"In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes," Benjamin Franklin famously said. But maybe it’s time to update the quote. I’d say that for most of us it would be more accurate to say, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and transitions.”
We all experience transitions in life, personally and professionally, whether they entail moving to a new town, joining a new organization, welcoming a new client or moving to a new job, project or team. Transitions and change may not be a daily occurrence, but they are "certain" in life and fall under the heading of "predictable surprise."
If we know that transitions are part of a successful career, it makes sense to plan for them, rather than simply jumping in and hoping things work out. Therefore, to thrive in a new job and successfully navigate the "honeymoon period," we should adapt to this change deliberately and thoughtfully.
If the new job-holder is you, stop and plan for the change rather than simply rushing in. This can be the difference between successfully navigating your transition and finding yourself (and others) wondering if you were the right candidate after all.
The spotlight is now on you, and the successes and missteps you take during your honeymoon period will influence your reputation for some time to come. Here are five steps to ensure that you thrive in that new job.
1. Give yourself permission to be the new kid on the block.
One common theme I hear from leaders worldwide is how much they hate being the "newbie," not knowing how to do something. This can be as small as refilling the coffee machine in a new office, or as large as being promoted into a new leadership position.
So, whenever you change responsibilities, acknowledge from the start that it takes time to settle into the new role, and that there is a ton to learn. Accept this fact and give yourself permission to learn, to lean on others and to ask questions. In doing so, you'll learn a lot more quickly (and effectively) than trying to go it alone, and you'll cultivate winning relationships with new colleagues.
2. Start as though you intend to leave.
You’re creating your reputation from scratch. Apart from doing a fantastic job, you also want to endear yourself to your new colleagues, so that when it does come time for you to leave, they’ll regret your departure, rather than look forward to the day.
“Building rapport with your team is as important as building relationships with your business stakeholders” is the advice of Greg Sparks, founder of CIO Source LLC , “A leadership change is unsettling for an organization," Sparks says, "and good executives will work quickly to establish trust and confidence with their team members.”
Consider the legacy you left in your last role, and the legacy you want to build in this new opportunity. A simple activity is to think about the adjectives you want others to use to describe working with you (and what they may use today) and what you may need to do to close any gap. Make sure you are working to guarantee that those adjectives are complimentary and something you can be proud of!
3. Be curious and learn about your new organization.
Learning about your new company, team and projects is critical. Before you can prioritize and make change, you need to understand the context of how things came to be the way they are today. Ask questions (lots of questions), and seek to understand how and why things happen the way they do before you rush to make changes.
Once you understand the history and context for how work gets done in your new organization, you will be better positioned to communicate why change is needed. Without doing so, you run the risk of your changes becoming something akin to telling your new team, "Your baby is ugly." Remember that your new colleagues have invested time and effort in creating the situation you inherit. Be respectful of that legacy before you throw it out!
4. Build and nurture relationships.
Don't focus just on the "usual suspects" when cultivating your professional relationships. We naturally give care and attention to our "vertical" stakeholders: our boss and direct reports. However, it's the quality of our horizontal relationships that also drives success, or undermines it.
“Start by investing in relationships, taking into account structure and end to end processes. Who is where, doing what, and especially why,” advises Jose Acevedo, a technology innovation visionary with Topgolf. “A whole lot falls naturally into place from there. Begin with what’s important to your partners, and make sure that they know you are personally committed to their success.”
5. Don’t lose sight of the big picture!
As you make changes and start adding value, make sure that it is aligned with the business goals and strategy. “It's important not to lose sight of the big picture,” says Heather Cassano, director of user experience at Google. “It's all too easy to get sucked into the drama, politics and looming crises that have likely been waiting for your arrival.” She continues: "Some must be solved in order to move forward, but if you focus all of your energy and attention on resolving short-term issues, you will end up spinning your wheels months or years down the road.
“Take advantage of the fact that you have fresh eyes, and can see problems and solutions in a way you never will be able to again," Cassano says. "When you can begin to envision a different future for your product line, your people or the way your business is done, write it down or draw it out in pictures. It might seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how easily you can lose sight of the long term when the inevitable happens and you become an insider."
Transitions are a period of uncertainty, change and a period of learning about the new rules of engagement. You can either wing it and hope that your smarts, which landed you the role in the first place, will help you successfully navigate the transition.
Or you can be deliberate and thoughtful, and take control of the process. Experience has shown that the latter approach is more likely to result in a successful outcome.
What do you wish you had known when you last started a new job or project? What could have made your first few months in a new company or team more successful?
Please share your insights in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.