Have you ever had a tough love boss? I think I’ve mentioned Danny Flamberg before. One of the first and best bosses I’ve ever had. But definitely the tough love/straight talk/zero BS variety. Danny’s the type of guy that will show you plenty of love during practice. He’ll spend hours helping you hone your skills. He’ll accept your demons and help you fight them. But come game time, you better turn it on. Kitchen Stadium. Go big or go home. You wanna know something? Losing to the big guys was less ego-crushing than keeping the bench warm.
So Danny writes this post on how to start a new job. And true to his tough love make-up, it has stuff you won’t want to hear. I know. It has stuff I don’t want to hear as a recruiter that sends so many of you into new jobs. I’d like to deliver you to Zen-like place so we can sip tea and do downward dog together, but the truth is it’s the first day of school again. In your old job, you had equity. In your new job, you’re a freshman. But that’s a good thing. The first day of school is full of promise.
Danny’s post sums it up nicely: You’re the new man on campus. Figure out how to get to class and who to have lunch with. Study your surroundings. Embrace the stretch role and stop talking about what happened in band camp.
Here’s Danny’s original post, which appeared on May 1, 2012 on ManhattanMarketingMaven.com.
Congratulations you are starting a new job. You’ve got a new outfit, a new attitude and a new paycheck. Be sure you start smart and savvy by being conscious of your surroundings and by managing your expectations. It’s not easy being the new guy.
You’re psyched. They’re psyched. But nobody knows what’s really coming next. You gilded the lily and radiated energy and intention in all those interviews. They did too. Everyone was on their best behavior. Now you’ll see them in their native habitat.
Some will maintain the façade longer than others, but soon you’ll get a glimpse or a massive dose of reality. Nobody ever really knows what he or she is getting into until they are in-place, fully present with all political and emotional sensors on high alert.
To insure you get off to a smart, savvy and successful start, focus on these 5 factors
Expect Differences. No two organizations do things the same. You’ll see stuff that’s cool and stuff that’s nutty. Your IT and email set-up will be different. So will time sheets, reporting, status, phones, etc. Don’t be shocked. Take it all in. Maintain an even keel. Don’t make faces. Try to understand why they do it that way. If there’s no good reason, accept it.
You are not going to change attitudes, processes or idiosyncrasies anytime soon. So suck it up. Decide that whatever they do and however they do it will be okay. Go with the flow. Don’t make demands or comparisons to your old job. Don’t be a Diva. Your new bosses and teammates want you to fit in. Don’t disappoint them by freaking out or by telling them how outdated, silly or counter-productive their act is.
Get the Back Story. You’ve joined a sitcom in-progress. Find out what went on before you showed up and what people think will happen next. You got hired. But you don’t really know if they think you are the Messiah or if you were 3rd choice. Disconnect your ego and find out as much about the context of your hiring as you can.
You might think you’re there to shake things up or to add some special measure of expertise. If you are the first new guy after a hiring freeze, expectations could be unrealistically high. You might be replacing either a super star or a screwball, either of which will prompt comparisons and early judgments.
Chances are somebody there thinks you’ve arrived to be their bitch and somebody else has already lined up all the stuff they hate to do as your first assignments. The more you understand the back story; the easier the transition.
Smile & Keep Your Mouth Shut. Smile and be happy. You have a new job. But don’t pretend you’ve joined a love cult. People work out all kinds of needs at work. You can’t effectively negotiate the currents till you understand who’s who and where they are coming from. This requires considerable restraint. Everyone is curious about the new guy. Develop a simple story punctuated with some personal details and tell it. Then shut up, watch and listen.
Identify who likes who, who has the real power or influence. Try to figure out the tribes and cliques around you. Don’t join any group till you really know who’s in it and how they operate. You’re like a new prisoner in the yard. Don’t join or annoy the Crips or the Bloods.
Don’t speculate about what’s going on. Stifle the urge to dissect, psychoanalyze, explain or describe your new insights to your new colleagues since you’ll invariably be wrong and piss someone off. Do not become an office gossip. It’s the kiss of death. Talk to your roommate, your partner or even your Mom, but keep mum in the office until you feel confident you have the true lay of the land. Remember, new hires can be broomed in 90-120 without much cause, so don’t make enemies unnecessarily.
Be Straight with Your Boss. Ask for clear directions, priorities and assignments. Ask the boss what success looks like. Get agreement on your personal KPIs and understand how your work will be evaluated. Be sure to get clear direction on deadlines, reports, statuses, and how much or how little to involve him or her in each of your projects.
Some bosses are organized, self-aware and straightforward. Others aren’t. Some are very friendly. Some are distant. You’ll know right away which your boss is so calibrate your response and figure out how to give them what they want or what you think they want. Be straight but don’t suck up. Don’t be bashful. Ask and ask again. Act on their feedback. Establishing a good, clear and productive working relationship with your immediate supervisor will determine your near term career trajectory.
Focus on Performance. You’re there to get something done. Make sure it gets done right. The fastest way to advance is to productively deliver work on time and on budget. Put all the other attractions and blandishments of the new job to the side.
The landscape, the departments and the process will be new and probably different. Zero-in on learning them. Make allies in other departments. Figure out the formal process and the informal workarounds. Someone is counting on you to get on the scoreboard quickly. Deliver on those expectations. Figure out who can help you and who is just in the way. Find a Sherpa to guide you through the system. Play nice. Share. Document your work. Suspend judgment. Keep your eye on the prize. When you win; don’t brag.
Follow Danny @Flamster