A few weeks ago, I wrote about thought followership. This concept isn’t exactly the opposite of thought leadership. Gurus don’t have monopolies on good ideas. New concepts most often come to people who are building on their own thoughts in the context of other concepts. Your ability to take existing concepts and extend them while conveying them to others is a very valuable trait in today’s world. Nowhere is this more valuable (to yourself) or apparent than in your first days in a new job. This is when first impressions are made.
My daughter recently accepted a new job. She asked me what advice I had for someone in her circumstances to maximize her chances to do well in this new position. Here is what I said to her. Hope it works!
Some Fundamental Things I Learned in Business
Your first few weeks on a new job serve to set everyone’s assessment of how you work and what you’re going to be like as an associate. Almost nothing you do later can modify the impression you set at the outset. Make a superb impression at the outset, and your colleagues will overlook mistakes you make in the future. Make a mediocre impression at the outset, and there’s little you can do to improve people’s initial impression of you.
In this regard, I have learned a few lessons over the course of my business career.
1. Be the first person in the office in the morning and the last to leave in the evening. Being visible is a profound signal of who you are.
2. You will be asked to be in the office at times that interfere with your personal life. Accept this with enthusiasm and grace. (One time, Coke asked me to work Christmas eve and Christmas day because the company required a senior office to be on premise in case a major incident occurred somewhere on the globe. At first, I was angry, but then I realized the trust the company was placing in me. Nothing happened, but I was flattered that I was someone who was trusted to be in charge.)
3. You have one sick day per year. No more. If you have an illness that debilitates you, go to the office until you turn green and are ordered to go home.
4. Answer your own phone. It makes a huge impression on everyone who calls you.
5. Volunteer to do more and to do things outside your assigned responsibility. Empty the trash if necessary.
6. Meet with anyone who asks to see you. You will waste some time. But once in awhile, a gem walks in your office.
7. Do not socialize with your subordinates. You are their supervisor and that role takes priority. One day you might have to terminate someone, and it’s easier if that person is not your personal friend.
8. Remember that most people who look up to you do so for the title on your business card. Lose that business card and they forget about you in an instant. As intoxicating as power might be, never be confused by this.
9. Hit the road running. Be energetic and open. Don’t bring “[Your old company]” way to your new job. They are different organizations and some will resent your past. Leave your past in [where you’re from]. It will be hard to do, so be aware of the temptation.
10. Give credit to your associates and subordinates. As Robert Woodruff said: There is no limit to how far a man can go if he doesn’t care who gets the credit.
11. Hire people who are smarter than you. Don’t be threatened by smart subordinates. Once folks see that you will give them credit and recognition, they will line up to work for you. Nothing advances your career more than a talented group around you.
12. After 90 days on the job, write a memo about your observations and opportunities for business growth.
I know you’ll do great. Just wanted to share some of my lessons learned.