Influence Your Office On Day One: Five Essential Tips for Navigating a New Job
When you start a new job, take a moment to think and ask yourself this: “WWSHD?” (What Would Sherlock Holmes Do?)
What garnered Sherlock Holmes, arguably the most famous fictional detective of all time enormous respect in the eyes of his colleagues was an uncanny ability to solve cases – largely by extrapolating essential information from the smallest of clues.
So whether you are starting in a new job or navigating the first days in a new position, take a tip or two from Sherlock:
Grasp the organizational landscape quickly in asserting your own influence.
The clues are all around you–if you know where to look.
The key word here is quickly. Every organization has a “culture,” and there is little question that you are most vulnerable to that culture when you first come on board.
The “new kid on the block” is going to be subjected to a number of assessments by his fellow workers.
They will be asking themselves these questions:
- Where do you stand?
- Where might you land?
- Are you a potential ally or a threat?
- Will you wait for people to seek you out, or attempt to reach out yourself?
The quicker you identify these undercurrents, the better equipped you’ll become to make the kind of critical choices that serve the company’s interests—and your own.
Knowing the Vibe
Identifying the undercurrents is the essence of what it takes to become an influential member of an organization. Why? Because much like a nation, each particular organizational culture has an “ethos,” or a set of distinguishing characteristics.
- Some environments remain fairly formal affairs with clearly defined hierarchies.
- Others have a more “every day is casual Friday” atmosphere where job titles, or even the word “boss” may be largely irrelevant.
Sherlock 101: 5 Steps
Here are some tips, about learning the overall dynamic of organizational success as quickly as possible:
Listen and Look More Than You Talk
Nothing trumps keen observation accompanied by active listening. With respect to observation, a lot can be learned about what’s funny and what isn’t, who’s cool and who isn’t, what’s considered empowering or embarrassing, and any inter-group dynamic that could be called “us versus them.”
With respect to listening, who doesn’t love someone paying close attention to what he or she is saying?
It’s one of the easiest ways to make a good impression on both potential allies–and even potential adversaries.
Never Have Lunch Alone
Every bit as important as listening and looking is engaging in physical interaction.
This isn’t the time to hide in your office or cubicle, or to communicate electronically.
Moving among people is a great way to learn about overall attitudes regarding job satisfaction, how ideas are handled, how contrary opinions are received, and who the company “movers and shakers” are. Organizing lunches with new co-workers and team members will also give you time to make a proper introduction.
Identify the Power Players
Movers and shakers set the company agenda, and one’s influence and understanding of the company can be enhanced by soliciting their advice and/or opinions. More than likely you’ll get a really good idea about the organization’s history, its potential for the future, and who or what the obstacles are to achieving that future.
Tapping these key players also gives one an excellent opportunity to ferret out biases, or perhaps recognize attempts at recruitment. In other words, if it comes down to choosing “sides,” knowing which side is which can be the difference between having influence or fading into obscurity.
Recognize the Norms
There are also “intangibles” that must be learned and navigated.
- Is the organization a nose-to-the-grindstone culture where everyone eats lunch at his desk, going home at 5PM is tantamount to career suicide, and fraternization with employees a bit lower on the food chain is taboo?
- Or is it an organization where bonding with people over lunch or after-work drinks and moving seamlessly among the organizational hierarchy is encouraged?
Your level of influence may depend on how quickly you can get up to speed on this organizational “essence.”
And make no mistake: it’s a two-way street. The same people you are observing for clues about that essence are also observing you to see if you’re paying attention.
The Unwritten Rules: Master the ‘Informal Network’
How important is accessing these so-called “informal networks?”
Laura Sabattini, writing for Catalyst, an organization promoting the advancement of women in the workplace, conducted interviews with 65 men and women on the topic of unwritten organizational rules.
- Nearly two-thirds said they used informal networks to learn cultural expectations
- While just over half included more formal networks in that process
- Just under half interacted with the movers and shakers to get the low-down on what’s OK and what’s not.
No Kidding, Sherlock!
The most important aspect of the interviews? More than a third of the respondents wished they had learned more–more quickly–about the organizational landscape while they were still newbies.
Don’t be one of those “one-thirders.”
As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Those who don’t make the most of it may find that climb up the organizational ladder a lot steeper than it has to be. Most of what you need is literally right in front of you, if you’re willing to pay attention.
As the famous Nike ad says: Just do it!
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Harrison Monarth is Bestselling Author, Communications Coach & Leadership Consultant
He serves leading professionals for high-stakes presentations and speaking opportunities
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