“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”
~ Alan Cohen ~
Client Craig Asks: Joel, after weeks of job searching, I just got hired by a fantastic company. I’m committed to a future with this company and I want to do everything right from Day One. What are your recommendations?
Coach Joel Answers: A new job is a wonderful opportunity. The temptation, however, after you’ve spent weeks or months on a job search, is to relax and enjoy feeling secure for a while. Not a good idea! Instead, start really working on Day One. What you need is a written action plan. Here’s what I would suggest.
- Write down high-level guidelines to be implemented during the first week or two regarding the communications you want to have with your boss, company stakeholders, business partners, and your peers in the company
- Study industry trends and compare them with what’s happening in your company.
- Spend time talking to peers and subordinates and obtain as much business knowledge as you can from their perspective. Learn from them about the company culture too, so you can quickly become an accepted member of the team.
- Once you have all this information, develop your detailed action plan. Document your goals, objectives, expectations, and timeline, and begin to obtain agreement from your bosses and start talking about commitment for the required resources.
- Promote open communication with your new boss through regularly scheduled meetings to define his goals, and to review and/or revise your priorities based on input from him as well as business partners and stakeholders.
- Tell your boss that early on you would like frequent and regularly scheduled contact with him to ensure that both near and long-term objectives are clearly communicated between you.
- Began holding one-on-ones with stakeholders and start developing strong relationships with these business partners. Include C-level managers within the company as well as clients, customers, and investors. Determine what you need to do in the near and long term to help them accomplish their goals.
- Create an agreement with your boss that the two of you will hold a resourcing conversation after a month to six weeks to define exactly what you need and where you can get it in order to succeed in your role within the company.
- Reevaluate every month and track your progress against the goals you set in Step 4.
- Manage your reputation from the beginning. Once you feel firmly established, look for advocates, both inside and outside the company, who will speak on your behalf and support you in maintaining positive visibility within the company.
Are you in the start-up phase of a new job? Write down five things you will do within the next week to make your mark and raise your visibility within the company.
Talkback: What strategies have you used to be successful in the first weeks or months of a new job? What have you tried that didn’t work? Share your experience here.
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“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”
~ Lao Tzu ~
Dennis felt excited at this new recognition. He’d just been asked to take a considerable promotion. He wasn’t new to leadership, but this was certainly a new position. A stretch. He was moving into a position of greater responsibility. He now had five teams to oversee. Some of the people he didn’t even know.
Dennis knew in order to succeed at this new job, he needed extra preparation. He didn’t have a lot of time to be up and running. He had to learn the essentials of this new leadership position right away.
One of his first steps was to Google “first 90 days as a leader online resources.” There he found articles and resource books. “I wanted to follow the principle of ‘Be. Know. Do’,” said Dennis. “I didn’t want to shoot from the hip.”
To get himself up and running in the shortest amount of time, Dennis decided to focus on these qualities.
- Resilient. Every leader will face some opposition. He needed to be prepared for a lack of agreement with his vision and direction. Also, managers, especially new leaders, make mistakes. That’s part of the risk taking. It’s why they were hired to lead. Dennis realized he needed to accept that mistakes and failures were part of the job. The important thing was to be resilient. Keep going. Keep confident. Keep motivated.
- Unique. Dennis was not hired to do the same old thing. “I needed to recognize my unique strengths and abilities,” Dennis said. “I bring my own brand, my own personality to the mix—and that’s a good thing.” Dennis knew he was good at cross-pollination, bringing ideas and methods used in other industries and finding applicability in his area.
- Thoughtful. The last leader had been autocratic. Dennis wanted to thoughtfully consider the merits of every team member’s ideas. He expected to research—online, and with company resources—to thoughtfully asses the strengths and limitations of the choices. “I wanted to avoid the ‘ready, fire, aim’ I saw in some management,” Dennis said.
- Vision. Dennis needed to know the course he wanted to go. He had to have a clear vision of his position, his responsibilities, and his goals.
- People. There were many new people for Dennis to get to know. He wanted to understand their strengths, their personalities, their attitudes, and how they fit with the teams.
- Culture. Even though Dennis was pretty familiar with the corporate culture, this new position put him in a different aspect of it. He needed to learn what was expected of him in as a leader in this particular place.
- Lead with Confidence. “Once I determined I was the kind of leader I needed to be, and I knew what I needed to know, I wanted to lead with confidence,” Dennis said. “I wanted my people to feel confident I knew what I was doing. I wanted them comfortable following me.”
- Set an Example. Dennis liked leaders that led by example. He wanted to make sure all his actions were impeccable. “If I asked my people to do something, I wanted them to know I was willing to do it too,” Dennis said. “I had skin in the game.”
- Embrace Change. Dennis works in an evolving industry. It is constantly changing. Rather than being reluctant to move in a new direction or cling to established ways, Dennis determined to embrace the change and lead the way.
Dennis implemented his plan. He used online resources freely and felt that he learned new leader essentials faster than he had anticipated. “I’m glad I put in the work early on,” Dennis said. “It really paid off. I feel comfortable in my position and I’ve heard feedback that my workers respect me.”
Just landed your dream leadership position? Contact Joel to learn the new leader essentials that will launch you to success.
Talkback: What have you found most helpful as a new leader? What tips or techniques would you recommend?
“While pay and benefits were important, they weren’t real drivers of retention.”
~ Robert Morgan ~
Dianna has found herself, somewhat unexpectedly, on the hot seat. As HR manager for a large manufacturing and distribution company, she is responsible for so much of the day-to-day operation that she has been ignoring some big picture initiatives. Suddenly, the company’s employee retention strategy, or more correctly its lack of one, has risen to #1 on her CEO’s hot list. Dianna starts researching best practices used in companies similar to hers and then calls her direct reports together for a brainstorming session. As Steven Covey advises in Habit #2 of his classic Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, most good personal and corporate strategies begin with the end in mind. Diana knows their turnover rate is way too high, so she and her team begin with the goal of reducing turnover by 30% in the next 12 months. The team agrees that their wages and benefits are highly competitive, so they look for other areas that need attention. They focus on developing three key initiatives that can quickly and directly impact their turnover rate.
- Tell the whole truth and nothing but
- Hold managers accountable
- Put out the welcome mat
1. Tell the whole truth and nothing but. A good employee retention strategy starts with recruiting. This philosophy applies whether you are using a search firm, posting on an online job board, or running newspaper ads. Employees most often leave a company in the short term because the job was either oversold or undersold. The new employee needs to fully understand what the job involves and this means his or her expectations should be based in reality. Will he be on the phone six hours a day? Will she be dealing with the public? Does the job involve a certain amount of routine or monotony?Management must clearly communicate what the job responsibilities are before an offer is made.
2. Hold managers accountable.Each individual manager must take responsibility for directing the on-boarding process for his or her own employees. This means spending time to acquaint new hires with company policies, procedures, and traditions. Within the first 90 days, the new employee needs to feel totally aligned with the company’s vision and mission, and totally committed to its success. Each manager must develop a training program that not only covers the standard orientation information session but also provides the employee with a personal training and development agenda to be completed within the first 90 to 180 days. The manager also needs to provide a check-in schedule, so that the new employee knows when he will be debriefing or going over personal progress reports with the manager.
3. Put out the welcome mat.Every new employee needs to feel at home from Day One. This means getting ready ahead of time so that there are no missing pieces. All the paperwork is assembled and ready to complete. Someone is available to walk the employee through the how-to, such as enrolling in the insurance program, signing up for the 401-k, the daycare facility, or the softball team. The photo ID badge is issued on the first day so that the new hire doesn’t have to deal with security issues.Someone is designated as the go-to person if questions come up during the first week or two. Most important, every new employee should be put on a team and given a meaningful project or work responsibility to get started on.
Corporate management needs to view employee retention strategies as an investment that pays dividends, not an expense to be avoided. Time and money spent now will add strength to the talent pool and dollars to the bottom line.
Whether it’s an executive coaching program or a strategy development conference, Joel has some answers for you. Contact him today.
Talkback: Is employee turnover costing you money? Or perhaps you’ve tried a strategy that worked. Tell us about your experience.
~ Dave Olsen, Starbucks Chief Coffee Buyer ~
Client Robert Asks: I’m losing people right and left, and I don’t understand why. I’d think that, in this job market, people would be happy just to have a job. We have a good orientation program. But my turnover rate is through the roof and I know it’s costing the company money. What can I do to stop the bleeding? I think I need to design an employee retention program.
Coach Joel Answers: You’re right—losing employees is an expensive proposition. Companies that deal successfully with this issue don’t just rely on an orientation meeting and an employee handbook. An effective program to retain employees involves the entire company and can last a month or two, or even six. Successful on-boarding is the key to employee retention and your program needs to focus more on emotional take-aways than just a list of activities to be checked off. You need to answer these three questions for every new hire:
- Who are we?
- Why am I here?
- Where am I going?
1. Who are we? Most new employees already know something about the company because they’ve been through the recruiting process, so don’t waste a lot of time and energy on company history. Instead, spend time talking about how the company is structured and who reports to whom, both formally and informally. Visuals are helpful here—organization charts, annual reports, and promotional materials, for example. Talk about the company’s value proposition. What sets us apart from our competitors? How do we make money? Why are we successful?
Emphasize how the company treats its customers and clients. Introducing new employees to key clients as part of the formal on-boarding process is a great tactic, but at the very least, have some anecdotes and experiences to share. This makes it real.
2. Why am I here? Establish a clear understanding in each new employee’s mind about how their department and specific job fits into the overall company picture. Make them feel important. Be clear about what you expect from both the department and the employee. This includes short and long term goals, major projects, deadlines and deliverables. Show them how the work gets done. Don’t worry too much about rules and red tape at this point. Instead, get them started on a key project or activity right away, so they know they are adding value to an already valuable business enterprise.
3. Where am I going? The first two steps in the program lay a good foundation for retaining employees, but retention won’t really take hold until the employee feels at home. You can make this happen by helping new employees become a part of the organization as quickly as possible. This starts with introducing them to colleagues and company leaders but that’s only the beginning. Your job is to make them feel that they are part of a great company and that you feel lucky to have them as part of the team. Let them know that relationships count and that their colleagues and the company are there to support both their growth and their contribution. Let them know you’ll have their back, so they are not afraid to try new things.
Show them the path ahead, which includes how to navigate the corporate ladder, what kinds of training, coaching, and personal growth programs are available to them, and how they fit into the company’s future. Remember, it’s not about you—it’s about them. Make them feel emotionally involved and committed, and they will be yours for life!
Talkback: Have you tried some employee retention programs that worked? What do your employees say? Share your story here.
“You know you’re an introvert when you get excited about cancelled plans.”
~ Anonymous ~
Ryan is at a crossroads in his career. He’s been with the same company for five years, working in IT as a programmer. He gets along well with his co-workers and his manager thinks he’s doing a great job. Lately, however, he’s started to wonder if he should look for a change. He’d like to move up in the company, but all the hot jobs with great prospects are in sales. There’s a sales job that’s just been posted and he’s thinking of applying. But he feels uncomfortable every time he thinks about it. His brain is going in circles so he decides to call his business coach and run the idea by her.
Ryan’s coach asks him a number of questions about what the new job would look like. Would he be spending a lot of time on the phone, making calls and setting up appointments? Would he have a lot of tight deadlines and pressure to meet sales targets? Would he be working independently or would he be part of a team? Would he be in a position to do a lot of networking, attending meetings and public events? Ryan answers “yes” to all her questions.
“Clearly you have an introvert personality,” she told him. “All these activities that you’re describing generally make introverts very uncomfortable. It’s certainly possible for an introvert to succeed in some types of sales jobs. But before you decide to take your career in a whole new direction, I think there are three things you need to do:
- Be yourself
- Find your niche
- Learn to compensate.
Ryan decides to do some further research and self-analysis before he makes a decision. If you’re contemplating a job change, you might want to follow these steps as well.
1. Be yourself. When you’re interviewing for a new job, whether it’s with your present company or a brand new management job, don’t be tempted to fake it. A job interview is where a potential boss or employer gets to know the “real you.” It’s his or her opportunity to see if you’re right for the job. But it’s not a one-sided deal. It’s also your opportunity to be who you are and see if the job is right for you. If you like to work independently, with little or no supervision, don’t brag about your teamwork skills!
2. Find your niche. A recent study conducted by CareerBuilder found that extroverts were more likely to rise higher in management ranks, by 22 percent compared with 18 percent of introverts. “The data does indicate that extroverts may be better suited for higher-level positions, many of which involve a lot of collaboration and public speaking,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “But that doesn’t mean an introvert can’t still rise high in a company. It may be the case that many of the respondents began as introverts and gradually became more extroverted as the situation demanded.”
Here’s the key question to ask yourself: How comfortable will I be as an introvert in extrovert’s clothing? Can I play that role for an hour a day? Eight hours a day? Every day? Is this a skill I want to learn or am I going too much against the grain?
3. Learn to compensate. If you’re already in a job that’s not exactly your cup of tea, or if you’re contemplating a new opportunity that may take you outside your comfort zone, develop a game plan. First of all, be honest with your boss and your co-workers. If you’d enjoy setting up the trade show exhibit, volunteer to take that on if someone else will make the follow-up calls.
Pace yourself and don’t get into stimulation overload. That’s a sure loser for any introvert personality. If you’ve spent all day meeting with clients, skip the happy hour festivities with the gang and take a solo walk or do some yoga instead. If you’ve had a week of high-pressure deadlines, spend your weekend in low-key activities rather than shopping and socializing.
After some soul-searching and in-depth conversations with his boss and his human resources department, Ryan decides to develop an upward mobility plan in IT. He takes on some new projects and starts to develop his management skills so he’ll be ready to move up when the opportunity occurs.
Knowledge is power. Know yourself. Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Know what you want and how much you’re willing to change to get it. As Ricky Nelson crooned in his hit song, Garden Party, “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”
Are you wondering if a job or career change is right for you? Contact Joel today. He can help you sort through your options and make the right decision.
Talkback: Are you an introvert in an extrovert world? Have you developed some coping strategies that work? Share your ideas here.
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