You’ve joined a new company. Everyone you’ve met during the hiring process assures you that you’ll be a star. But they also know the reality. Most new hires will fade into B and C players. A few will simply flop and disappear. Only a handful will become standouts and go onto great things.
As a rule, the judgment about where you fit in will be clear within the first 100 days. Sounds unfair? Maybe, but that’s life. To launch a successful career, you need to scramble in into the top tier as fast as you can.
Following are a few tips I’ve selected from a book I’m writing, tentatively titled Make an Impact. These impact suggestions are for middle managers and entrepreneurs; but I think any new hire could benefit from them. Not all are right for everyone or every company, but I’m confident that if you try even one of these ideas, you’ll get yourself some real recognition.
The first tip is to organize a few ambitious people like yourself into an innovation group. Look for colleagues who are willing to arrive at work half an hour early once a week to brainstorm ideas for new products or services or better processes. As the new kid on the block, your job at first will be to listen to the veterans and channel their suggestions. Don’t worry, you’ll be having your own eureka moments before long. Just remember – when your group comes up with a big idea, be sure to share the credit. Management likes that.
Another way to make a strong impression is by identifying and fixing pesky but easy-to-solve problems (low-hanging fruit). These are nagging nuisances that are often ignored because they’ve been around forever. An old product that’s always below quota. A once-popular service that you can barely give away. If you look at these with a fresh eye, I guarantee you’ll come up with novel approaches. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll be noticed if you can jump the revenue curve, even on a small brand.
One more idea. The plague of silo thinking infects all organizations. So make a point to know the priorities of the other departments of your company and what they are doing about them. Simply meeting a few counterparts outside your silo for lunch every Friday can spark innovative thinking. If you are in a solo work setup, arrange meet-ups with other professionals in your arena. P&G developed Crest White Strips by combining the expertise of their home products and oral care divisions. Be a synergizer!
These are just a few possibilities. I could go on (and in my book I will); but now I want to address another 100-days issue. And that’s the impact of a new job on you.
Sometimes you’ll accept a new position and soon discover that your position or the company is not what you were promised in your interviews. Instead of a field of opportunity, it’s actually a swamp of complacency. Unless you have the managerial clout to chop away dead wood and hire some go-getters, you’re stuck. Even worse, suppose you and your boss discover you really don’t like each other. Now you have a decision to make. It’s not whether to leave. It’s how fast!
Having included the aforementioned, sadly necessary caveat, let’s return to a more upbeat scenario. Within the first few weeks of starting work, you begin to implement one or two of the high-impact tactics discussed above. A few weeks later, your innovation group has its first big idea. A month or two later, the brand you took over that no one wanted is now above quota. By 100 days, heads are turning when you enter a meeting. There’s no longer any question. You’re an A player and everyone knows it. Congratulations!
Sander A. Flaum, MBA, is Principal, Flaum Navigators, Executive-In-Residence and Chairman, Fordham Leadership Forum, Fordham University Graduate School of Business Administration.