HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!  To that end, I want to give two fortunate people this book for free.  Comment on this blog and you will go into a random drawing.  I will contact the winners for an address to mail their book.  Simple as that!

Myers and Maxwell (M&M) use a baseball diamond as their illustration of how to be succesful in this life.  The four bases are the principles to be mastered if one wants a “Home Run” Life.  They assert that we all start somewhere, (Home Plate) and are all looking to score.  They maintain that to really do so, we need to run the bases well.  Here is a breakdown of the bases:

Home Plate:  Connect with God:  This gives you purpose and connects you to power that can overcome any adversity life can throw at you.  In a culture that idolizes rebellion, they say we must rather acknowledge the reality that we are completely dependent.  If we do that, we are ready to run the bases.

First Base:  Character:  The Personal base.  This is where we get Self Respect, by winning within.  Only by being a person of character first, are we ready to move into scoring position.

Second Base:  Community:  The People base.  This is where we learn to win with others.  We learn here that it is not all about us!  True success in any arena of life comes through serving others well!

Third Base:  Competence:  The Performance base.  This is where we win results.  We are at the top of our game! We are almost there! We are successful, and people see that and admire us.

Our culture in the US is all about performance.  It drives us so much that we want to short cut or cheat the other bases so we can get to third quicker!  We cheat our dependence on God, our development of character and our service to others in the name of getting ahead…  M&M liken this behavior to a tee ball player who is so excited when he hits the ball that he runs the bases backward!  You may get to third quicker, but you have violated the rules of the game and you will be called OUT!

Home Plate:  When we round the bases we end up at Home again.  This second time at home plate, we have scored.  We have created significance with our life because it has been lived connected to purpose, with integrity, serving others in a way that has had impact.

One other great thing about the baseball analogy is that the game is not over until the lights are turned off.  You have another inning… another at-bat.  You can still score the winning run for your team.  There is always hope until the lights go out…

Believe me, I did not do the book justice with this post!  It is full of wisdom mixed with heartfelt transparent stories and truth.  For your chance to win a copy for free, Leave a Comment or click the follow button and subscribe to this blog!  If you do not win, pick it up om Amazon!  Here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Home-Run-Learn-Gods-Leadership/dp/1455577227

WORK ETHIC: There’s No CheckFree, Only PayPal (Re-Post)

I heard a quote from Rory Vaden, New York Times bestselling author of Take the Stairs, recently.  He said, “You always get paid for the work you do; sometimes now, often times later, but always eventually.”  It harkens back to the biblical proverb, “As a man sows, so shall he reap.”

Sometimes, these statements appear not to be true.  For instance, when banks have to be bailed out by trillions of dollars of taxpayer money because they lent without regard to the recipients’ abilities to repay, or when “Green” companies get hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, only to fold without contributing one bit of service or product they promised.  How about when an average family of four pays out over $22,000 per year for their healthcare (recent study)?  Consider when college students default on 10′s of thousands of dollars in student loan money they used to take Spring Break trips to Cancun and pay car payments on their new sports car, but never graduated from college?  And what about those who pour their blood, sweat and tears into a family business, only to see the economy tank, the business fail, and they end up in personal bankruptcy?  This world does not seem to be fair when one looks at these scenarios.  It does not appear that people are reaping what they sow.

That is why I like the Vaden quote.  It helps us get the long-term view and realize that “eventually,” THE HARD WORK WILL PAY OFF.  The application of this truth in the work place is best explained by the “Flywheel Principle,” offered by Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great.  The concept is that you have a massive 5,000 pound steel wheel that lies horizontal on its axis. One push will not move it, but consistent force, over time, in a constant direction, starts the flywheel in motion. It moves, oh so slowly at first, then faster and faster, until at some point the momentum of the flywheel is greater than the force of all the pushing, causing it to spin on its own.

That is how we see Vaden’s quote becomes real in our work life.  If we work consistently, doing the everyday things every day, we will build momentum.  We will start to accomplish more in less time as we continue to push toward our clear direction.  If we let up, we will lose momentum.  If we are not clear about our direction, we will lose ground.  But if we continue, day in and day out to deliver our best, it will pay-off for our organizations, our customers, and for our careers and personal growth.

Still skeptical?  How can I know that will really happen?

The truth is I cannot prove it to you.  It is a leap of faith.  Millions of people everyday check out and give up on the process.  The flywheel feels more like a millstone grinding them down, day after day, so they quit.  I wonder how many were one push away from the momentum swing that would have led them to the success they had been striving for?  The principle can apply in any arena; work, marriage, parenting, personal finance, etc.

Whatever areas you are fighting to succeed in, I encourage you to keep on pushing.  Also, if you have been through the process and your flywheel is humming, jump over to help someone else push on theirs.  The only thing more exciting than personal success is helping someone else achieve theirs!

In the end, you will reap what you sow.  There is no free ride, no Checkfree.  If you want to succeed, you are going to have to PayPal!

THE KEY to Success? Take This 30-Day Challenge!

GENEROSITY

Today I put forth the hypothesis that this single trait is the key to success in all areas of our lives; career, relationships, legacy, and even spirituality.  If we master this one thing, we will be successful.  Why do I believe this?  Because I have eyes and ears, and use them to observe humanity.  This is what I see.

The people who have the kind of success to which we all aspire are givers, not takers.  In great marriages both spouses serve each other rather than ask what the other can do for them.  Successful businesses are ones that consistently deliver great customer-focused service.  Not-for-profits that succeed for generations are the ones that instill a culture to serve and to train those they serve to do the same.  The people who leave a legacy, who have truly impacted the world in a way that out lives them, are the ones that have poured their lives into relationships, causing them to be loved and honored.  Have you ever attended a funeral for one of these people?  It is truly a celebration of a life well-spent.

If you long to have success in all areas of your life, at the core of your nature, you must be generous.  The good news is, as with all character traits, you can practice being generous until it becomes an engrained part of your nature.  As you practice you will experience the rewards of generosity that will reinforce this behavior set, and you will become more generous.

I CHALLENGE you.  For the next 30 days conduct your own generosity experiment.  I will give you a model to follow.  If your life is not better at the end of the 30 day challenge, post your disgruntled account on my blog site for all the world to see I am full of it!

For 30 days, be generous with these three things across the areas of your life in which you want to experience more success.

TIME:  It is the one thing we all have.  In fact it may be the only thing we all have an equal amount of daily, making it the best indicator of where we are on the spectrum of selfishness to generosity!  Look at your calendar, where are you on that spectrum?

If you want to be successful at work I challenge you to devote at least 10% of your work time to help others.  Volunteer for someone else’s project, mentor a junior team member, etc.  If you want success in your marriage, for the next 30 days make more time for your spouse, and spend it doing the things THEY love to do.  If you want to have a better spiritual life, give the first 10% of your waking hours to spiritual disciplines like prayer and scripture readings or sermons via podcasts.

ATTENTION:

Time alone is not enough.  If you want a great relationship with your kids, do not just come home and crash in front of the TV with them.  Break out a board game, read books at bed-time, focus on them.  There is a formula for success that comes to mind here:

Focused Intensity      =     Success                                                                                 Time

Success takes focus.  It is not enough to show up every day at work.  You have to prioritize and focus to succeed.  The best organizations understand and can tell you the ONE thing that will cause them to succeed.  Can you do the same for your life?  Are you focusing your energy on that ONE thing that will cause you to be what you have purposed in your heart to be?  For the next 30 days, FOCUS!

TREASURE:

I have often heard it said, you can tell what is important to a man by looking at his checkbook.   Does yours show you are generous or selfish?  I know it is hard to prioritize giving in our culture of consumption, but for the next 30 days give just a little bit more than you are now and do it in an a setting where you will be able to see the effect.  Pay for the next person in the Starbucks drive thru and watch them in the rear view mirror.  Leave a very generous tip and watch from the waiting area on the way out.  Take a meal to single mother you know that is struggling.  Sponsor a child overseas and interact with them via letters.

Giving is the most fun you can have with money.  When you do it, you will want to do it more!  For the next 30 days, give!  You can have that feeling of watching your kids open presents on Christmas morning every day!

There is the CHALLENGE.  If you accept it, please come back to the blog and tell us what you experienced!

 

What Leadership Lesson Do You Get From Christmas?

It is Christmas Eve!  I want to pause and wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, and a prosperous and successful New Year!  I also want to say thanks for reading my blog this year.  I have enjoyed this process so much, and appreciate all the feedback you have given me.

Of course, since I am typing why not take the time to share and receive insight from each other.  The question of the day is “What lesson does Christmas teach you as a leader?”  I will go first, but please chime in your responses via Linked-in, blog comments, Facebook, email, Twitter Tweet, or whatever method you get this message.  It is the season of giving, so give us all the benefit of your insight!

The Christmas take-away for me as a leader is about the law of sowing and reaping.  In the Bible, both old testament and new refer to this principle.  ”What a man sows, so shall he reap.”  ”Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.”  I believe this core principle is why there are so many successful Jewish businessmen, bankers, physicians, and other professionals.  They truly see business as their ministry, as a Godly endeavor.

I grew up in the US in the 70′s.  I witnessed a horrible period in our culture where this principle was distorted beyond recognition.  Tele-Evangelists were all over network TV in that era. Many of them preached a “Prosperity Gospel” using the principle of sowing and reaping as though it was the PIN to a Heavenly ATM.  All one had to do was give sacrificially (to their ministries) and you could not build barns big enough to hold the blessings God would lavish on you.  Many of these high-profile preachers fell into sin and were publicly humiliated, bringing shame on themselves, their ministries, and the Christian Church.

Because of this, today there is mistrust of Christian church leadership, and Christians in general.  The pendulum has swung to where many believe poverty is next to Godliness and that any one with riches is greedy at best, and very likely a thief or cheat!  All because there is a fundamental failure to understand the true meaning behind the principle of sowing and reaping.

The law of sowing and reaping is a law.  Science has laws (the law of gravity, the 2nd law of thermodynamics, etc) and theories (evolution, or relativity).  Laws are proven.  They will ALWAYS be able to be duplicated and will ALWAYS produce the same result.  That does not mean that the effect will always be visible in every circumstance.  If you go into space and drop a rock from your hand, it will not fall.  That does NOT mean the law of gravity is invalid, just that our understanding of it needs to include what causes gravitational pull and how being in outer space changes the effect gravity has on a rock.

So what does this have to do with Christmas and leadership?  Christmas is summed up in John 3:16.  ”For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have eternal life.’  Our Christmas gift from God was Jesus!  He was the Word made flesh to dwell among us, teach us, and love us.  On the first “Black Friday” he had all our sins laid on him and then he willingly laid down his life, fulfilling another spiritual law “the wages of sin is death.”  Three days later He, being God, conquered that same death and now sits at the right hand of the Father waiting for “whosoever would believe in Him” to accept the Father’s gift of “eternal life” through His sacrifice.

So God the Father sowed one Son and got billions.  The law of sowing and reaping worked.  It always will.  It is law.  But why did God do this?  Was it to gain sons?  Was that His motivation?  Look at John 3:16 and you will see it was not!  He did it because He “so loved the world,” and that through His gift we can have eternal life if we believe in Him.  It was not about God, it was about us!

That is the lesson of Christmas for me.  It is not about me, it is about what I can do to serve others.  If I really want to lead, my motivation has to be to serve.  What about you?  What leadership lesson do you get from Christmas?

Leaders: At Which Stage are You?

I know a wise leader who recently shared about three stages of life that everyone goes through roughly corresponding with benchmark age groups of 1-25, 26-50, and over 50.  As I reflected about these stages later, it occurred to me that the same stages, and lessons for each, also applied to people who aspire to leadership.

Setting the Stage: Ages 1-25

This is the preparation stage.  All the remaining stages depend on getting this one right.  For leaders, it means acquiring the base skills and competencies you will need to perform.  It may include, but not be limited to schooling, internships, selecting/ruling out fields of study and career tracks, cultivating relationships that will help you be the best person possible, and avoiding some that may lead you down rabbit trails away from your goals.  It is a stage for dreaming, exploring, and ultimately choosing.  Wise choices may propel you into the next stage, foolish ones may delay or completely derail you.  The choice is yours and yours alone.  There are no victims in the Leadership track!  If you want to play the victim, pick another line!

 Striving for Success: Ages 26-50

This is the proficiency stage.  You laid a great foundation by working hard and making great choices.  You know what you want to do and now you are beginning to realize that if you want to succeed, the real work has just begun!  The goals you set to leave the preparatory phase and launch into the “real world” looked like a finish line right up until you crossed it.  Now the realization is dawning on you.  All that was just the pre-season!  The real season has begun and all the scrubs are gone.  You are now on the field with the A players who are older, wiser, and more experienced.  But you are prepared and you have something many of them have lost.  You have passion, drive, and “the eye of the tiger!”  You have youth, energy and fresh eyes!  Use them, but find ways to work with others, assisting them and complementing their skills and wisdom with your drive and passion rather than challenging them at every opportunity.

After a number of years, you will be the wise one who has led and succeeded.  You will be the one looking at the new guys coming in as idealists and inexperienced.  You will be the one they might offend with their new way of looking at things that dismisses your tried and true approaches.  When you get there and find yourself reaching out to one of those newbies with wisdom and advice on how she might position her idea in a way to be heard by leadership, you may find your success growing exponentially.  You will leverage the passion and energy of the young and temper it with the real world wisdom you have acquired.  When you get to that place you may find yourself on the threshold of the third stage of leadership.

Sustaining Significance: Age 50 and over

Leaders who get here face a choice between two paths.  They might choose the path of pleasure.  These people choose to only sit back, relax, and remember… They take their hard-earned savings and live out their lives in comfort.  There is not necessarily anything wrong with that, and if someone chooses that option, I will not judge them or be mad at them.  It may be the right path for them.

Others will choose another path.  I call it the path of principle.  People who choose this path believe in a higher calling.  They see the wealth they have accumulated as a tool to leave a legacy.  Some may give large portions away.  Others may use it to fund their life allowing them to be free to serve any where, doing anything they feel called to do, whether or not they ever get paid for that work.  All of them will likely reach back behind them and help others progress through these leadership stages.  They understand that the only real significance is that which out lives them.  Sustained significance comes from preparing the generations behind to face the challenges ahead.

Where do you find yourself?  Do you need a hand up to reach the next level?  How about those behind you?  Who can you help reach the next stage?

Any Advice for the New Guy?

There he is.  The guy in that new office down the hall.  He has that look.  You know, the one that says “where am I, how did I get here, and how do I get where I am really supposed to be?”  Looking at signage, then his watch, leaning in one direction, then the next, finally picking a hall though you can tell he has no clue if he has chosen correctly.

As many of you are aware, I recently changed jobs.  I am that guy.  Although this position is in the same industry I have worked in my entire 28 year career, it is a different environment from any other organization of which I have been a part.  The organization is larger, the campus has been around for a century and the current layout has resulted more from necessity and availability than from planning.  Way finding is not the only issue for which I find myself on the steep slope of the learning curve.

I am two months in and I am currently up to 14 different information systems I must learn to fulfill my job duties.  My new employer’s culture of accountability for managers and directors, with visibility of results, is like I have never seen in my career.  I love that!  However, the new guy that is still learning those information systems to do his job will not always achieve expected results, nor able to document them if he is!

When I was about one month in, I pulled out my consulting hat and had a conversation with myself as the new guy.  Here are the main points of that conversation in case you are the new guy, or you run into one in the hall looking lost!

Remember the serenity prayer

Concentrate on the things you can control, and back burner the things you cannot.  Prioritize among the things you can control with the limited knowledge you have to the best of your ability, and with advice from people you are learning to trust in the organization.  That leads to the second point.

Relationships are the key

Make sure that the bulk of your time is going toward cultivating relationships with the people who hold the keys to success.  The most obvious is your one-up leader.  Make sure he understands the steep curve you are climbing through and that you will not get everything on the list done at first so he can help you prioritize.  Having said that, get to know the other people who will make or break you; staff that work for you, support staff in IT and Finance, peers in other departments that can show you the ropes.  Invest in those relationships.  Find ways to be supportive of them, show your appreciation for the help they have given, and never take them for granted.

Right decisions depend upon accurate information

Experience is a two-edged sword.  It can be very beneficial, but it can also lead to supposition that may or may not apply to a new environment.  Make sure you have the facts before you get to far down a pathway toward a strategy that may or may not apply in your new organization.  This is especially true if that new organization is vastly different from the ones you have experience working in.  Listen and learn first, then when you act, you will be much more likely to have the desired result.  It is OK to go slow.

So, how long has it been since you were the new guy or gal?  What lessons would you impart to the next newbie?  What do you wish someone would have told you?