New Year, New Job?

30 Dec

New Year Resolutions Color_edit_toon_Reso

So a New Year beckons – and for some of us, the start of a new job. What are the do’s and don’ts of your first three months in a new role?

I had to think about this recently for a client I was mentoring who was changing jobs – and this led to some research and reflections on my own experience. Discussing it with my wife (we mentor as a couple) her conclusions were similar to mine, but with a very different job history. So I thought others might benefit from our joint wisdom.

Do – understand your objectives
I know it sounds obvious, but it’s important to understand what your new organisation requires from you, and in what domain it expects you to achieve these results.

Sometimes this will be obvious – if you’re a sales rep, given a specific territory, it’s pretty clear what you are expected to achieve. But in many organisations today, it’s more complex. You may have a series of objectives given to you. How are you supposed to allocate your time between them? Or do they need to be tackled in a particular order? Do people need you to pioneer a new business opportunity or augment resources to deliver a major project?

A simple approach to this would be to ask your manager – but again you may find yourself in either matrix reporting structures or landed with a manager whose views and advice carry little weight further up the organisation. Or perhaps there are a couple of founders who have brought you on board because their VC partners told them they needed a COO, a CFO, etc – but they have no clear idea what your role should be.

Discussing your objectives with the key stakeholders – your manager, the person above him, those founders – is a good start, preferably before you join. Even better is recording them in some form – for example, IBM used a ‘Personal Business Commitments’ approach that Lou Gerstner had invented. And better still is to check back with your stakeholders during the first few months as to whether you are meeting their expectations and whether there is anything they would like you to change. Do this informally if you can.

Do – manage the tension between acclimatising and adding value early

There is always the temptation in a new job to charge in, make changes, and notch up some early wins. Most of the time this is a mistake – you don’t understand as a new arrival the constraints the organisation is operating under, what can be changed and what can’t, or what the drivers are behind can appear as illogical or inefficient processes. Better to look and learn if you can – but do keep a record of what strikes you in those first few days.

But equally you are being paid for results – those trades have to be done, the budget round completed or whatever. And the skills and experience you have brought with you might provide the opportunity for some early tweaks to what you are required to do that will impress.

Do – build your alliances and your team

Most business results aren’t achieved solo – they require a team, and a network within the organisation that can help you open doors and facilitate the approvals processes required to get anything done. So start identifying how things work, how important decisions are taken, and who the key influencers are. Organisational cultures vary – work out how yours ticks.

As for your team – find out who’s on it, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. And find out who was doing your job before you arrived. The normal (and sound) advice is to ‘clean house if necessary’ – but remember that not everybody needs to be a star, and value commitment and loyalty, because you will need it when things get sticky.

Don’t – be afraid to ask for help

During my twenty-five plus years in management consulting, I had the privilege of working with some absolutely outstanding partners. One of the things that struck me – especially among the partners at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was their willingness to ask for help – sometimes from me, sometimes from their partner colleagues. Perhaps (in the early days before LLPs) the spectre of unlimited personal liability helped, but they definitively did not see asking for help as a sign of weakness – just common sense.

Asking for help can be anything from enquiries about how the photocopier works to advice on how to tackle a difficult boss. Just be prepared to return the help when the time comes.

Want to read more?
If so, I suggest a couple of good articles from the Harvard Business Review:

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