How do you handle the first 30 days at a new job, where you are the person that everyone else looks to for how things should work?
For various reasons, I like to think the onward and upward trajectory of my career, I have been an outside manager / administrator to an existing business twice in the last two years. Here are my top ten must do things when in this position and why. Some of these are second nature to me, and come out of my individual management style, and others I have to remind myself to do everyday.
1: Connect with whomever you report to.
If you do not have a rapport with the person who you report to then a good question to ask is why did you take the job in the first place? This is essential. Do not fall into the trap of thinking “I can make this work,” or “they are not so bad when you spend a little time with them.” If you don’t connect when they are on their best behavior because they want to hire you, then you are not going to connect when the gloves come off.
2: Who or what are the major roadblocks?
It is imperative to find out what is going to stop you from being your best. That could be a person, a policy, or a resource (or lack of one). You can’t overcome a roadblock if you don’t know it is there. This should be something that you are always looking for anyway, but it is most definitely a priority when you are newly in the job.
3: Introduce Yourself!
Say hello, good morning – engage in small talk, shake people’s hands. The size of business you are going to will impact how you achieve an introduction to the people at the sharp end; But I would suggest that even if you have a staff of a few thousand there is nothing wrong with touring the facilities and saying hello and introducing yourself to everyone you can. Politicians have been doing this for decades because it works.
4: Look, Listen, Learn!
No two businesses are the same. The day you walk in the door, almost everyone else in the building knows more about that business than you. You need to walk before you can run, but you also need to understand what walking actually is. Show some respect for your new place of work: watch how things work, take notes, ask questions, and don’t be in too much of a hurry!
5: Meet with Everyone (part one).
Meet with as many people as you can.
One on one if possible.
Doesn’t have to be a long meeting, but use it to explain your basic style and philosophy. If you have an open door policy then explain that. I always ask what I can do to help the staff do their job better, mostly because it is my management style, but also so that I can identify any issues that need attention or trends that I might otherwise have missed.
6: Be Humble.
A lot of this comes down to individual management style; however, I feel it is important that the staff see that their new manager is happy to get their hands dirty and to pitch in when appropriate. I think this is an important trait in any manager; however, it is doubly important in a new manager who the staff do not know. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. You can’t know everything straight away and almost no one will expect you to. Having said that it is important that if you are asked a question you don’t know the answer to that you try to find the answer and get back to the relevant person.
7: Find your Allies.
In all organizations there will be people who will welcome change, and others who will not. Try to identify who they are and what their motivations are. If you can be sure of their motivations, the people who embrace change are your allies and will make your job much easier if work with them.
8: Look for the Easy Wins.
The little things that have not got done that drive the staff mad; or just make their lives difficult! The programs that never happened because there was nobody to head them up. The piece of equipment that had not worked properly for ages if ever. These are all examples of opportunities of easy wins. Easy wins will help prove to your new staff that you are here to make their lives better not more difficult. Be careful however, pick things that are not too controversial – remember you have to walk before you can run. Also, make sure that they are things that you do. Not things that you just palm off on someone else to do. The easy win is much more effective if you are the one who solely delivers it.
9: Meet with Everyone (part two).
A general staff meeting to layout some of your vision is important. Just make sure that this meeting is not on your first day. If you must hold such a meeting on your first day, make sure it is extremely short and more of a very brief introduction. Wait till nearer the end of your first 30 days to have a more formal meeting. Hopefully, by this point in time people have got to know you a little and get a sense of your intentions and therefore will be more likely to give you a fair hearing. Of course, it goes without saying, that you have to be really prepared for this meeting. Get it right and you buy yourself an enormous amount of goodwill and buy-in. Get it wrong and you have an uphill struggle ahead.
10: Communicate, comunicate, comunicate…
Make sure that everyone who should know what you are doing, and why, does so. Remember, you are the new guy and so by definition you don’t know everything. The others on your team, however, do know a lot and may be able to prevent you from making a huge blunder. But they will only be able to do that if they know about what you are doing. This also helps your potential allies from becoming disillusioned because there is too much happening that they don’t know about and find themselves too exposed when they try to defend you.
Do you have any tips for new managers in new jobs? I, for one,would love to hear them!
One final comment, don’t be David Brent from the UK’s original version of The Office!