Slow Down to Speed Up: Managing the Transition from Peer to Partner

Register now

IMGCAP(1)]It’s the milestone you’ve worked toward for your entire career—promotion to partnership. After the announcement’s been made, you revel in the excitement and recognition of what you’ve achieved.

The promotion “honeymoon” quickly subsides as the reality of your new role hits. There is a shift in how you’re perceived. The partner title comes with new authority, ownership and visibility. You can barely keep your head above water with the increased responsibilities and demands on your time (and hoping no one will notice), which is the moment to ask: What are the most important factors for you to be successful now and in the long term?

Gaining the clarity you need during defining moments of your career can be transformative. One proven strategy is to “slow down to speed up.”

After entering the partnership, it is tempting for new partners to continue the relentless drive for results that got them promoted in the first place. Many new partners feel highly pressured internally to validate their promotion by achieving quick wins. But by focusing only on the short term, they can miss the unique window they have to create a foundation for success for the rest of their career.

Role transitions are powerful opportunities that, if managed well, lead to exponential personal growth and professional success. In fact, after having coached more than 3,000 executives in transition, EY’s in-house leadership and team-coaching network discovered this: successful transitions focus on relationships first, results second.

Leaders who have thrived during their transition and had the most long-term success paid close attention to and nurtured four kinds of core relationships. These are:

1. Connections (Your Relationship with Others)
First and foremost, as a new partner, you need to invest in the relationships that matter most to your success. Get clarity on:

• Who will support me personally?
• Who will sponsor me professionally?
• Who has the experience, skills and knowledge to best mentor me now?
• What relationships do I need to foster to build my internal and external network?

2. Openness (Your Relationship with Yourself)
Marshall Goldsmith coined a timeless leadership principle: “What got you here won’t get you there.” Your identity as a leader and owner of a business needs to evolve with your new role and responsibilities. Delve deep and understand the characteristics and skills that helped you get here and what you need to develop next. Get more clarity on:

• What are strengths I can capitalize on?
• What no longer serves me well?
• What new skills and behaviors should I develop to help me thrive?

3. Role (Your Relationship with Your Work)
Partnership comes with many new responsibilities, but unfortunately it doesn’t include more hours in the day. Part of becoming a great partner and inspirational leader is separating the truly important actions from the merely insistent demands and learning to effectively prioritize them. As the scope of your work continues to evolve, you will build your confidence and create a pace you are able to sustain for the long term. You can achieve this by asking yourself:

• Who’s in charge in this relationship—am I running my work or is work running me?
• What’s expected of me?
• What does personal success look like in the first 100 days and beyond?
• How well am I balancing the pressure for short-term revenue with building a pipeline of business for tomorrow?

4. Environment (Your Relationship with the Culture)
As a partner, there’s a whole new set of norms to understand and a different level of leadership to display. You’ve entered a new culture with different expectations, both inside and outside of your firm. It’s essential to establish your personal brand with clients, teams and peers that authentically and consistently represents the best version of you. To do this, clarify for yourself:

• What do I want to be known for?
• What can people expect from me in every interaction?
• How do I want people to experience me?
• Is my behavior enhancing or detracting from my trustworthiness and credibility?

Focusing on these four core relationships will be a game changer as you navigate this leadership transition and those to come. Slow down to speed up, and get the clarity you need to become the leader you want to be and the type of leader the world needs.

Janice Smith is EY Americas director of leadership and team coaching.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.