In this article, let us look at what to do during your first days on the job.
Tip #1: let go of the past - including what worked
The risk when we get a new role, whether it is a similar mandate in a new firm or a different position in your existing employer, is simply to do more of the same. After all, the reason you landed this new role is because you were good at the previous one so there is some logic to sticking to what you're good at. But doing the same will land you in one of two traps. First is "the blindness trap" whereby you fail to see what you need to do in order to fit into your new environment. You simply don't get that this is different. You came from a pharmaceutical company or a bank and you are still at a pharmaceutical company or at a bank. Be mindful that each company has its culture, its way of getting things done. Even within a company, one division could operate quite differently from another.
The second trap is "the success trap" whereby you fail to appropriately adapt to your new surroundings. You do not make enough changes to how you function. What worked at Firm ABC may not necessarily work at Firm XYZ. What worked in Role 6 will not necessarily be relevant in Role 7. Take time to assess which among your strengths, skills and capabilities you will need and which ones could be liabilities. You may also need to develop new skills, tap into little-used strengths.
Tip #2: be ready to learn
Since you need to adapt, how might you go about it? Otherwise said, what do you need to learn? To learn first? To learn the fastest? Indeed, as there could be quite a lot to learn, you may need to prioritize your learning focus in order to get a rapid bang for your buck. The first stage is therefore to become clear about your learning agenda and eventually to develop a learning plan to ensure you correctly and comprehensively learn the things which will enable you to be successful in your role.
A learning plan will contain the topics you have identified you need to learn. Those I personally tend to divide between so-called technical or logistical aspects, and more psychological elements. Let me illustrate with an example. You learn that you need to go to a certain committee to get approval - that's the logistical aspect. You learn how the committee functions, how often it meets, how much notice it requires to put an item on its agenda - that's a bit of a technical aspects. Technical and/or logistical aspects tell you how to navigate your work environment in order to get things done.
Next in your learning plan come the psychological elements. Returning to my committee example, the psychological element of your learning will be to find out who among the committee members are the most influential and devise ways to become acquainted with them. Psychological elements tell you how to approach your colleagues in order to get their support.
In addition to what to learn about, your learning plan needs to identify your learning sources, who you will learn from. Who might these people be? Where in the organisation are they? What level of seniority - bearing in mind that Personal Assistants or junior team members may be fountains of information. Should your learning sources all be from within the company or the division or indeed might an outside offer an interesting take on how things work - someone at a competitor or another division. Take care to carefully consider your learning agenda and to keep it dynamic: your learning sources will tell you about things to learn you haven't thought of.
Tip #3: deliver quick wins
Quick wins allow you to show what you can do. Giving you this new role represents an investment made in you and quick wins allow you to demonstrate that this investment is a worthwhile one. Another way to look at this is that hiring you consumed value and that you need to generate some back. Many people struggle when it comes to identifying their quick wins so here are some thoughts.
It's about impact which means that your quick win or wins need to be visible and come through fairly quickly. Many of us work on projects which take months to come to fruition but getting the business case approved is a clear quick win - something noticeable because it is a key milestone. As well as the visibility element and the quickness aspect, note that a quick win can be small - that does not detract from its positive impact. So, in finding your quick wins, use tactical thinking rather than working out a complex strategy. Your quick win will be all the more appreciated that it was hard to achieve so be demanding but of course be sure to pick something which can actually be achieved. Lastly, your quick win or wins can be more on the quantitative side - such as reducing costs or some efficiency improvement - or more on the qualitative side - such as reorganising the team to better allocate talent. In line with what I noted above, resist the temptation to just do what you used to do: rather than proving yourself, it could land you in a world of trouble.
Tip #4: assess your team
Picking up from my point about the psychological elements of your learning agenda, it will be important for you to prioritise meeting people during your first days in your new role. You will need to meet your team as well as your colleagues - I will touch on this in my last tip below.
Whether you are a manager taking on a new team or simply a professional joining an existing team, getting to know your team is fundamental though the manager will need to do more in that space clearly. Firstly your team is one of your learning sources: it will be interesting to hear different viewpoints and to discover others' strengths which can complement your own. Develop a sense of the team's morale as well as of its current effectiveness: it will give you an idea about where to fit in.
As a manager, I encourage you to be visible and accessible. Hold townhall meetings, answer questions and create a newsletter. Is there a resource angle to tackle? Do you need to recruit to bring in missing competencies? Do you need to organise training? Or do you need to trim the sails? The assessment phase should give you a good idea of what your team can do: bear that in mind as you articulate a strategy. Finally, in a large team, identify your "captains" and create leverage.
Tip #5: make new friends
Inside the company, folks outside your team are also potential learning sources as they may be more objective. But they might also have their own agenda... Even in a medium-sized firm, identifying whom to meet, in what order and in what context can quickly become a headache. Your first port of call should be your line manager: ask them for recommendations of whom to meet. And ask everyone you meet whether they advise you to meet someone else. As you progress, create your stakeholder map: a map of those individuals in the organisation whom you need to work with or for, collaborate, be visible with. Identify sources of power which may break hierarchical lines.
When you meet people, ask open questions and work to their agendas rather than trying to tell them about you - wait for them to ask about you. Some people find that having a list of the five key questions they want to ask everyone is helpful in being structured and staying on track. In terms of how to meet, think about a mix of one-on-ones and collective gatherings. For one-on-one's, consider office meetings - theirs or yours? - lunches and coffee breaks. Group-wise, think about holding workshops to foster brainstorming as well as attending meetings such as another team's.
So there you have it - a quick review of how to approach this new role of yours with a view to make a good impression, demonstrate your capabilities quickly and integrate yourself in your new environment. How does that land with you? is that also how you proceed when you start a new job?