This feature was first published in Training Journal in May 2012
Jo Cook explains how to inject some freshness into a job you’ve had for some time
That wonderful joy of hearing “you’ve got the job”, coupled with perhaps the relief of moving on to the next step in your career, or from redundant joblessness back in to the workforce. The next stage could be fear, “can I really do the job?”, then the anxiety of preparing for your first day. This could involve moving house, changing plans, buying new work clothes… It’s the first day and there could be the slight breathlessness and jittery fingers as you enter the building; unless you use some good memory techniques you know you’ll probably forget people’s names; you’ll probably get lost on the way to the conveniences; and wonder what you’ll do for lunch. That’s even before apprehension about the role, making an impact and focusing on contributing to the long term strategy of the organisation. Being the new person at a company poses challenges and opportunities at all levels of staffing, for both the individual and the organisation. I’m going to discuss how to leverage the excitement of moving into a new role and how to re-create a level of “new employee enthusiasm” in established staff. Claire Casselton, director of Development Works Training, sees that “in the current economic environment turnover is decreasing as the jobs market has less fluidity. This means that there may be less personnel change within teams and also that de-motivated employees who might otherwise have moved on have not had the opportunity to do so. This creates a particular set of challenges for established managers and it is important that they find ways to maintain engagement and motivation within their team”. Where people have moved on there is a challenge of “unfamiliarity, learning a business and new people”, says the CIO of a publishing company. This is something everyone goes through and at leadership level this brings with it unique challenges. Casselton addresses the situation: “Often leaders in new roles have gone through a selection process and I would ask them to gather some feedback from that process in order to map out their strengths and development areas as perceived by the organisation” in order to undertake some coaching on strengths. Separately Casselton would help them to “analyse the demands of their new role and develop a 90 day plan to create engagement and energy within their new team and create some quick wins on which to build momentum for their overall strategy within their new role.” Helping the leader to focus on their team Casselton suggests could include “a workshop using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. This can help the new leader and the team get to know each other quickly in a threat-free environment and it will inform the manager on which management styles might be most effective with each team member”. Innovation from leaders in new roles
The CIO, on being new to her role, comments, “you can see areas you may want to change and you don’t see that anymore when you are established. People expect change, they look for your style and how you shape things and how people want to give you feedback. You want success all round – for staff, yourself and the company. You want positive change”. She understands that “staff may be frustrated when nothing has been done in the past, you can help change that” and continues to say that she “feels a sense of responsibility”. Her advice “for the first 30 days is to listen”. The publishing CIO says that she is “open as a leader about what I’ve learned and done”. She does this through asking people for feedback, talking to “everybody”, one to ones, learning from what staff and internal customers say and then “showing people ‘this is what we talked about’, reflecting back to staff their feedback and changes as a result of that”. She also brings “people from the business into the department to share their world” and focused on some quick wins of getting staff to brainstorm and form a communications team. She adds that she has had “great support from HR to help me and the Corporate Communications department did a great workshop on ‘Good Communication’ for her management and communications team”. Quick wins in a new role can also be the concern at staff level. A Trainer new to the Learning and Development team of a large organisation comments, “I want to make an impact for the people and the organisation and also to establish myself and the firm footing of my career in this company. What I would hate to do is make people feel I’ve trampled on their emotions or their hard work. That’s difficult when I see something isn’t right”. Advice on starting in a new role from Mindtools.com states: “Trying to change things too early can threaten and alienate the very people you’re trying to make your allies. Remember, you’re a stranger to them, so don’t try to deal with big issues right from the start. Spend time getting to know your company’s new culture, as well as the subcultures that are likely to exist in each team or environment”. In my experience and observation reinvention and personal branding are important when going in to a new role. When entering any kind of new relationship it’s natural to select the comments, stories and elements of your professional personality you show your colleagues in order to create the brand of yourself in this new role or organisation. Often a new job isn’t a promotion and you may wish to build on the opportunities presented by the new company and leave behind areas you no longer wish to pursue. Part of self-development for any employee, and especially in Learning and Development, is reflecting upon and examining the motives behind the comments we make as well as those we don’t. Johari’s Window model of depicting areas of our behaviour that we show to others and those that we chose to hide is useful in asking ourselves why we have made those choices. The concept of the blind spot of our behaviour is something that we can perhaps ask previous colleagues about in order to improve for our new role. The publishing CIO focuses on the personal by saying, “you need to recognise when you want to do something different. Take learning from your previous job and apply it to the new job”. This self-examination and feedback discussions with others can result in re-inventing yourself for the next step of your career and to remind yourself what you are excited about: perhaps career progression; development opportunities; or working on a variety of projects. This allows you to focus on those areas in your new role along with remembering the introspection for when you are more established and wish to recapture that fresh feeling again. For the avoidance of solipsism, concentrating on the effect this has on the people around you allows the Learning and Development professional an understanding of the subtle sub-conscious ripple they have on the rhetoric of their new co-workers. When conversing with colleagues, attempting to expand the ‘open arena’ in the Johari model, these people themselves will be conducting their own personal branding and marketing exercises. With these very conversations we may be helping them to take a fresh look at themselves, their work and how it relates to us as new to the business.
Creativity in the established role
Whilst starting a new role is testing for all involved, there is also huge opportunity and joy that can come from fresh input to a team. The publishing CIO sees that “sometimes people want to change – they go on a journey with you and once you make a change people see it’s good”. The Learning and Development Trainer agrees with this, “I know that a new person questioning the status quo can mean that people have to be brave and think more about what they’ve done or accepted in the past. What this means is that the fresh approach can bring your different experience to contribute to what the team is striving to deliver. I’ve had the opportunity to really listen to customers without the same pre-conceptions, which has had a tangible positive impact”. She goes on to say about capitalising on this situation with client groups: “I see manager’s making the most of this freshness, sometimes encouraging the right personality to continue to challenge what has been accepted before, especially if the team is working in a new direction. It’s also hugely beneficial to partner these new people with staff that may really know the business well and need to work at the next level in terms of competency or support in a new project”. It’s partnering that Martin Saville, director at leadership course specialist Mayvin, comments upon with regard integrating the new person more quickly to the business, “a good induction programme allows networks to be made more readily”. Saville also promotes the use of an internal social network to this end. For a company and a team the well managed positives of a person coming in to the role afresh can have a great impact on the work delivered, especially once past a period of learning the essentials. The more testing trial is managing an established team or department that may have some more of the negative attitudes and behaviours tipping the balance. Many people may enjoy most aspects of their job but one or two things colour everything else. In working with managers of teams, Casselton states, “there are no short-cuts for spending time one-on-one with direct reports and making a concerted effort to understand their personal motivation factors”. Nick Shackleton-Jones, on his learning blog Aconventional, discusses the concept of care and concern as part of what makes us human, its application in learning and we can extrapolate therefore to managing. He says of learning, “if people really cared about something we would have no work to do”. This underpins Casselton’s approach: “Once the manager understands what makes each person tick they can develop strategies to keep them energised. Depending on the individuals concerned these may include offering job-swaps within the department, facilitating working groups to re-assess and improve current working practices, arranging a team volunteering day or simply working with the team to help make the department a more fun place to work”. Casselton recommends ‘Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results’ as “a great book to distribute among the team to start discussion about re-energising the workplace”. Focusing on the individual that recognises their current displeasure and actively wants to do something, Casselton says that they “would need to assess what is holding them back from making the change. A useful tool for doing this is the ‘Rubberband Model’ as outlined in ‘The Decision Book’ by Krogerus and Tschappeler. In this the person imagines themselves between two rubber bands, each one pulling in the opposite direction. They need to ask themselves: What is holding me? What is pulling me? This differs from a simple list of pros and cons in that it acknowledges that both options may be attractive”. As an established employee looking to refresh their attitude to their current role can do a variety of activities. Two that Casselton brainstormed are about self-assessment: “Pretending you are re-applying for job, what appealed? What have I achieved? How do I brand myself?” or “imagine this was my company” and focusing on what could be achieved within that person’s control. Both lead to an understanding of the self, motivators and what would make a difference for that person. In an online blog at “career advice with an edge” website jobacle.com, Jennifer Smith wrote, “what could make the most difference to our performance at work isn’t always immediately obvious to us. Most people do the things that they know will work, but a good mentor or coach can be instrumental in helping you reach the next level. Often a small change in behaviour or outlook can make a big difference”. Casselton has over 15 years senior level Human Resources and Learning and Development experience spanning, having worked with Marks and Spencer, easyJet and medical technology company Medtronic. Casselton’s company, Development Works, provides tailored, focused and practical HR Consultancy and Learning and Development solutions in the workplace. More than this, Casselton is a working mother and passionate about learning and development. On keeping fresh as an HR professional she comments, “one of the joys of being self-employed is that I am able to structure my days to spend time attending events at my son’s school. I find that if I attend these events with a questioning mind I come away with a range of ideas to try out in my working life. I helped at a multi-skills event where older children organised groups of younger children in a series of fun events – a great example of empowerment and mentoring and I picked up a team-building idea, documented at speedstacks.com”. Seeing different things, or the same things from a different perspective, is what many professionals strive to do. Commenting on applying this to networking, Casselton finishes by saying, “I have also met a number of very interesting people through talking to other parents while my son has his swimming class. One of these connections led directly to my becoming partner at Synatus, a virtual group of senior consultants, interim managers and trainers, who are recognised as experts in their fields. It just shows that it pays to treat every activity as a potential opportunity for development.” Going from elation, to worry, to hard work, then after the joy of a job for some time, attacking the staleness of established workers is something that all can tackle. I can look at it from my own self-improvement and career progression, as a Learning and Development professional it’s my job to support others and in an organisation managers and leaders at all levels need the tools and support from their HR function in order to ensure that every organisations greatest asset is functioning at prime level.