Top 3 Worst Practices in a New Position

Worst practices that will limit your chance for advancement.

Guest Blogger Coach Cay Villars
Written October 1, 2012, Published On October 5, 2012

A few years ago I taught a program, Best Practices for High Impact in a New Position, to participants in the UW Masters in Biotechnology Program.    To kick the program off, participants shared the worst practices they had seen from people starting out in a new job.  The most startling yet entertaining practice was “fall asleep in the monkey cage.”    Apparently on the first day of work a new animal keeper decided that a nap with the monkeys was an acceptable practice. I regret that I did not ask whether the monkey was in the cage at the same time.

While this example provided untold hours of enjoyment for employees sharing the story with peers, management was less than amused and acted quickly to make this the last on site snooze (or anything else) the keeper did at the company.

Aside from fun stories about activities guaranteed to help people lose their job on the first day, there are a few other frequently practiced yet more subtle “worst practices” that might be best avoided by those new to a position.  I thought I would share a couple of them along with powerful best practice alternatives.

  • Worst Practice #1: Tell everyone you meet in the new company what you’ve achieved, how you did it in your last job or experience and why that is better than what they are doing now

This may sound extreme, and yet it is probably one of the worst and yet most frequently practiced behaviors by new employees, particularly those transferring between companies.    It certainly is a frequent practice among scientists, who get trained to “put their stuff out there”.   There is the belief that “showing your stuff” wins points.    Unfortunately what that behavior ultimately wins is a reputation of “one-up-man-ship”.  Colleagues will feel disrespected and disconnected, as this behavior is a no-brainer way of alienating people as quickly as possible.

A counter intuitive best practice approach is to listen and collect information first (follow the edict “People don’t care unless they know you care”) by conducting informational interviews with all the key players you might interact with in your new position.  This includes your manger, direct reports, peers and managers in other departments.  Build relationships by showing an interest in their needs and what they feel is important to the organization.   This will give you opportunities to identity how you can best apply your skills and knowledge to support their effort.  It will help you understand how to build strong relationships and ultimately, how to positively influence others.

When you follow up and deliver according to what they need, you will immediately be recognized as someone who delivers while meeting the needs of others.   People remember those individuals who pay attention and support their ideas.

  • Worst practice #2: Focus on “doing your own job” and never bother to learn how to add full value to what the company is trying to accomplish.

Many employees adhere to the belief that it is not necessary to have an in-depth understanding of the company’s growth goals, customers, products or services because that is “marketing’s job”.

The cost to this (lack of proactive) behavior, particularly since the economic downturn, is that many who have adopted this practice are former employees in the layoff line.  The most valued employees understand customers, what customers value and how their role adds value to the company and to customers. Customers include external customers as well as “customers/employees” in other departments of the company who depend on the services you provide.    If you can demonstrate that you can add value to all customers, it is much easier to get promoted and much harder for companies to let you go.  And if you do get laid off, your resume can be filled with how in the past, you added and delivered value to customers, colleagues and thus the bottom line of any company.

Every company benefits from people who know how to save money and improve the bottom line while delivering high value products and services. The best power practice is to be proactive about learning everything you can about your company.  If it is allowed by management, review your company’s strategic and/or annual operations plan.  Talk to managers and peers and interview sales or marketing to learn about products and services.   This information (along with the stakeholder interviews) will provide powerful insights as to how you can help improve organizational efficiencies and add value to internal and external customers.

  • Worst practice #3: Depend strictly on your academic training to guide you in order to know what to do to successfully bring your greatest value to an organization

Sometimes the beliefs that we need to be self sufficient or that we have to know everything in a position are extremely self limiting.    People who get fast results know that a best practice is to find someone who has been successful doing what they want to do and model his or her best practices.    A power approach is to identify a mentor or coach either internal or external to the organization who is willing and capable of guiding you based on their school of hard knocks experience.   Invite the person to lunch, share your outcomes and see what develops from there.

There are many great ways to learn how to add value in organizations for those who are proactive about constantly learning what it takes to do a great job and are willing to take positive action.  Those two traits, along with the ability to work well with others will continue to be the most valued and thus sought after characteristics in organizations.   An  employee who demonstrates these characteristics early on in a job quickly becomes sought after as an indispensible resource, rather than avoided as a corporate liability.

If you would like a summary of the key questions you should answer in order to quickly make a positive impact in a new position, email me, Cay Villars, at cvillars at biotactics dot com.

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About Blogger  Cay Villars

Cay is a facilitator, executive coach, and management consultant with over 20 years of marketing, sales, and business development experience in leading Life Sciences technology companies, including Amersham (now GE Healthcare), Becton Dickinson, and Promega.   Her expertise is in facilitating sustainable behavioral change.  She facilitates executives and executive teams to inspire, focus, and align high-yield behaviors to increase engagement, revenues, and profitability.   She developed her expertise in setting minds free and changing behavior from over 15 years  coaching individuals from all walks of life, from CEOs to inmates, with over 7 years as a volunteer coach and leadership trainer for those incarcerated in Wisconsin prisons.  

She shares her experiences in her In Business Magazine Free Minds at Work blog

Her dynamic and interactive presentations and facilitated programs include Strategic and Operations Planning & Engagement, Standards of Professional Excellence (behavioral competencies), Coaching to the Gift (Elegant, high impact, transformational feedback), Free Minds at Work Conversations (conflict free conversations), Language of Leadership (beliefs and language patterns that engage results), CEO/Executive Leadership Retreats,  Free Minds at Work, and Break through Mental Barriers (Martial arts style board break).   She is a leadership Trainer for Robbins Research International.  She facilitates a PeerSpective CEO roundtable and the High tech Senior HR Manager’s Best Practice Roundtable.