Whether you’re joining a brand new employer, or are moving to a change project inside your existing company, the first weeks of any change role are both nerve-wracking and crucial for overall success.
It can be a lonely time when you don’t yet know the people, language, perspectives or tools of your new project, so it’s important to adopt some core values to help you get the best out of the starting place. If you don’t, there’s a risk you’ll get swept along the wrong path and have to start all over again in a few months' time.
When it comes to any kind of business change, it’s easy to jump in thinking you know all the answers. Humans are hard-wired to search for solutions to problems as soon as we hear them - but this is a trap for Change Makers.
In the first weeks of any business change project, no matter how seemingly simple or complex, focus on gaining insight and understanding.
Adopting a curious mindset means you’ll get more insights from the very beginning. You’re a valuable Change Maker now because you’re coming in without any preconceptions; everything is new, so capitalise on your fresh eyes.
In the first few days of your new role, let curiosity lead you to hear diverse perspectives and discover the true root-cause of the business problem you are trying to solve. That way you’re far more likely to have eventual success.
As Change Makers in business, we must respect different points of view. I learned this the hard way on a change project quite a few years ago.
I was hired for a brand new project with a client I’d worked with on several successful change projects previously. In the first few days I met a powerful stakeholder who articulated a compelling narrative of the problem and its cause, plus the potential solution and how it could be implemented. It sounded amazing and I wondered why I had been brought in if they already had it all figured out.
Six months into implementing their solution, we weren’t getting the results we wanted. I had failed to really listen to and respect the differing perspectives on the cause of the problem and had missed a vital piece of the puzzle. We ended up having to go back to the start to discover the true causes - a mistake I haven’t made since.
When I think about the importance of respecting differing perspectives, opinions and ideas, the Albert Einstein quotes comes to mind: “It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer.” In the early days of your new role, learn to stay with the problem longer by being respectful of everyone involved.
At the beginning of a new change project, it’s easy to get swept along with forces seemingly larger than you as you try to ensure you’re seen as an ally rather than an adversary. This is a mistake; Solving business problems requires you to have the courage to step back and take the road less travelled.
Sometimes it’s the courage to stop and get curious about what’s really happening.
Sometimes it’s the courage to have a conversation with a “difficult” stakeholder (who are often labelled as such because they have a different perspective to everyone else - which you should definitely listen to).
Sometimes it’s the courage to say, “Actually I’m not sure we have enough information yet to see the whole picture and we need a more diverse opinion base”.
In the first few weeks of a change project, have the courage to choose what’s right, not what’s easy or popular and you’ll have far greater chances of success.
When you start working for a new employer, it's easy to think your job is about facilitating their idea of what the change is, but they’ve brought you into the mix because they think your experience is going to add something. So as well as being curious and respectful of other people’s perspectives, it’s important to bring your voice to the table too.
If you constantly agree with every stakeholder you speak to, it won't take long for people to lose trust in you. You’ll normally get the benefit of the doubt at the start, so capitalise on it by being authentic.
When you’re hearing new and differing perspectives, feel free to use my line: “What you're saying sounds right and I’m also going to check out more perspectives to get a rich picture”.
Be authentic and share your opinions, even when everyone else thinks differently. That way you’re more likely to find the best possible solution.
None of these values of curiosity, respect, courage and authenticity are “nice to have” in this era of massive business change - they are absolutely essential if we genuinely want to create successful, sustainable change. Adopt them early on in your new role, and you’ll stand out for all the right reasons, as a person with true integrity.
What do you think? Which one of these values is most important when you’re starting a new role or project? Let us know in the comments and, if you like this, share it with other change makers and join the Change Maker Journal email list for more expert insights https://app.oakwoodmanagementconsulting.com/join-the-oakwood-family
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