Owning Your Onboarding

Starting a new job can be reminiscent of falling in love. If you are leaving one company for another, you romanticize the new company. You see yourself talking to your new co-workers at the on-site Starbuck’s, working out at the gym and being rewarded and recognized for the value you are sure to bring. If you have been promoted at your current company then you romanticize the leader you will be. You will leave behind old habits that have not served you well, you will learn and grow and share. Sure, you know there will be challenges; processes will be broken (or non-existent), some people will be challenging to work with and it will take some time to establish yourself and your brand. But you are energized and confident in your ability to bring a fresh perspective and take on the challenges to come! It’s a wonderful time that I like to call the “honeymoon phase”.

The honeymoon phase lasts for about 90 days and is commonly known as your “onboarding period”. Companies move fast these days and it doesn’t feel like you have the luxury of 90 days to figure out how things work. You might have attended an orientation session to learn about the company, your benefits, the culture, and the best restaurants to go to in the area but what can YOU do to set yourself up for success at your new company or in your new role? Here are some critical steps that you can take to truly own your onboarding and “hit the ground running”.

Establish your goals and communicate them, a LOT. Yes, you were put in this role because the organization has a need so the role comes with some pre-established goals that were most likely reviewed in the interview process. Now is the time to prioritize the goals and start to think about how you are going to accomplish them. Start building out some timelines and accessing what tools and resources you do and don’t have to ensure that your timelines are realistic. You may find that there are some deliverables that you might be able to accelerate (quick wins) while other deliverables may take more time than the organization had originally thought. The key will be communication. Ensure that you have this plan documented and these timelines thought out and socialize them with your leader, your team and other key individuals. If you start feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to say to your leader “I’m getting up to speed and there’s a lot that needs to be done. These are my top three priorities for this week, are we aligned?”

Establish key relationships and schedule the meetings. Sure, you know your leader, your team and your leaders’ leader but this is about figuring out how work really gets done. For example, if you’re in Product Management, I can assure there are some key people that you need to meet and establish relationships with in Technology to “get shit done!” If you are in Human Resources, there are some key people that you need to meet on the HR team as well as in the business to ensure that you have a solid understanding the business and it’s talent and people needs. Executive Assistants have always been critical people for me to get to know. They not only help you find time on a busy executive’s calendar, they let you know the right time.

The key here is don’t wait on others to reach out to you. Be proactive, schedule the meetings with these key people and ensure you are being intentional with these meetings. Let them know why you want to meet with them, what priority you are working towards that involves them, how you plan on getting it done and who they recommend you talk to in the organizaiton.

Understand your organization, in the fullest extent. Yes, find an organizational chart but don’t stop there. Figure out how decisions are made in your organization and understand your role in the decision making process. Are you the key decision maker or just someone providing input and perspective OR just intended to execute on the key decisions? What is the company’s strategy and roadmap for executing? Where do you fit into that strategy and how is the work that you are doing impact the broader organization? How is success measured in the organization? How are employees recognized and rewarded?

If you are leading an organization, start gathering key information and organizing it now. This will serve to keep you organized and focused but could also be the start of business case you might need to make in the near future. I like to build a PowerPoint which includes: my department’s org chart, strategy, priorities aligned to owners and timelines and future needs (tools, resources, money). If you know that you are going to be asking for an investment in the future, make sure you tie that investment back to a business priority and the impact to the business if the investment is not funded. For the first 90 days, this deck becomes my sanity check. As new information comes my way, I capture it here and come back to it almost daily to update, edit and mess with it.

For leaders, make your team priority number one. There is one common trait shared amongst poor leaders, they don’t prioritize time with their team. If you have been given responsibility for a team, you should be meeting with them week one, no excuses. If you are travelling week one, consider a video conference or get the meeting on the calendar for the next time you are in the office. If you are feeling pulled from executives, let them know that it is important to you to carve out the time to prioritize your team. But get the 1:1s and the first team meeting scheduled.

In your first 1:1 with team members, make sure you are asking some version of these questions to set your working relationship up for success. What motivates you? Is it money? Is it time off? How do you like to be rewarded and recognized? Do you love or hate public recognition? What is your preferred means of communication? Face-to-face? E-mail? Chat? Phone? What hours do you prefer to work? What are your current priorities? Where do you need help? How can we have a strong working relationship going forward? What do you need from me to make that happen?

Set your boundaries, now. If you are coming from a role where your work/life balance got all out of whack and you are hoping for a fresh start in this new role or new company, you need to set your boundaries, NOW. If you and your leader have agreed that you can have flexible work hours to avoid traffic, start working those hours and holding yourself accountable to that schedule from day one. If you come into the role and start trying to prove yourself by working ten hour days then know that you have set an expectation that will he hard to break as time goes on. Leaders respect boundaries but they can’t enforce them for you; that’s on you. Stay focused on the results that you are delivering for the organization and communicate your priorities and your progress towards them, often

Give yourself a learning curve. I have coached numerous high performers throughout my career and they all have one thing in common, unrealistically high expectations of themselves. I, too, am a recovering straight-A student so I know all about high expectations. But when taking on a new role, we often underestimate the time it will take for us to learn the new role. Give yourself a break and don’t be afraid to ask your leader “how long do you think the learning curve for this role is?” Often times you will find that it is longer than you have given yourself and you can yourself a break.

Hopefully all of these tips will help you make the most of your honeymoon phase and set you up for a long, thriving relationship in your new company or organization. Best of luck to you as you take ownership of your onboarding!

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