Changing roles or companies, were you seen to be hitting the ground running? How well prepared were you? Did you really know what you “had bought into”?
Hitting the ground running (Audio)
When last did you change roles or jobs or companies? How much homework did you do to know what you “had bought into”? How well were you prepared for your arrival in that new place and to have traction in the new role quickly and effectively? What did you do pro-actively to achieve that? Or did you, like most people, just wonder with curiosity what you were going to find and how you were going to go?
Background to hitting the ground running
I have guided a number of clients going through a role or company transition recently and thought it might be useful if I shared the insights we learned from the preparation that went into those moves.
Going from the selection, interview and then contract negotiation process is quite involved and can be quite full-on, cant it? “They” do quite some “grilling and digging” on you, don’t they?
However, how much of that do you do on “them”, that is the department or company you are about to join – before you join them?
Also, what I have learned is that most people spend considerably less effort on their preparation to hit the ground running in the new role. I have found this to be just as relevant for new employment situations as it is for new contract or consulting assignments.
How Good Was Your Due diligence?
Before we invest in a new home or other investments or acquiring a business or a company we always do a lot of due diligence, don’t we? Why? Well most would say that there a number of risks and a lot of money at stake. So what’s different about “investing” in a new role? Perhaps you are leaving a “secure” job with a strong track record and a supportive network, not to mention foregoing a potentially significant “golden handshake”? Aren’t you putting your income at risk until you have “earned the right” to continuity through the probation period? Do you really know how well the promises that were made or that you expect are going to play out for you?
I am often amazed how little due diligence people do on the new role or company they choose to join, before they join. I am not surprised if after a while they realize it isn’t what it was cut out to be and then falls short of expectations. Hopefully some of the lessons we learned in these recent transitions might help highlight some of those.
Did you really know what you committed to?
So what are some of these “due diligence” activities and how might we go about them? How do we find out more about the new boss, and your new peers and your new subordinates as well as more about the climate and the culture in the new organisation, whether internal or external?
Of course we can look up Internet based information about the company and its “press” to see how it is going overall and what we can learn about culture and attitudes etc. It is very important to have prepared a series of really pertinent questions for your interviews with your prospective boss; one’s that will help you dig a little behind the inevitable “rhetoric”.
However, the only other way I know how to ascertain any details on all the other specific players (including the boss, his style, his track record etc) is via my network. Like the prospective employer will do reference checks on you, this is in fact what you would be doing on “them”.
Key people to do this with are other employees or contractors currently engaged at the new client or company or otherwise people that had been employed or engaged there previously. Of course you might need to be cautious about who you can ask what of and how, but I don’t know any better source of “real” information you will be able to better rely on than this. We like to find ways of corroborating what I hear so as to be sure I can eliminate noise and any ”furfies”. It is very important that you invest adequate time in this homework, otherwise how do you really know what you are buying into?
Tips to look out for when you get there
My strong recommendation is that you make a point of talking to as many people as you can as soon as you can. Don’t be shy to walk up and introduce yourself to people around your allocated space and find out who they are and what they do. As I outlined in the blog Presence I urge you to look out for those that hold the “silent power” and be sure to talk to them. Ensuring you focus on your Visibility is an important part of your introduction so you hit the ground running.
Know your Stakeholders
In Managing Expectation I ask how you can satisfy stakeholder expectations if you don’t know who they are and what their expectations are.
There will always be a range of stakeholders that we will be interested in, and who will be interested in us and what we can do for each other. Bosses, (perhaps the predecessor?) peers, subordinates, clients, vendors, partners etc. We worked through the following approaches for each:
Apart from clarifying who they think your key stakeholders for your role are, I believe you will want to focus on being sure both parties understand what the key drivers, outcome expectations and deliverables for this role are. Some use the term KRA’s (Key result Areas) and then look at the specific outcome measures, also called KPI’s (Key performance Indicators).
I’d like you to be sure that you and the boss can articulate what a good result will look like and how they will know that expectations were met or exceeded. Asking for indicators that would suggest measures indicating you are on track after the first month and the next 3 months is further proof that you care about delivering outcomes. But be sure that their articulation of the measures is clear enough for you to be able to measure the difference between achieving and exceeding those expectations.
They should be able to outline the strengths and weaknesses of your team and highlight strong and weak performers, remembering that you want to spend 80% of your energy on those that are driving the required outcomes. There is a risk that we spend 80% of our energy on the 20% you might need to counsel or replace that aren’t.
I would also seek their insights into how they thought you and your peers might best work together to further everyone’s outcomes.
Sometimes we can get access to our predecessor, and provided their separation or move was amicable, they can be a valuable source of insights into what does and doesn’t work and where the opportunities and the constraints are. It may take some effort to track them down, but if you are able to quickly establish rapport with them so they are willing to talk, they can really help you understand certain “realities” that typical recruitment “spin” will avoid.
Perhaps you meet with these last, with a reasonable understanding of your playing field. I would ask them quite specifically how your and their roles co-exist and support each other, how you can help them achieve their goals and how you can complement each other’s work for the greater good of your common boss’s domain. You may also learn more about the “political agenda’s” here.
Apart from an initial meet and greet where you might suggest they keep going as they have been while you “sus out the lay of the land”, I would make a point of meeting with them again when you have spoken with all the other stakeholders and have a better understanding of your playing field. Together you can have them help you form a picture of what matters and where the opportunities and constraints are – for them, for the role, for the organisation and for you.
These might be clients, vendors, partners or other interested parties that can have an influence on your role’s success or that have expectations of your role affecting them. Once identified, I would meet with them as soon as you can, ask them of their expectations of your role (that is to ascertain their WIIFM), what worked well in the past and what you could do to improve your service to them.
How much time have you got?
We always seem to speak about the new president’s first 100 days. I think that is actually a pretty good time frame, quite apart from the fact that many organizations choose that as their “probationary period”. A starting point is certainly to be sure to fetch a “review” conversation with the boss at least once a month in the first 3 months. Then it might be appropriate to keep doing so every three months so that when the “annual performance review” comes about, there can be no surprises.
Some additional ideas
Whilst your previous roles will bring valuable experience and insights to this new one, please be aware of avoiding saying ”at XYZ we used to do….”. Language like “in my experience” or “I’m curious about…” or I was wondering…” or “I noticed or observed…” suggest an open and learning mind without confronting. Balancing Questions and Statements suggests initially focusing on an 80/20 ratio, and to couch making statements in the form of questions. The urge will always be to “show how much we know”, however I have learned that becoming known as a listener, rather than one who speaks a lot will actually result in better outcomes, particularly in the early days.
This is also where you will want to have people appreciate your work ethic, but not so much as to invoke the “tall poppy syndrome”. Be prepared to go the extra mile, particularly in building relationships with those you have learned to be important for your role.
So what other considerations can you think of that would enhance your visibility in the first days and weeks of getting there? What else will give people the strong feeling that “this person means business”? Everyone will do this differently, however, I strongly urge you to be diligent in your preparation and identifying ways in which you can make your presence felt from day and week one, without being “over the top”.
So if you are thinking about or planning to make some role or organization changes, what if you sat down and:
- Mapped out what you really wanted out of a new role or contract or assignment?
- Really did your homework on the organization or department or assignment you were contemplating first?
- Really understood with great clarity “what you were buying” and how you would deliver results best?
- Prepared yourself for how you would “hit the ground running” in your first week, first month and first three months?
Wouldn’t you differentiate yourself very visibly and firmly place yourself in The 5% that know WHY?
Very practical and based on sound experience.
Listening to your blogs is always a wise decision. Well done Heiner.
Great blog Heiner, particularly enjoyed this one!