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By Jo Miller
“Don’t spend your first month mastering the tasks listed on your job description. Instead, by taking time to build relationships, listen and get the lay of the land, you will gain confidence and momentum rapidly in your new role.”
It’s never easy to start a new job, assignment or project, particularly when you’re eager to make a good impression and prove your worth from day one.
I recently spoke with a C-level leader from the retail industry about the importance of quickly getting “the lay of the land” when coming into a new position. “The first step that I take when taking on a new assignment or a new project is what I call ‘surveying the landscape,’” she said. “I study my surroundings and I try to understand the people and processes that drive value in that particular area.”
With that in mind, here are three simple steps to take to quickly survey the landscape when you start a new position (and insulate yourself against office politics as you transition into the role):
1. Prepare to Become the Go-to Person.
Start your new role by making a list of key stakeholders in your department/team. Before you set out to meet those key people, develop a 30-second “commercial” – or elevator pitch – that concisely explains your role, your responsibilities and how you can be of help. Share three concise bullet points that describe your role: your name, your new job title and what you are responsible for.
Encourage the person to go directly to you whenever he or she needs to by sharing three more concise bullet points that describe the reasons why this person should seek you out, such as former experience in such matters, willingness to grow and current availability.
Share your 30-second commercial at every opportunity as a way of educating others about your new role, the value that you add and why they should come to you. Speak it with confidence. By consistently introducing yourself in this way you can shape how others perceive you in your new role and set yourself up as a credible authority and go-to expert.
2. Find an Influential Friend
Next, scope out the local talent and try to find someone who is well regarded – and well-connected – in your new group and find some time to talk. The person may be your new manager or someone who appears to have some influence in the team. Let her know you appreciate how knowledgeable and well connected she is and that you would appreciate some advice as you begin your new role.
Review the organizational chart with them and ask:
• Who should I get to know?
• Who else do I need to introduce myself to?
• What questions should I ask them?
From these answers, create a checklist of names and create a plan to connect with each person in your first month on the job.
3. Embark on a Listening Tour.
Finally, take a “listening tour” by connecting with every individual on your key stakeholders list. The purpose is not just to introduce yourself, but to have a purposeful and educational discussion with each one of them during your first month in the job.
In each conversation, discuss ways you can help each other. Also listen for additional information that will help you uncover the people and processes that really drive value. In particular, gather intelligence on these categories:
• Informational powerhouses. These are individuals who keep a finger on the pulse of what is going on in the organization, the industry and the broader business environment. By tapping their knowledge of historical data and emerging trends, you will soon find yourself empowered to make better business decisions more quickly.
• Influencers. Listen for the key people of influence – those who have an enhanced ability to lead change and make things happen. They are not necessarily found in high-level or high-profile positions; pay attention to who holds influence regardless of their job title.
• Coalitions. Look for groups of people who have formed groups that work together effectively and freely share information, resources and opportunities. Ask yourself, “What do they have in common? What is the social glue that binds this group together?” This will give you insight into working more effectively with those groups and individuals.
As you begin to quickly categorize such individuals, you will better know who to align yourself with – and how.
Don’t spend your first month mastering the tasks listed on your job description. Instead, by taking time to build relationships, listen and get the lay of the land, you will gain confidence and momentum rapidly in your new role.
Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc. and a leading authority on women’s leadership.
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