"You never get a second chance to make a first impression"
The old ad campaign slogan is absolutely valid when it comes to accepting a new role whether it is internal to your current organization or with a new organization. The first month you are there is of particular importance for site level jobs and the first three to six months carry the same weight for director or C-level positions. The larger circle of influence will increase this time simply based on quantity of interaction. This crucial time frame can either establish you as an effective leader or be the curse that could drive you to seek opportunities elsewhere. There are two key principals that can help a new manager thrive during this period of constant evaluation.
Principal I: Do not make any changes for at least 30 days
This time needs to be considered sacred and untouchable. Communicate to your manager that this process will be occurring and that it is vital to establishing your self as an effective culturally-focused leader.
Firstly, a common misconception that line associates or non-degreed supervisors possess is that their managers think they are smarter than them. You must immediately establish the fact that you appreciate and respect your team, if you ever hope to win over their hearts and minds. It does not matter how many PhDs, engineering degrees or years of experience you possess, everyone that currently is at your new site has more organizational specific experience than you do. Some managers believe in that they need to shake things up from day one to gain respect; this is absolutely polar to what should actually happen. Think about it this way: no one would immediately go to a persons house who they just met and start rearranging their furniture. Making changes during this 30 day period is the occupational equivalent of that.
What you do want to be doing is spending a great deal of time where the value is added. Introduce your self to everyone, ask questions about their time away from work. I like to keep running conversations with every line associate that are not work related. With Henry the operator we have a conversation about driving Jeeps and rock-crawling. With Jaime the sales-person it could be about his kids soccer team. The point is that you want to develop some level of a relationship that exists beyond occupational requirements. The perception needs to be clear that you are a person that places value on human capital.
Concurrently with the meet-and-greet, you should be developing a knowledge of the current state of affairs. Make mental and written notes of how the processes exist. Try not to carry a clipboard with you. Carrying a clipboard makes it seem that this conversation is being recorded to be held against someone in a court of law. If you need to make notes, it is better to use your smart-phone or a pocket notebook. The appearance needs to be that you were not intending on recording every snippet of data and that you are getting to know the team not an external auditor
Principal II: Spend time with your new team... in a direct task
Its time to get your hands dirty! I recommend that all managers, whether they are support managers or line managers, spend time actually doing the job that generates (or supports generating) the revenue.
- Take at least a day to work in each primary job that exists in your operation. This will serve two main purposes:
- You will get to assess the knowledge level of your staff. Does the operator just know that this button makes it turn on or do they have an intimate knowledge of the operational principles?
- You will be exposed to the real world problems that your team faces on a daily basis and prevents them from achieving goals.
- The cultural themes that you want to establish are:
- Perception by your team members that although you aren't doing their job on a daily basis, you are willing to.
- As a leader, you respect that the work associated with your team members is important to the success of the business.
Managing this "cooling off period" is not necessarily difficult. The bottom line is that you need to be communicating, "I'm here to make your roles easier, more effective and more rewarding." A great deal of new leaders are communicating, "I am here because you weren't getting the desired results and I have to fix this problem."