A Pocket Refresher: Making Your New Position Yours
Congratulations on the new position. You’ve been selected and appointed. While you haven’t been anointed, you certainly have the right technical and business experience. But what will make the added difference to solidify your new role?
To begin, don’t revisit whether your acceptance of this new job was a good decision. You thought it through and made an informed choice. Invest your energy in making it work.
Get ready for the effort and commitment to assimilate and to establish yourself. Don’t try to fit in on the first day, because you won’t.
Listen and watch.
Regardless of your new responsibilities, you’ll have to make decisions that impact the entire enterprise. Learn the operation, business offerings, markets, opportunities, culture, and business performance. Be sure you understand the plans and trends.
On Day One, you will have built-in supporters. You will have built-in detractors. There also may be at least one person in the organization who feels they should have gotten the job that you did. Understand who all these people are, as you will have to marshal their support if you’re to succeed. Be sensitive to their issues.
Draw knowledge and aid from supporters. Take on the challenge of turning the detractors. For those who can’t be constructive, coach them to a better place. Be patient and fair. If necessary, be ready to release them to work somewhere else.
Prepare for some employee resistance, because it will be there (e.g., “that will never work here;” “we tried that once and it didn’t work.”) But coax any disagreements into the open. If not, they’re awfully tough to address.
Gird for your own mistakes. Unless you do nothing, you will make some. And remember that as the “new person,” you’ll have license to ask some dumb questions. Don’t squander the brief opportunity.
Everything that you’ve previously seen, done and accomplished provides you a substantive frame of reference. It won’t, however, provide the specific answers – this is a new business and a new culture. Your history will give you clues and perspective, but not the specific answers.
As issues present themselves, don’t tell people how “we did things at my last company.” They’re interested in their own company. Instead, how about, “Should we consider…?”
Solicit opinions. Listen. Don’t allow any question to go unanswered, even if the answer needs to be delayed. Be ready – as you know, not everyone will like your every answer.
Understanding a new culture is a most important, yet often missed, essential: -- There are histories, personalities and traditions that make it all work. Be attentive. If you can’t understand and internalize the culture, you won’t succeed and you won’t be able to bolster it – or change it. -- How committed are people to their daily work and objectives? How do they react to their leaders, former leaders, customers, clients, colleagues, and you? -- Understand the power of the informal organization, and who the "influencers" are.
People need to feel important ... because they are, unless proven otherwise. Assume that everyone in the organization is at least as smart as you are.
Be supportive of your leaders and your peers.
While you’re collaborative and respectful, also be decisive. Where decisions will impact your people, be timely, fair and sensitive (but remember your obligations to the organization).
Don’t forget to watch your own back.
Keep your mind open. Leave your door open. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore it. Vet it.
There’s a lot to consider here – most of which you already know, but may have just internalized. Remember the accomplishments that got you here. Enjoy what’s next.
Stan Davis and Greg Mickelson are Standish Principals. Both also have decades of corporate leadership experience. At Standish, they work with business owners, executives and boards to secure the right leaders for accelerated growth, change, and succession.