Several months ago, I moved into a new management position at ACHIEVE. After two weeks on the job, someone asked me what changes I had made and what I had shaken up after coming onboard. This conversation left me a little perplexed and somewhat unsettled.
Are we really supposed to be disrupters as soon as we start a new job? If this is the case, then I failed. There was so much I needed to learn that I couldn’t even begin to think about what needed to be changed. There were technical aspects of the job I needed to learn, as well as new tasks and new people whose skills and strengths I did not fully understand. Sure, I had lots of preconceived notions about how things worked, but they were simply that – ideas in my head. It was clear that I was in no position to make any radical changes.
Are we really supposed to be disrupters as soon as we start a new job?
Our organization was functioning well without me. My entry was part of a well-considered plan, designed to ensure our continued success. If I wanted to have a positive long-term impact, I needed to watch, listen, learn, and let the process evolve rather than be a disrupting force like my friend suggested. In fact, I have seen and heard many stories where a dramatic entry into a leadership position resulted in a lot of push back and ultimately did more harm than good, despite high expectations.
I’ve been in my role for a few months now, but I still have much more to learn. I am reminded of the need to be reflective and how important it is to listen and learn. Here are three things that have helped me wade through this transition and that you may want to consider if you are in a new position:
Pick a task, system, or process you want to learn and focus on mastering it to the best of your ability. It will rarely feel like you have enough time, so remember that the best time management is really focus management. Choose where to place your focus and get comfortable investing concentrated time in learning new tasks step-by-step.
Set High Standards for Yourself
Whatever we do, people around us notice. We don’t have to do or know it all, but we should aspire to do what we do well. The best leaders know that they set the example for others by their own level of commitment, effort, and work quality – we should do the same.
Find Someone You Can Emulate
Apprentices in the Renaissance learned their trade by copying the work of a master. Eventually, they were allowed to add the finishing touches to a work in progress that the master had already begun, and after much time they would create their own masterpiece. It was a long learning curve, but it worked! Find someone whose work you admire, and work alongside them so you can learn from their expertise. Or, at least identify someone that you can bounce ideas off of and direct questions to.
I am looking forward to what is next in my role and figuring out how to best contribute to our organization. I am not in a hurry to learn it all today, or at least I am feeling less overwhelmed with all I still have to learn. In fact, it is exciting to know there is new territory still ahead. My commitment is to the longevity and health of our organization – and that probably means no shakeups for a while.
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