Written by Supply Chain Executive Mike Mortson. This guest post first appeared on Mike’s industry blog, Supply Chain Game Changer.
I have seen many people join a new company or leave for another company. While I don’t have the precise statistics it is fair to say that as many as half of the people joining a new company will do well. However atleast half of these people will struggle in their new roles and in their new companies. Many will fail altogether.
What makes someone more or less successful when making such a career move? What are the environmental factors which affect this outcome? And most importantly what is it that the new employee does or doesn’t do that makes them succeed or fail?
A Good Friend Leaves The Company
Many years ago a good friend and colleague of mine left the company we had both worked at for many, many years. I was truly disappointed to see him leave but he had a great opportunity and I was excited for him.
We stayed connected and after some time he said to me, “It was very scary to leave the safe and familiar environment I was in. But there is life after you leave a company. And it is amazing how we took for granted how much we knew and how impactful we were. This has become very apparent to me in my new company”.
He was a very professional, well-balanced individual. He was cordial and easy to get to know and get along with. His was extremely likeable and he knew how to quickly assimilate in to new organizations. Even though he felt he brought a high level of experience and expertise with him he didn’t flaunt it. He never presented himself as being better than anyone else.
Needless to say he did extremely well.
After several years he moved on to still another company. A new, bigger opportunity was presented to him based on his reputation. He brought his same well-balanced approach and did very, very well in this new role.
He knew how to successfully integrate himself in to a new organization. He could bring his skills and knowledge to bear without being abrasive, over-confident, or unapproachable. And he knew how to make an impact and delivery results. Along the way he built up his teams and made them successful as well.
A Know-It-All Joins The Company
By the same token I have seen many people join a new company believing that they have all of the knowledge in the world. They have been successful in the past and in their prior organizations. They believe that their past successes and their skill is all they need. Their overconfidence is usually obvious and can cause resentment amongst their new colleagues. And in many cases it can be their undoing.
In another situation I met an Executive who was recently hired into the company. The CEO told me that he wanted to hire a “Rock Star”. And a Rock Star is exactly what he got. He came from an extremely large company. He came in strutting around talking about the great things that he had done in the past. This immediately turned people off.
Most significantly it quickly became apparent that all of his expertise really came from the name of his prior Company on his business card. In joining a smaller company he couldn’t just throw around his Company name and power to get things done. We had to rely on experience, technique, professionalism and expertise to get things done. Being a bully wouldn’t work in our business.
Needless to say he lasted less than 3 months. One day he just didn’t show up. In retrospect he melted down. I suspect he must have known that the expectations on him were beyond his real ability to deliver. The CEO got his “Rock Star” alright. And the crash that came with it.
He confused the power that comes from his business card with his real abilities. He made no effort to assimilate with the organization. His approach was more akin to that of a bull in a China shop. In some situations this style may make sense. In this situation it was a complete failure.
What Works and What Doesn’t Work
I’m sure you all have similar stories, some more sedate and some more outrageous. And if you are one of those people joining a new company your best bet is to learn from ALL of those experiences.
Your new company does expect you to succeed, to make changes, and to make an impact. The honeymoon period is usually short lived after which you are expected to deliver results.
So how do you make such an impact in a new company with new people and new processes and a new culture?
In my experience I have seen many good and bad behaviours. I have tried to learn from them all and apply them to my own situations. Here are some thoughts:
Meet as many people as quickly as possible. People want to meet you and learn about you. Further you want to understand the concerns and issues that people have. Rapidly establishing relationships is crucial.
Make yourself accessible. A lot of people will want to talk with you. If they see early on that you are available, whether it be an open door policy, email access and responsiveness, or on the phone, they will develop a comfort level with you.
Do not mistake your expertise for superior knowledge over those you are working with. Even though you may be very smart there are an awful lot of other very smart people in the world. And in the company you have just joined these people have a working knowledge of the organization, formal and informal communication channels, processes, and history. You don’t have any of this. And portraying that you are the smartest person in the room won’t endear anyone to you.
Put in the extra time necessary upfront even if it means making sacrifices. Going in to a new job your best bet is to get up to speed as quickly as possible. You are going to be pulled in all directions when you start and time will fly by. You need to put in the extra hours needed upfront given that all of the demands on your time will severely restrict your time to think, plan and strategize.
Deal with any perceived interpersonal issues head on. If you perceive that there are people who are not happy you have joined the organization then diplomatically confront the situation. Someone may have thought they should have got the job that you got. Others may not like change or having strangers join the team. Whatever the situation if you can discuss this with the people involved you improve your chances of getting past these issues which will otherwise only get in the way of your objectives.
Be dynamic. You need to establish your own presence. This does not mean being loud and brash. It does mean quickly assimilating the information you need so that you can develop a strategy. And then communicating that strategy shows that you are there to make a positive difference.
Enlist others. Everyone likes to be asked for help, for their opinions, and for their feedback. As you develop your early observations and strategies bounce these off of people. You don’t have any baggage. But by asking people for their feedback and input you can refine your strategy accordingly. They will feel both listened to and invested in you and the work you are doing.
Don’t Burn your Bridges. You never know when your career path may cause you to meet and work with people in your new job that you have worked with in the past. And you never know how people will advance and progress. It truly is a small world. Invariably it makes sense to never burn your bridges. It will come back to bite you.
Communicate. Whatever you are doing you want to make this visible at every opportunity. You want to communicate to your Boss, your Peers, your employees and any other Stakeholders. Failure to communicate will create a false cocoon around you which will only serve to raise concerns about what you are or are not doing. Get rid of the mystique and communicate!
There are many, many more ideas about the behaviours that do and do not work as you join a new company. The ones I’ve articulated here stand out from my own experiences and observations of others.
It can be a scary move to go to a new company. You want to increase your odds of success. Do not take for granted that what you did at your old company over a long period of time will seamlessly translate to your new company. You need to apply additional skills and techniques to make the outcome a success and be an Impact Player.
Let us know what your experiences are and what else you see that does or doesn’t work.
A big thanks to Mike Mortson for his guest post contribution!