It is very difficult to come into an organization as a new middle manager – or any level for that matter – but, I have found it most difficult when you’re a layer or two below the top of the organization.
Off the bat…you have no history, no relationships and no credibility. You’re not one of the gang; you don’t know the secret knock. You don’t even have the reputation of being an outside consultant – a hired gun parachuted in to fix something and then you’re out.
You live in the middle gray area of not being on the team but hired to build or fix something from within. This can be a lonely place at first. As such, there are 5 things you should never do on your way in that might inhibit your chances to make friends and gain entry to the club.
- Eat your lunch at your desk. Lunch is the perfect opportunity to get to know people outside of the workplace on a personal level but also in a safe environment so people can be candid with you. Lunch is a very disarming situation and, best of all, it is outside of a boring beige conference room!
- Pine for your past. People don’t really want to hear about your past lives. They may want to get to know you a little bit but don’t belabor what you have achieved in the past. People don’t want to hear: “Well, at my last company…” too many times. It is a turn-off. Instead focus on what you think is possible and what excites you about this opportunity.
- Ignore their past. Don’t brush over what has been tried before at the present company. Oftentimes, what has been done could have been quite good; there may not have been enough buy-in or focus on change management. Be sure to pay homage to the past. Recognize it, take what’s good and keep it (and communicate that broadly); reinvent, carefully, what does not work.
- Build your plan right away. Even if you know what needs to be changed and how to do it within 30 days, resist the urge. Give it 90-100 days. Grab your pipe and magnifying glass and go to work Sherlock Holmes style. Discover what your stakeholders need and really give good thought on how to get it done. This shows you can listen.
- Do nothing for 6 months. Don’t act too quickly but there is a sweet spot between giving enough time to build credibility through listening and doing something to prove your value. So, be sure to not only have your plan ready in 90-100 days but achieve a “plus one”– one tangible, achievable outcome along with the plan within that timeframe.