Three months ago I started a new role with a new company. It is also listed on the French market and its activities span the globe.
It has been an odd experience, going from a place of absolute mastery to that of learning. I have had to step back and let go of the need to be in control, so that I could absorb all the new things around me. I was intent on learning quickly; confident that I could – and while I have learnt a lot, I see that there is still so much to learn.
So how does one make a move successful? How does one blend in and become accepted while also driving changes that are evident?
In my experience, this time around, the strongest allies you can have are:
- Questioning and
To fit into any environment you need to be aware of the codes that define that environment.
Here is a list of things I was sure I needed to check off:
- Do people leave their office doors open?
- How do people dress? Is it formal or casual?
- How are meetings prepared and then run?
- Are subjects handled better in meetings or through casual conversations?
- How are emails signed of?
- PowerPoint, word, excel or something else?
- Is there an arrival time or is it random?
- Where do people eat?
Just these things helped me shape quickly the way I dressed, the way I structured my first meetings, the way I asked questions, the way I spoke to people and how I presented ideas.
The purpose of this first exercise, in adapting to my environment, wasn’t to be lost in it or to be sucked up by it, but rather to allay fears of those whom I was joining, so that they could see I was one of them.
Of course, I could have wore my fitted suit to their casual attire. I could have forced PowerPoint to their excel. I could have ate out every lunch instead of joining everyone on the canteen. I could have arrived super early and kept my office door closed.
But if I did all of this I would have forever been the outsider and I would not have been able to be the trusted change agent that I wanted to be.
To be able to lead people and teams along a new path, you first have to gain their trust.
We are all creatures of community. We grow up in families, we go to schools, we play team sports, and we work together in companies. We trust that which we know and we distrust that which we don’t.
Trust is paramount to the foundation of any new relationship.
This one may be obvious but often it is not.
Often we come to a new company and we want to make believe that we know everything. Maybe technically we know a lot but never do we know the rest in the detail needed to drive growth.
Questions are critical to building understanding.
Understanding is critical to defining new ways of working, driving growth and efficiencies.
So I ask a lot of questions. Whenever I am unsure or don’t want to appear too stupid I caveat the question so that I portray doubt or I ask directly how it works in this new company/industry. As I quickly built trust, I find it easier to ask questions.
Understanding how things work has helped me to better apply my previous experience and adapt it to my new environment to add value to my new company.
One can’t take anything for granted.
We always assume things work a certain way, but don’t!
Ask the question and listen to the response.
This is a way of being that is essential to who I always am and how I lead.
But again it is essential when changing companies. Nobody warms to a bully. Nobody likes a bragger and know it all. Nobody wants to be friends with the arrogant guy. Being humble opens people up to you and I have found people I speak to are more willing to now add insights or come to me with issues or concerns in an open manner. It has made my role easier to do.
Humility is a strong base on which to build new relationships.
Strong relationships provide better insights, more open and honest communication and better fodder with which to drive growth.
So after 3 months, what’s the verdict?
Time is an old steady friend and in the case of a move to a new company, new culture, new industry I need to rely on this old friend. I am learning. I can see the changes that need to be made to make us more nimble, more agile, more efficient and stronger, but now I need to start using what I have built to drive those changes. I need to be patient and patience is not my biggest strength.
Time will tell.