I recently experienced the first time that an employee had been hired, worked in a position for a significant amount of time and then left the company before I had the chance to meet them. An entire employment life cycle had occurred without my direct involvement and influence. (Yay for effective systems that made this happen!). It was one of those times where I had to shake myself out of the denial that we are still a small company. We have grown to 5 businesses across three regions and I no longer see all the new faces upon hire. Though I prided myself on knowing everyone’s name the first few years and I can no longer say that to be true. That said, there are several things I know that need to happen for me to learn someone’s name very quickly when they are starting a new job:
Know this — everyone in the workforce has performance issues, including me. I’ve been lucky to have people in my career that were willing to tell me when I was acting up. Be thankful for having a boss that is willing to tell you what your performance issues are if you don’t see them yourself. Then, make an active effort to improve them all the time. Talk about what isn’t going well and ask for feedback on your progress to improve it. Whatever you do, don’t ignore your performance issues because NO — they won’t magically get better on their own. Leaders expect their teams to struggle with things and the ones that are self aware and humble enough to acknowledge them and work on them do well in their careers. A performance issue is NOT a black mark — Someone’s resistance to changing it is, however.
I think sometimes people are scared of stepping on other’s toes and they tiptoe around to the point where everyone is secretly begging them to simply take full ownership of their job. My advice? Step all over those toes and do it with intention. In a successful organization, everyone has to own their jobs completely. Do this quickly and act like the ultimate boss of your domain, which you are. Work as if it is YOUR company and start thinking of it that way as all of our success depends on it. As the owner, I can’t be the only one that “sees all the things”. I need other people that are willing to embrace their own bad ass leader selves. You will NEVER hear me criticize someone for owning a responsibility “too much”.
Make it your goal to understand the administrative tools at your disposal better than your supervisor does. It is absolutely heart breaking to watch someone be on the verge of losing their job because they struggle with the online work platforms or avoid sending well-written emails. Oftentimes I have heard “But I do the rest of my job so well…” That may be true, but you must know that doing 50% of the job well simply doesn’t cut it. Remember that it isn’t enough to quietly do the job — you must communicate WHAT you are doing, how you are doing it and be able to track your efforts in the systems provided to you. I often joke that half of my job is just communicating what I am doing with the other half of my time….sometimes though that really is what is happening. Learning how to over-communicate your efforts is a positive career game changer.
Think of it this way: I walk around with 1000 “what is happening with…?” thoughts at any given time. Someone that can communicate their work in a way that closes my mental loops is greatly appreciated. Make it your goal to close as many mental loops as possible.
Everyone is overwhelmed in a new job, so remember to lean into the uncertainty while you adjust. Don’t shy away from responsibility — instead, ask for more. Remember that work is supposed to be hard, and that is what makes it fun. You don’t understand something 100%? Join the club. The truth is …I don’t either. I work until I get it. I read, I self teach, I ask questions, I experiment with it until I figure it out. Yes, it is more work, but you will be a better professional as a result. My job as the boss lady is to provide people with meaningful and challenging jobs…Done. Your job is to embrace the challenges provided and then create more opportunities. Think of it as a fun mental obstacle course.
Oh, it will definitely happen and don’t be fooled. How you align yourself during a dramatic episode within the team will determine your trajectory in a company. Do you commiserate with a toxic peer or do you align yourself with the leader? Remember that the toxic peer won’t last long and you will be left with the leader….and that makes for awkwardness, trust me. Whenever you are faced with a daily drama, choose your alignment wisely as that choice will set your course…and your reputation.
I think some people go into work assuming that any amount of conflict means they are on the chopping block so they put their head down and quietly work. The reality is that everyone is going to hit a place where they disagree with their peer or their boss. I would challenge that if that never happens, that person isn’t that engaged in their work. Be willing to challenge something that doesn’t look right and to do it in a respectful way. Embrace the conflict and see it through — ironically, this is actually how teams bond.
This really comes down to simply showing good judgment and following through. The consistent, reliable and enthusiastic team members are ALWAYS the first ones we look to when a promotion comes up. Do they take the job seriously? Do they show up for work on time? Do they promote a positive reputation? Are they a good role model for others? Being consistent, positive and reliable is the large majority of the job. Don’t forget to do the basics. There is no amount of talent that compensates for working with someone that you simply can’t rely on to get the work done.
Choose the positions that you are naturally skilled at and that you enjoy and then develop your skills there. Trust that the money will come as the skills develop. Making more money is the easy part, it is as simple as doing the job well and impressing others. I am always willing to pay whatever it takes to keep a highly skilled team in place — you just need to demonstrate you have “the skills” to make it worth it. Whatever takes pressure off your team is what will be compensated. Focus on the skills and the money will come.
Do these things. Do these things on repeat until EVERYONE knows your name. Good luck!