New job - getting a jump start

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The first day in a new management or executive position can feel a little like that first day of school; you’ve chosen your outfit with care, selected your supplies and shined your shoes…you’re excited and optimistic about this new path in your life.
 
But once you know where the cafeteria and the supply closet are, and all the people have names and job titles, the reality of the work begins. As you looked at the path from the outside, it seemed fairly straightforward, but now that you are learning about the culture and the problems, the path seems much more twisted and even filled with some traps.
 
The higher you go in a company, the more subtle—and dangerous—those traps can be. For the na├»ve, or uninitiated, the first three to six months can snag you in some political situations you may have difficulty recovering from.
 
Here is a crash course that may help you navigate successfully through your first six months on this new road:
  • Resist the urge to make too many changes too fast. Even if you were hired to “clean house,” don’t do it without some careful observation time. Otherwise, you will be relying on surface information, or on what other people tell you. In the beginning, you don’t know who to trust or what to believe. Sometimes the most intimate confidant can end up being the most manipulative under-performer.
  • Be careful about passing judgment on what appears to be faulty processes or procedures. You need to learn the history first. Why is it done that way? How did the culture influence it—for instance, what rewards and punishments may have caused the behavior? If you criticize someone, or scoff at the way they do things, you may make an enemy you will have a hard time winning back. In addition, you may come across as a know-it-all who doesn’t want to listen or learn about “the way we do things.” In a few months, if procedures are indeed screwed up, get people involved in finding ways to improve them.
  • Get to know your peers. New leaders often get so mired in their own team’s issues, they ignore the peer leaders around them. This mistake can cost you dearly. In the beginning, your peers want to kick your tires, to see how you are going to help or hinder the team’s momentum. They can steer you clear of political obstacles and be valuable coaches about how to work efficiently in the new system. If you don’t reach out early and establish solid interpersonal relationships, it will be more difficult later.
  • Don’t stay quiet too long. It’s natural to hold back, especially if the leader team is aggressive, or they have worked together for a long time. You feel like an outsider who has to earn her way in. But holding back too long can backfire. They start to wonder when you are going to start adding value and pulling your weight. So, asking questions and offering ideas is a good place to start, however, limit the amount of times you say, “When I used to work at ACME… “Bringing relevant ideas from your former employer is only welcomed if it’s not a broken record.
  • Beware of cliques, or becoming a pal with someone too soon. You may find that there are groups of people who have gravitated toward one another over time. Sometimes the reasons are social interests, such as golf, or cards. Other times the clique is formed because of a mutual dislike for the leader, or bitterness about the organization. These groups can be seductive—the people seem nice, they invite you to join them for a drink, they confide in you about “what’s really going on…” but what they are really looking for are more people to validate their views. Their motto is, “If you don’t have anything good to say, sit next to me.” If those views are fueled by bitterness or resentment, pull away toward the neutral zone.    
So, listen and learn, reach out openly to get to know your colleagues, and use your fresh eyes to offer new perspectives. 


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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