I am about to take up a new role, in a company where I have not worked before, so I am not familiar with the culture, management, staff, reports and protocols.
What should I do in the first few days and weeks to ensure I can take up the role and become effective as quickly as possible without making mistakes or poor decisions or alienating people?
It is a good idea to have a plan to enable you to orientate yourself. Of course, a lot will depend on the type of role, the seniority of your position, and the type of organisation you are joining.
You should have a formal induction covering all the immediate practical information you need. If not, ask for information such as “What is the fire drill procedure”, “where can I get lunch”, “what about car parking”?
Get passwords and login details for email and any other systems you need to access. Make a note of them!
It is useful to have a small, pocket or handbag sized notebook on you at this stage to note down things you need to remember, or follow up. Using one will probably massively improve your performance. Or else use the calendar and notes function in your phone or tablet -but do remember to follow up!
You will probably have a meeting scheduled with your manager, where they will be able to provide guidance. If not, ask for one.
If you are senior enough to have a secretary or assistant, then it would be reasonable to assume they will be able to guide you through a lot of the difficulties you will face, and supply answers to your questions.
If you are not that senior though, many large companies will nominate a “buddy “to help you during the first few days or weeks and perform that function for you.
The first thing you have to do now is consider the business of the day.
What is in your in-tray or email account? What do you need to do, or manage, today, this week, next week? What immediate deadlines are there to be met? Is anything waiting for your decision?
Do you have time to do some research or do you need to “hit the ground running “now, and orientate yourself as you go?
If immediate decisions are required and you don’t have the information you need, discuss them with your line manager before issuing instructions.
Only make the decisions you must right now, until you can “find your feet“.
What needs to be put into your diary and plans for the next few days and weeks? Has anything been booked on your behalf? Do you need to attend meetings or conferences in the immediate future, are there hotels and flights to be booked?
Is your predecessor available for a handover meeting? If not, get a status report from your manager, peers, or staff. And discuss any queries you have at this point.
Then as soon as you are up to speed with all that, you need to start gathering the information you need to perform your role effectively. You need to gain an understanding of the people and departments around you, how everything fits together. Orientate yourself.
Ask for a departmental organisation plan if there is one, and also your own job specification, and that of your direct reports.
It would be useful to have access to your own staffs’ performance review files at some point, but it may be a little early to ask for them now. Sometimes it is better to form your own opinions, rather than rely on your predecessor’s judgement. Use your discretion about the timing of that request.
Then you need to access any departmental reports produced daily, weekly, monthly or annually. If you have an assistant or secretary, they should have prepared a file for you. If not, ask them to do that.
How is your department performing, and specifically what are the issues and challenges you need to address in your role?
How is the business doing?
Are there market intelligence reports you can read?
Is there a list of suppliers or contacts?
Have you worked with any of them before?
Can they help you by meeting soon and explaining their relationship with your new company?
Do your main suppliers and contacts have information, analysis or market intelligence they can share with you?
At this point, your best bet is to listen rather than to talk. You probably know the least of everyone in the business about how this company works. Give yourself the benefit of the experience of those around you before you start changing things or making important decisions.
You may not agree with others opinions that you hear at this point, but before you start taking action, listen and at least give yourself the time to thoroughly evaluate them.
Humans normally have two eyes, two ears, one mouth. It’s a good idea to use them in that proportion until you have a good understanding of your role, and your way forward.