Those new to a position are often so eager to impress others that they fail to ask for help until it’s too late. It’s easy to believe that things “will get better” but they rarely do on their own. And “figuring it out” isn’t a great strategy either – if you knew how to do something or act, you would have done it already. As a result, what I see time and time again is that people flounder until they have dug themselves into a hole that is nearly impossible to dig out of.

The key to getting out of trouble as a new leader is staying out of trouble. Intentionally setting your expectations and cultivating a culture from the get-go instead of letting one emerge by default. Asking for help from the start. Paying for coaching on your own if necessary. Seeking out feedback from all sides (above, peers, supervisees) and making course corrections early in your tenure. Making time for personal reflection and learning from missteps as well as triumphs.

But the idea of staying ahead of the game applies in so many areas beyond supervision. It’s easier to maintain your health/mental health than to reclaim it. Easier to reach out to others and sustain relationships than to repair a broken one. Far better to curb spending and stay out of debt than to dig out after overspending. Easier to succeed if you work on your weight when you have a little to lose instead of a lot.

Once you are covered in figurative mud – from any malady – your initial investment of time and effort is diverted to first be to remove the mud before you can make any progress forward. So, if you’re sensing warning signs that things aren’t trending in your favor, ask for help right then. It’s much easier to let others keep you out of the hole instead of requiring them to dig you out of it later.

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