The adage about never getting a second chance to make a good first impression is relevant when starting in a new role. The first week in a new position is important, whether you’re an acrobat or a zookeeper – and every role in between.
So what can you do in your first weeks when starting a new role? How do you create that positive first impression? How do you start positioning yourself for success? Below is a fairly common sense list, but how common is it that people can tick-off most suggestions?
Introduce yourself to everyone and take note of names
Don’t wait for others to come to you. Take the initiative and introduce yourself wherever possible. Make sure you frequent common meeting places like the lunch room or kitchen. Say hello and shake hands.
Obviously it is best to start with your own team and people closest to you.
Make a note on your phone of each person’s name and any info to help you trigger the contact. At the end of each day (at least) review your notes to do a refresh on who you’ve met and names of people. Nothing can make a better early impression than remembering and using a person’s name.
Be visible and accessible
More than simply introducing yourself to anyone and everyone, for any leadership role it is critical you are visible and accessible to your community. There will be a wide range of people who want to meet you and say hello. How can you create this opportunity?
So identify the opportunities and forums where people can reach you. If you have a PA, work out with him/her how access to you will operate. Don’t leave it to the PA to decide or to simply carry on with the practice of your predecessor.
Seek out a long-time person
Every organisation has it nuances, politics and taboos; its own language; and its legends. Seek out a long-termer who can help you understand and navigate the organisational setting. Much heartache can be avoided if you do. It is unlikely you can accomplish this in week one, but put it on your radar.
It also helps if you can have a person to check with about the more routine day-to-day processes. How do you set or disarm the alarm system? How does the IT system logins work? No matter how much or little is covered during induction there are dozens and dozens of similar questions where your life will be easier if there’s a go-to person.
Listen and learn – don’t launch into the expert adviser mode
Ask 100’s of questions to learn and soak up as much information as possible. No matter how experienced you are; no matter what level of expertise; DON’T pass judgement or sprout what you regard to be words of wisdom in relation to operational practice. Never ever make disparaging comments about existing practices or processes.
Avoid any comment about how you solved issues or challenges in your prior role. At all costs never start a sentence with “At [prior organisation] we did it this way….”.
Start gathering information on your own team
At some stage, either prior to your commencement or in your early days (or both), you will have asked your manager about the capabilities, interpersonal skills and behaviours of your new team. Obviously this is just a starting point as you need to research and analyse for yourself the merits of your team.
It is always of interest to find out if any team member had applied for the role you’ve taken.
Focus upon the strategic plan and the mission/values
Whether or not the strategic intent and organisational values are widely known, you should deepen your understanding of them. How are they (or are they) embedded into the fabric or the organisation?
Communications and setting of expectations
This is not usually resolved in week one, but move towards obtaining clarity with your manager on:
- What s/he expects you to deliver in the first month, first quarter and first year.
- How and when the communication will operate between you. Establish how and when they want you to keep them updated. At least initially you would both benefit by having a weekly catch-up
For your own team
- Ask or explore the deliverables they are planning to achieve in the next month, quarter and year.
- Discuss and agree on the regular communication processes. For example, weekly or fortnightly one to ones; and how team meetings will operate.
A good question to be asking of your team is “what can I do to support and assist you in your work?”
How does lunch work?
The easiest habit to fall into is eating a sandwich at your desk. You can convince yourself that you’ve not time for a lunch break. WRONG! From day one you need to learn what others do for lunch and where they go. The ideal is to create a lunch habit where you can mix with a variety of people. If you’re the CEO this is particularly important.
How does the kitchen operate? Where is the printer paper kept?
In all my years in the workplace I’ve never witnessed more upset and argument being created than occurs over how the kitchen operates. Anyone reading this is likely now smiling – you know how much anger and comment is generated by people leaving dirty dishes or half-filled cups of coffee in the sink. Or the microwave left splattered with that bolognaise sauce….
You should ask how the dishwasher operates. Wipe down the bench. This will endear your to others. The same goes for learning about how the photocopier works and where the printer paper is kept. Even the CEO with a PA to attend to such matters should learn these office norms.
Explore the neighborhood
Take a walk or drive to see what’s around. Is there a good coffee shop nearby? Is there a café or eating spot you can take people to for a conversation away from the workplace?
Start to develop new habits
Undoubtedly there are aspects in your career to date that you would have identified as areas for improvement. There’s no time like starting in a new position to start developing some new habits. What might these be?
Are there new organisations or industry bodies you should follow on LinkedIn or Twitter? As you develop new relationships, decide if you should connect with them on social media.
You should also be diligent about keeping contact with former work colleagues. Have you connected with them via social media?
Don’t forget to update your online profiles to show your new position and organisation.
This might seem a long list but they’re all important. Everything doesn’t need to be ticked off and accomplished in week one but it is important you move in this direction and set the tone.