I find myself reflecting on what it means to join a company where you’re a senior leader – but also a newbie.
It’s a strange mix. Striking the balance between being ready and willing to soak up knowledge like a sponge, while simultaneously demonstrating your leadership nous, is like walking a tightrope whilst carrying your precious career in a string bag.
And that’s why I want to acknowledge the onboarding journey here at Insights – because my start here has made me feel extraordinarily at home, immediately part of the team and there has been a metaphorical (or sometimes literal!) hand to hold when I have needed it. Insights recognises that, regardless of who we are, or what role we fulfil, we simply want to fit in, feel welcome and get up to speed as quickly as possible so that we can make a positive impact on the business.
I've been reflecting on my journey so far, and here are some of the lessons I'm learning.
Don’t underestimate the administrative challenge of a new job whilst moving house!
I chose to move to a different city, find a new home, settle my children into an unfamiliar school and source childcare, all whilst having some serious debates with utilities and broadband providers in the few minutes I could spare during the day – so that I could have important things, like heating and communication with the outside world!
So, while my mind was always on my job, it was also, in the manner of all working parents, on about 11 other things at any given time, especially in those first few weeks of hectic home-making. And this isn't the first time that I have done this! So yes, I really did drive in to the office wearing slippers the other morning, having forgotten to put on my heels before leaving the house! Phew...thank goodness life is settling down in our new home now.
Getting the first few weeks right for new starts has short and long-term dividends
Insights has a fantastic onboarding process for all newbies, helping me get up to speed quickly and put names to faces. But more than that – people stopped me on the stairs to introduce themselves, offered me endless cups of tea, and filled my inbox with welcome emails. I’ve never had a warmer welcome anywhere else, and it told me a lot about the organisation that I had just joined. The fact that we treat everyone like this (this is not just reserved for new executives) is even more compelling!
A survey on workforce mobility has shown that, typically, companies lose 25% of all new employees within a year due to poor onboarding. Shocked? I was! And that 30% of companies say that it takes new employees at least a year to reach full productivity. Newbie leaders, unfortunately, don’t have that luxury - even at Insights! People need me to get on top of my game as soon as possible, because they have questions, are in need of support and are waiting for decisions to be made – today!
The onboarding process here has made me feel both confident about taking early decisions and empowered to contribute from day one. Additionally, Insights (being the company behind Insights Discovery) knows a lot about people – their preferences, their personal style, their dominant colour energy – and how that all plays out, even on their bad days. So there’s a lot of acceptance round here; of course it’s not a kind of corporate nirvana, but I can certainly sense people working out my preferences, and adapting to meet them accordingly.
Bringing your best self
There’s so much to learn in a new job – from the strategic to the administrative - and there’s a culture in every organisation that we need to understand, and work out where we fit into it. Recent dilemmas have included:
- Have I bonded enough with my colleagues enough to call them ‘nuts’ - in week one - as we work towards an important decision?(Answer: on this occasion, yes.)
- How do I establish my non-negotiables with people I don’t know well, whilst not living up to the executive prima-donna stereotype?(Answer: this involves a huge dollop of self-deprecating humour!)
- Do I have to stay ‘on show’ during long days of learning?(Answer: not really. At Insights we’re encouraged to ‘bring our whole selves to work’ and that means being able to show who we really are. No 'fake it till you make it' round here!)
- Can I stay open and receptive - remembering that I’m still learning - instead of jumping to judgement?(Answer: not always – it’s tricky! But I’m working on it.)
So, the next month will be full of new faces, more processes to understand and appreciate (including a few which are in need of attention!) as well as some ‘real work’. For me, the more honest, open and genuine our interactions are from day one, the faster we can all learn how to work together. And that’s the best start any newbie could ask for.