(Image used with permission. Original: https://simpleprogrammer.com/2016/12/14/new-job/)
- I have always wanted to live and work abroad. I was once in graduate school for English Literature in the UK (Oxford). I loved my time living in a foreign country and wanted this experience again.
- I worked on multiple (7) acquisitions as part of the acquiring company, but have never been part of a company that has been acquired.
- All of my roles have been focused on Marketing Strategy or pure Strategy. Yes, I have run multiple P&L’s, but always as part of a much larger organization. I was hungry to spend time “in the trenches” of a much smaller company part of a larger organization.
Aside from my recent career move, I have been promoted (in multiple companies) around every 18 months, so I have a lot of experience in starting new jobs, whether they be for entirely new companies or as a larger, expanded role within the same company. During this time, I have gained a number of insights that are useful for anyone who finds themselves in a new job. Below are my seven most critical insights:
1. Don’t have an opinion for the first 60 days.
If you have read my post on being an Acquisition Manager this advice will sound familiar. Basically, don’t rush to judgement. Even if the new company/role’s processes don’t make sense, give the team the benefit of the doubt. Humans are rational. People rarely make bad decisions. If something doesn’t make sense, try to understand the logic and context around the process. If, after your exhaustive research, things don’t make sense, propose a new change. In addition to giving your co-workers the benefit of the doubt, you will also gain respect as an outsider who is trying to make sense of your new situation and this will give you an opportunity to meet and understand the thought processes of your new colleagues. They will appreciate this approach, I assure you. Finally, forcing yourself to not have an opinion for the first two months will ensure that you will not step on any political land mines. You are likely too new to understand the culture and the “power players” in the organization and you will want to make sure you don’t inadvertently form alliances with “politicians” who are more interested in advancing their career than helping the business succeed.
2. Assess your team.
Look at your direct reports. Who is the best? Who has the greatest opportunity for improvement? Given the strategic goals of the company, do you have the right structure? Take advantage of your fresh perspective to evaluate your team. Learn from my mistake and identify your low performers. Is everyone on the team engaged? Do your low performers have the potential to become high performers? Look at your peers as well. What are their strengths? Where can they improve? Most importantly, recognize what you bring to the team. In relation to your peers, what do you need to bring, consistently, so that the team can perform? Make note of this and emphasize your strengths.
3. Understand the goals and metrics of the business.
What are the goals of the business? How are these goals tracked? What is your responsibility in delivering these goals? How can you ensure your team is delivering these metrics?
4. Pay attention to your MOS (Management Operating System)
Now that you know what the company goals are and your role in delivering these goals, do you have the right MOS to deliver? What metrics need to be tracked monthly vs. weekly vs. daily? How will you measure? How will you communicate these priorities to your team, and how will you cascade your goals? How will your MOS fit into your boss’s MOS? What are the key meetings on the calendar and how can you ensure you give you (and your team) adequate time to prepare?
5. Pay attention to culture.
Culture is CRITICALLY important. All companies have a dominant culture, and really big companies (I have worked for two of them) are big enough that they have micro-cultures. What attributes are important to succeed? Who are the power players? (Note: in my current company, the COO runs the show…even the CEO defers to him! And we are a Fortune 500 company!) Is your culture consensus-based or individual-based? Tenure or performance-based? There are no right or wrong answers, only the culture that drives your company. I see a lot of people fail because of their inability to adapt to different cultures.
6. Don’t forget the Cardinal Rule: What made you successful in your past job may not be what makes you successful in your new job!
I see this all the time. “Person-A” is famous for “just getting it done,” no matter how painful it is to the larger group. Then, this person gets promoted into a new culture where consensus is important. Guess what? “Person-A” fails. Remember, you are paid to get results and that often means adapting yourself as you move up in an organization. Make sure you spend your first couple of months understanding what is expected of you and how you need to perform to meet those expectations.
7. Make a 90-day plan and review it with your boss.
The best way to ensure you accomplish rules one through six above, is to develop a 90-day plan based on your objectives as you understand them and to review this plan with your manager. This will ensure you are aligned to what they think is important and your time is being well spent on key initiatives. Everyone wants to start out on the right foot (especially if you are joining a new company) and the best way to do this is to make sure you have the right goals, metrics, and MOS from day-one. So, create a plan, get buy-in and focus on execution.
Starting a new job can be a stressful yet deeply invigorating experience. Follow the seven steps above and you will create a strong first impression while optimizing your chances of success.