Today I had a couple of mentoring sessions.
Generally, I’m talking to people about career advice with an eye toward getting a new or better job. But today, one of the people already had an offer in hand and was asking for advice as he transitioned into the role he was about to start. His question was about someone moving from a small company to a large company but I think the following tips will be applicable in many situations.
Here are six tips for someone stepping into a new role, new job, and/or new boss.
Tip 1 — Get Role Clarity
Make sure you are given the clarity around your role and responsibilities. What items are yours and, just as importantly, what items are NOT yours.
Request intros with your team members and key stakeholders and use that time to make sure you understand how they fit into the puzzle. What are their key responsibilities? Where might there be overlap or confusion? Clarify it quickly.
Tip 2 — Ask the Dumb Questions Fast
It is cliche to say that there are no dumb questions. I don’t really agree with that. I would say that it’s better to ask a dumb question now than to keep being in the dark about something. But after a year in a role, if you have to ask a question about what a core concept is then you will not be doing yourself favors.
Therefore ask as many terminology questions as you can early on. After a month or three, there will be an expectation that you know the core concepts of the team.
You have the NEW card. Use it.
Every team is going to have dozens of TLAs. When you hear one and don’t know what it is — ask. Better now than later.
Even better — ask if the team has documentation around terminology.
Tip 3 — Define Success
Work with your new manager to create a 1 month/3 month/6 month plan. This plan should take the form of: “By XYZ date (1 month out), I will have completed…”
Last year, I setup a couple plans like this and found them to be incredibly effective both times. Taking the time to be thoughtful about these milestone dates, allowed me as a manager to be crystal clear one what I needed and gave the employee the blueprint of what they needed to do and learn — and by when.
The artifact is simple — it’s just a text document. But the creation of it requires several in depth conversations with your new manager about what his or her expectations for you are. Put the major bullets down in writing. They should be SMART.
When a new large task appears, ask if it should go into the plan and what should come out of the plan or move back. This gives your boss the ability to reprioritize as needed. I definitely moved many things around from the original plans, but through it all we maintained mutual understanding.
Ultimately this is giving you a lot of power to drive your own success and maintain a reasonable workload.
Tip 4 — Understand Communication Styles
Find out how your boss and team members prefer to communicate. Do they want a text for urgent items and email for others? Should you call? Slack? What about after hours? Do they want individual updates as they happen or a roll-up? What items require immediate updates? Do they prefer impromptu drive-by discussions or scheduling something on the calendar.
These are the things we all learn over time and miscommunications will happen until it’s figured out. So figure it out fast.
Tip 5 — Do an End-of-Week Report
This is a good tool for a lot of situations but I think it can work well early on in a new job. This is another way of making expectations clear, but you can layer in an extra touchpoint with your new boss. You get to raise any blockers or any thing else you need help with. You get to brag about what you have accomplished.
This also gives your boss another opportunity to reprioritize and refocus without it being a difficult conversation for either party.
Tip 6 — Manage Up
As a manager and leader, I love when people know how to manage up. I generally end my 1:1s with “What can I do to help you?” which is my way of opening the door for people to manage up. I’d much rather someone explicitly tell me they need me to do something differently than it come up later in the context of something failing and the reason was I was not providing the required support.
If your new boss is good, they’ll appreciate you managing up.
I saved this for last because Tips 1–5 above may require you to manage up:
- You’re not given a definition of roles and list of people to talk to? (Tip 1)
- You haven’t received a list of common terms? (Tip 2)
- Don’t have a 1/3/6 month success definition? (Tip 3)
- Haven’t had a discussion with your new boss about communication styles? (Tip 4)
- Not sure what information would be useful for your boss? (Tip 5)
If your answer for any of these is Yes then you need to drive. Schedule time with your boss and make sure that you are getting what you need for every one of these. In other words, you need to manage up.