I have had the opportunity in my career to move, not only, from industry to industry, but from company to company. I have been a consultant as well as a full time employee throughout my career. As companies merge and/or begin to grow talent is needed and could come from anywhere. New/outside talent can bring in fresh wave of diverse perspectives and ideas. However, there should be some caution taken, if you are that new person entering into the organization. Whether you are a consultant, temporary employee or full time employee, here are 5 pitfalls that I have found in my career that can either make you or break you as you enter into new companies.
- Pitfall # 1 - Thinking Immediate Change Is Needed – when you first enter the company I would recommend that you don’t come in with the plan to change everything. You should instead take time to understand how the organization operates. I have experienced multiple situations where individuals enter in the organization with and feel that the reason they were hired is because something was broken and they have been commissioned to save the organization from its demise. While there may be some truth to that, at least from an expertise perspective, there are other individuals that have been in the environment for a while. Take some time to understand their story and journey. There may be very good reason why the organization is in the situation it is currently. Also, the individuals who are there have feelings and may be very vested in the organization. Coming off too strong on everything that is wrong and needs to be fixed may cause walls and defensives to come up. That is the exact opposite of what you want. Take time to understand the organizational culture, the stakeholders involved (roles and responsibilities) and processes within the company before you thinking everything needs to change.
Which brings me to my next point.
- Pitfall #2 - Lack of Active Listening – it’s extremely important that you listen to what others are saying. I truly mean “actively” listen. There is a lot that can be learned vy listening and observing. As you take time to learn the company culture, stakeholders and processes, actively listen to what people are saying. This may also include what individuals are not saying as well. This is where observation can help by watching body language or changes in the inflection of their voice. Take time to understand the things they feel are working well and those things that are not working so well. For those areas that are not working well, don’t immediately start giving recommendations or solutions, unless asked. Instead jot down notes and take some time to think about how your strengths and expertise can be leveraged to bring powerful solutions or recommendations. As you listen you are actually building a relationship. The other person is going to feel like they are being heard and that goes a long way as you try to get acclimated in the organization. You are also obtaining valuable knowledge on a wide array of topics as you listen to other’s experiences.
- Pitfall #3 - Portraying Arrogance – arrogance will get you nowhere except a bad brand reputation. One would hope the reason you were hired is because you have the expertise and skill set to do the job. Now I am aware that there are situations where that has not always been the case in my career as I’ve worked with others, but in most cases it has. There is no reason you have to be arrogant about your expertise and skill set. Please do not confuse arrogance with confidence as they are two different characteristics. If individuals feel that you are condescending or belittling toward them, they will tolerate you because they have to work with you, but the credibility and trust will be lacking. Your skills will show itself through hard work and delivering on solutions. That is when people will automatically just want to work with you.
- Pitfall #4 – Immediate Comparisons to Prior Companies – this is a HUGE “no-no”. I have seen so many individuals enter organizations and immediately say: “well my previous company didn’t do it that way and we operated just fine” or “when I worked in “x” department this is what we did and you should do the same”. Though I can appreciate that you may have come from an organization or department where they had everything together, most people don’t want to hear it if you haven’t taken time to understand why they may do the process differently, or the challenges they have faced. If you haven’t taken the time to understand, I would recommend you refrain from making statements like that until you do. I have found making stamens such as those immediately puts individuals on the defensive and they shut down. Now your comparison may very well be valid, but it’s all about timing as well as how you say it. Just because a process worked well in the company you came from doesn’t mean it will work well in the company you are now a part of it.
Which brings me to my last point;
- Pitfall #5 – Lack of Powerful Communication – Communication is key and frankly is a component of all the pitfalls stated above. How you communicate in the above 4 items can make or break you. It’s not necessarily WHAT you say but HOW you say it. I will show this briefly in the pitfalls mentioned above:
- Pitfall #1 - You should not enter organization vocally stating how bad the organization is and everything needs to change. If you do you may get the reputation of a being a bully and not it all. Individuals will build up walls and defensives and not want to interact or share anything with you. You should leverage a tone of collaboration and partnership opposed to dictatorship. You will probably get more buy-in from individuals.
- Pitfall #2 – You should be actively listening. If you are doing more talking than listening you are already messing up. This is the area where you are learning and only talking when asked for feedback or if you have clarifying questions.
- Pitfall #3 – If your communication comes off arrogant you may not get the type of response you would like. Everyone’s reaction to arrogance is different. Some individuals can just ignore it and move past it, while for others it’s not that easy. Pay particular attention to what you say, how you say it and also your body language
- Pitfall #4 – There is nothing wrong with bringing knowledge from past experiences to the table, but it’s again about how you say it and when you say it. Your first day on the job may not be the best time to start making comparisons. Remember, you are the new person to the team and first seek to understand. Take this time to ask questions and gain knowledge.
As I have progressed in my career, and as consult with clients, these are the main themes I have found as pitfalls between a smooth transition and a rocky on. I think most prefer a smooth transition and really want to add value to the company. You were hired because there are skills and expertise you bring to the table. Take time to understand how you can add that value to the organization through your skills and expertise. Take time to build the relationships and learn. You will be far more effective.
Author: Paula Bell, CBAP & Business Analyst Certified, B2T
Paula Bell is a Business Analyst, mentor and coach known for consistently producing exceptional work, providing guidance to aspiring business analysts (including those that just want to sharpen their skills), as well as providing creative and strategic ways to build relationships for successful projects. With 18+ years in project roles to include business analyst, requirements manager, technical writer, project manager, developer, test lead and implementation lead, Paula has experience in a variety of industries including media, courts, carpet manufacturing, banking and mortgage. Paula has had the opportunity to speak on a variety of topics to include business analysis, project management, relationship building, leadership and career development, diversity and software methodology.
Blog: The Journal of a BA and Much More