What to Do When Starting a New Role

Several of my friends are starting new jobs in the next few weeks – all at mid-level to senior leadership levels.  So, first of all – congratulations on the new assignment or job, and best of luck!   As we were corresponding about their new roles, I got to thinking: What are the right moves to make as you enter a new organization or a new department of your current company?  Here are a few tips for anyone starting a new leadership role.  Many of these are obvious, but hey, how often do we miss the obvious?

1. Ask a lot of questions. This is your chance to be a sponge – don’t pass it up. People expect you to be full of questions, and you should be. Ask the simple questions to get the lay of the land, but spend some time thinking of the really provocative questions, too. Impress people with the quality of your questions; you can always wow them later with your answers.

2. Meet as many people as you can. If your HR business partner doesn’t set up a series of meet and greets, ask them to do so – or do it yourself. Make this a priority, and start it on Day 1. In your first four weeks, you should meet at least 25 people, mostly at your level and above. Be strategic – make this a planful, thoughtful effort. In these conversations, strive to learn three things: 1) the company’s current strengths and opportunities, 2) their view of the cultural norms and “how we do things around here”, and 3) as much personal information as you can get from them. In other words, get to know how they view the company, get their advice on the culture, and get to know them personally.

3. Be humble. This is there neighborhood – you’re just moving in. Here’s some free advice – never utter the phrase: “at ________ (your previous employer), we did it this way”. Trust me; no one wants to hear it. Instead, if you have a creative idea or a killer thought, say: “another way of possibly looking at this is…”. You don’t want to have someone tell you: “sorry, you’re not looking at this the right way” in your very first week.

4. Get really clear about what’s expected of you. Harvard professor Michael Watkins has made a living on this one – check out his book The First 90 Days for a deeper dive into how to get traction quickly in a new job. Make sure you know what your boss and your peers expect of you in terms of deliverables, objectives, etc. And then don’t waste any time getting after them!

5. Work a lot of hours at first. Great advice from your Dad – and it still holds up today. When you’re just starting out, be visible. Spend a lot of time at the office, or on the road meeting clients, customers or colleagues. People want to see that you’re pitching in, and that you can handle the workload. After you’ve made your mark, you can recapture some of that work-life balance. If you follow these simple rules, chances are you’ll get off to a pretty good start. Remember, you’re the newbie in town – be polite, be alert, and be friendly. Good things will flow from there!