CTech's Book Review: Setting the foundations for a successful career

Dana Poleg, CMO at Five Sigma, shares insights after reading “The First 90 Days” by Michael D. Watkins

Dana Poleg 11:5311.01.22
Dana Poleg is the CMO at Five Sigma, a company that has developed an insurance claims management platform. She has joined CTech to share a review of “The First 90 Days” by Michael D. Watkins.


Title: “The First 90 Days”

Author: Michael D. Watkins

Format: Book

Where: Home


Dana Poleg is the CMO at Five Sigma. Photo: Heftsy Elgar/Amazon Dana Poleg is the CMO at Five Sigma. Photo: Heftsy Elgar/Amazon




Transitions are critical times for leaders. In fact, most executives agree that moving into a new role is the biggest challenge a manager will face. While transitions offer a chance to start fresh and make needed changes in the organization, they also place leaders in a position of acute vulnerability. This book offers proven strategies for conquering the challenge of transition - no matter where you are in your career.


By walking you through every aspect of the transition scenario, Watkins identifies the most common pitfalls new leaders encounter and provides the tools and strategies you need to avoid them. You'll learn, for example, how to secure early wins, an important first step in establishing yourself in your new role.


Each chapter also includes checklists, practical tools, and self-assessments to help you assimilate key lessons and apply them to your own situation.


Important Themes:


  • The first 90 days in a new role are critical. Success or failure during the first few months is a strong predictor of overall success or failure in the new job.
  • Transitions are a period of acute vulnerability because you lack established working relationships and a detailed understanding of your new role.
  • The goal in every transition is to get as rapidly as possible to the "break-even point", the point in which you have contributed as much value to your new organization as you have consumed from it.
  • Some of the most common "transition traps" are: sticking with what you know, setting unrealistic expectations, attempting to do too much, coming in with "the" answer, and engaging in the wrong type of learning.


The good news is there are things you can do to dramatically accelerate your transition into your new role and make it successful. Some of them are:


  • Making a mental break from your old job and preparing yourself for the new one.
  • Matching your strategy to the specific situation you are getting into.
  • Securing early wins to build credibility and create momentum.
  • Building your team.
  • Negotiating success - build a productive working relationship with your new boss.

What I’ve Learned:


This book "The First 90 Days" was recommended to me by Renee Russel, a professional mentor I worked with a couple of years ago. She suggested I read the book as I step into my new role as the CMO of Five Sigma.


The book gave me a really good step-by-step master plan on what to do and how in the first 90 days after being appointed to my new position. There are many takeaways, but the main one is that getting into a new role requires deep preparation in many dimensions:


  • Spiritually: Getting mentally prepared for the new challenge and letting go of the past and accepting my new duties and responsibilities.
  • Intellectually: Making sure I identify all the gaps I have and that I engage in the right kind of learning. If you don’t acquire enough knowledge about the organization and its business operations, you can set wrong hypotheses, which are fatal for the company and your career.
  • Relationships: building strong relationships with my boss, my peers, and my team. All require deep thinking and thoughtful actions. Relationships are the key to success.




The book discusses all sorts of transitions: a new role in a new organization, a new role in the same organization, moving up or moving sideways.


I was specifically interested in a situation of moving up into a new role and a new organization, as such some examples were more relevant for me.


Who Should Read This Book:


This book is a MUST for any leader who is getting into a new role. Taking the time to read and prepare will dramatically increase your ability to succeed in your new role.