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  • Susan Snedaker

Do These Three Things First

I was recently asked to write an article for CIOs on how to approach the first 90 days in a new job ("CIO Role: Why the first 90 days are crucial", you can read it here.).

Yesterday, I received the latest issue of Harvard Business Review magazine online and read an article on succeeding in a new role ("How to Succeed Quickly in a New Role" you can read it here). The authors state that 27% to 49% of people who transition to a new role underperform. The ones who come up to speed fastest and excel soonest are those who use internal networks effectively. That's true, but there are three things that precede networking that I believe lay the foundation for all future success.

So, I decided to share my thoughts on how anyone, in any role, can increase their chances for long-term success by getting three things rights at the very beginning.

First Impressions

The most important thing you can do is to consciously create first impressions.

Don't mistake being intentional with being manipulative or fake. Genuine first impressions are created when you understand yourself and how you tend to interact and how you want to be perceived. For example, you might be someone who is planful and methodical. You want to consider how you convey those attributes through your communication so you don't come off as stodgy or someone likely to become victim to 'an

alysis paralysis.' If you're a real go-getter, modulate your enthusiasm so you don't seem like an over-anxious teen or a thoughtless tyrant. Give some thought to how you convey your best self in early interactions. Be genuine, be thoughtful, and be kind and you will start off on the right foot.

First Interactions

The most important first interactions are with those in your immediate circle.

First interactions start with your resume and cover letter; the recruiter who contacts you on the phone to set up the initial interview; the administrative assistant who shows you where the restrooms are before your interview; as well as the security officer checking your badge or your parking permit. These first interactions weigh heavily on the decision to hire whether you're aware of it or not. Once hired, your first interactions with your new manager, your new peers, your new assistants will be what form the foundation of your success. Some people come in looking to establish their authority and do so by being rude, demanding or barking orders (without fully understanding anything about the organization or the culture). That's a surefire recipe for failure. Similarly, some come in overly concerned about currying favor with executives or those in authority. Also not the best approach as you may quickly develop a reputation as a climber or sycophant. Avoid this by focusing on having respectful, genuine, and meaningful interactions at each moment and engaging your best self every time.

First Deliverables

The most important first deliverables are clear, succinct, and on-time.

First deliverables might be a self-introduction at a leadership meeting or a short report on your 90 day plan or even a quick assignment in your area of expertise. Your first deliverables will speak volumes about who you are and how you work, so be mindful here as well. You should ask for clarification if you're not certain about the deliverable but do so in a way that is respectful of the other person's time. Do your homework and ask intelligent questions. You can also develop a positive reputation by asking a peer or a manager to review your draft before final submission, if appropriate. As you learn the organization, the culture, and the expectations, your need for clarification and preview should recede. Remember, though, that peer review can be a great way to maintain alignment with culture, norms, and expectations as well as to further strengthen relationships over time. Everyone likes to be asked their opinion (assuming it's respectful and doesn't require an onerous time commitment) and hearing your colleagues' input can help you come up to revise your approach to reduce early misfires.

All of these elements are even more important if your role is completely remote. You'll need to make a conscious effort to be seen and heard, but if you follow these basic guidelines, you'll establish a great baseline from which to build.

Here's to continued success on your career journey.


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