Just think, for a moment, of all of those obvious ‘landmark’ events in your life that might get you a little jittery or anxious. Your first date with someone you like, your wedding day, the birth of your first child… that kind of thing.
Well, starting a new job is certainly another one. After all, when you enter an unfamiliar workplace for the first time, you’ve effectively only got three months to earn trust in that new role. Research indicates that if you fail to accomplish this, you’re unlikely to be able to gain the credibility you’ll need to fulfil the requirements of the role and further your career.
I know – I’ve been in similar positions myself! So, drawing upon my past experience, what would I say are three of the things that you should especially consider when taking on a new role?
Find out early what you’re being measured on
It’s vital to not only set initial goals with your manager, but also, in the process, discuss how your role fits alongside theirs, and the business’s overall objectives. In short, what does “good” actually look like in this role?
Whatever goals you determine together, you should always make sure you focus on what is expected of you, rather than going off and doing something merely because it’s interesting to you.
In summary, ask your boss: “Six months from now, how will you know that you have hired the right person in me? What will I have delivered?”
Establish a great relationship with your boss
Always remember that your relationship with this person is your most influential one in terms of whether you succeed or fail – so it needs to be good! Share with your boss what will help you to do a fantastic job for them, and in turn, ask them what support they’d like from you so that they can do their best work.
Really pin down with them, too, when the two of you will have one-to-ones and give or receive feedback. Oh, and what are the other ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of working with them? The latter is something that you might find out about by asking someone else who works closely with them.
To give an example, one boss once told me: “If you make a mistake, don’t let me hear it from someone else, tell me direct – I don’t like surprises.”
This told me that she tolerated mistakes – which do, after all, happen to everyone from time to time – and would have my back if she was talking to others. However, it also showed that she demanded honesty, transparency and above all, accountability from me.
I also asked this boss when the best time was to ask her questions, given that her diary seemed to be blocked all day, every day. She replied: “Call me when I am on my hands-free (mobile) between 7am and 8am. I’m happy to receive a friendly interruption to my morning commute.”
This saved me the anxiety of feeling like I would be interrupting her during meetings, and confirmed that she was happy to give me additional coaching between one-to-ones, especially during my first three months in the job.
Don’t be too quick to judge or make changes in your first few months
Instead, take the time to ‘floor walk’. Did you know, for instance, that on joining the BBC, Greg Dyke took eight months to ask staff questions about what they did and what they saw as needing to be changed, before making any significant announcements?
He did this because he realised just how important it was to build relationships and establish context, especially in a large and complex organisation like the BBC. Remember that what worked well at your last place may not work so well in your new one.
It’s therefore vital to first seek to understand; then, once you have grasped the context and gained the trust of those involved, you will find it easier to make changes. This is an especially important tip for leaders, and if that describes you, you might be interested to learn more about my Success in New Role Programme, in which I can put together the perfect development plan for you.
Would you like to discuss with me how I could help you to fulfil your goals as a professional and flourish in your organisation, including when you are taking on a new role? If so, I’d be delighted to hear from you; simply drop me a line or give me a call today.