4 ways to start fast in your new position

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jul 25

There are four critical accomplishments you need to have when you start a new position. None of them relate to your job skills and have little to do with your interview.

Instead, you need to learn how things get done in your new job. How you can fit into the team. What your manager tells you — and what he or she doesn’t.

Understand the organization

The best onboarding I ever had in an organization was a manager who sat me down in his office my first day on the job and started to draw. He drew the organization chart for the company.

Not all of it, of course. But there were three big divisions in the company and he took some time to go through two of the three. What each division did. Who the customers of the division were. Who the people were in each of the division.

In my day job, my company sells many lines of insurance. Even though I have been there two years, I don’t know who they sell to, what the marketing channels are, or even if the agents are ours or independent ones. Would be useful in a support role, don’t you think?

Then my manager came to our division. There he went through each person and/or group in the hierarchy. What they did. What were the inputs to their work. How they did their work. Who their work was given to as customers.

It was pretty intense — a firehose of information.

It was a beautiful way to ask questions about the organization, the people in it, and what they did. I didn’t understand everything — and asked questions later — but I learned a ton. It was highly useful from day one.

If your manager doesn’t provide this, ask. If your manager doesn’t provide it, ask someone on your team to help you define it.

When you find out how little everyone knows about the organization, don’t wonder why the left hand doesn’t know about what the right hand is doing. (that was commentary…)

Understand your goals

You were hired to produce business results for your manager. You’d think your manager would provide some guidance around those business results needed.

Often, they don’t.

If they don’t, look at the tasks given to you. Figure out what other people are working on. Ask your team what the top five accomplishments are you are trying to achieve as a team.

Don’t be surprised if they don’t know. You might have to figure out the pattern by yourself to understand the goals.

Understand your team

When people say “figure out your team”, the usually mean their personalities. How to get along with them.

That’s good, but that is not what this one is about.

Understanding your team means this: what is each person on the team really good at? What is each person an expert in for the work you do?

If you ran into problem X, who on the team would be best to handle that problem because they have the most expertise?

That’s what you have to figure out.

Understand your unique role on the team

Why do you have to figure out each person’s strength on the team?

So you don’t duplicate it.

Duplicating an expertise on a team means competition between you and the other person. It means trying to get the same work assigned to you both.

What you want to do instead is figure out what YOUR unique gift is to the team. Where is your expertise to help the cause?

When you develop your own unique expertise on the team, you become valued for that expertise. You get more work around that expertise — and you get even better doing it.

It’s a tall order, isn’t it?

Today, you need to start contributing early and often. The question is always, “What’s the best way to contribute?”

The answer is that you don’t know.

Instead, you have to make it through these four areas to understand where to do the work. Where to ask for assignments from your manager. Where to carve out your abilities to compliment the team.

It’s easy to get hit with the firehose and think that you’ll figure this stuff out later. Later becomes two years and you still don’t know the answers to these questions. That’s a dangerous position.

Better to get these things down early on. You’ll get up to speed faster, know your direction, and make more immediate contributions.

That’s how you become a Cubicle Warrior.