You must be New! 5 Things You Should Never Do Coming into an Organization

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.

Never…

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Opportunities in Down Times?

My previous entry applies to large, conservative organization that is truly closed to new ideas and just trying to keep their head above water. Let’s not kid ourselves…unfortunately, they are out there. For those braver and more entrepreneurial souls, by all means take now as an opportunity to help sell how we can make things better internally, which may include different technology.

Some companies may have made very short-term decisions in their recent RIFs that may come back to haunt them. In a year, they may find themselves scrambling to locate good talent to help position themselves well in the new marketplace.

If you have leadership that will listen, then by all means pitch social technology as a means of engaging surviving talent – posing yourself for the great recruitment adventure to come as well as positioning your products and services within the marketplace.

If you’re looking to stretch your dollar, then borrow public social tools for now until you can procure something more sophisticated if that’s needed. If the lawyers don’t allow you to do that, then it’s time for all Learning and Knowledge Professionals to become sales professionals. We want to stay afloat but occasionally waves come by and we need to have a sea-worthy craft to ride them out. If your craft is 10 years old and not sea-worthy, then negotiate for small, trial implementations to prove their value.

Now, if we put our neck on the line for wish list items like this, then we MUST bribe, persuade and cajole our test groups to use the heck out of these tools so not only do we get to keep them but we get to expand them when the waves start to diminish.

We all have an inner Salesperson. We sell everyday, don’t we? We may not make any revenue or claim more marketshare but we seek something more important – mindshare. I’ll never forget the first time I heard that term…almost 10 years ago. It struck a deep chord with me. YES! That is what I sell – getting people to agree with my ideas

Doggie Paddling to Stay Afloat

As recent as last year or last month, companies were working hard to implement SharePoint and the latest, greatest social tools. However, today, these capital investments are hard to come by in most companies. For those of us in the boat of status quo – doggie paddling to stay afloat – what can we do to outlast disappearing programs, shelved technology implementations and suspended initiatives?

Dog in WaterMaximize current technology.

“Make due with what you have.” Leverage current investments.” “Maximize our current toolset.” How many of you have heard these very statements? As old or clunky as it might be, it’s time to be creative and figure out how to make incremental changes with what you have. Some of us are lucky to have SharePoint; others are still struggling with out-dated Notes Databases and prehistoric Document Management Systems that stifle collaboration instead of enabling it. (Anyone in this boat with me?)  However, there are ways to work with your IT group to customize these things. I know…”customize” is a terrible word. But, using IT to customize existing technology vs. implementing new technology is sometimes an easier pill to swallow. I have found the word “new” is scary right now even if it is “better”…at least for now.

Dust off your process maps (or create them!).

I have always thought that I could never make true process improvements without better technology. While I still believe this is true to some extent, there are opportunities to create processes that have never existed before (with or without technology) and streamline existing ones by focusing on the people in the equation. I was so caught up in implementing social tools (that ended up being shelved) that I neglected the fact that we have no great way to vet our “best” content. Would new technology make that easier? Yes! But, let’s get back to defining what we hold up as our “best” work and decide who will make that decision. Both processes take human thought not capital dollars.

Partner with the other “under the gun” support functions to create a cohesive strategy.

Unfortunately, in tough times, turf wars can happen. Instead of fighting for corners of an organizational strategy, work together to co-create one strategy that serves everyone’s interests and divide roles and responsibilities accordingly. Learning, Knowledge Management and Internal/Employee Communications need to work together for the survival of all. For years, I have been collaborating with these two groups but so many others I have spoken to have never discussed a single program with them. It’s time to stop defending your turf and embrace the entire landscape as a team.