Posts Tagged “4”
So you just landed a leadership role at a new company. Congratulations! Going in, you know there’ll be a learning curve when it comes to handling your new responsibilities. But there’s also the people factor to consider.
Being the boss of a completely new team also means influencing a group of employees you don’t know very well to work together (and with you) toward a common goal. Nerve-racking, yes. But not impossible!
Even seasoned leaders make mistakes when managing a new team. Here are four common ones to avoid if you want to make your transition as smooth as possible for both you and your direct reports.
Mistake #1: Acting Before Understanding
If you think the first thing you need to do when joining a new team is to start making changes—slow down. Yes, part of your role is to help things run better, and you were most likely hired to bring in some new perspectives and fix some outdated or dysfunctional strategies. But ignoring input from experienced team members—particularly those who have been at the company for a while—won’t win you any fans.
Instead, you’ll signal to your team that you’re only interested in running a one-person show. And it will leave you vulnerable to making bad decisions that could’ve been avoided had you gotten some context.
This isn’t to say that you need to form a whole committee to make decisions on every little thing. You’re the boss, after all, and sometimes it’s your duty to make the final call. But strive to implement changes (especially big ones) in baby steps and over time. Be receptive to (and ask for!) feedback from your team before moving forward, and communicate your intentions clearly and proactively when you do.
Mistake #2: Constantly Talking About the “Old Job”
Do you find yourself saying all too frequently, “At my old job, we…”? Maybe you’re trying to prove yourself by bringing up your old wins. Or you may just feel comfortable referring back to a time when everything didn’t feel so foreign. (Being the new kid on the block isn’t easy.)
Here’s the thing: Your current team will quickly tune you out if you’re constantly talking about how things were done at your previous company. They want to see that you’re able (and willing!) to adapt to a new environment, and that you can competently lead and work with their unique skill sets.
Yes, you achieved great things in your last role. But don’t get caught living in the past—it’s time to focus on creating new wins with what your new team has to offer.
Mistake #3: Hiding in Your Office
Closing your office door or hiding behind your monitor can give off the appearance that you’re not interested in being there for your employees.
You may think, “I’ve told my team they can come to me any time with questions.” But as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words, and it can be intimidating for employees to knock on a new boss’ door. There’ll be times when you’ll need (or want) to close the door, and that’s OK—but make sure this doesn’t create a barrier between you and your team.
Make a conscious effort to show your employees that they’re welcome to come seek guidance or share concerns. Literally keeping your door open helps, so does providing “office hours” or popping your head out every few hours or so to see how everyone’s doing.
If you work in an open office, try to avoid wearing headphones all day, and when you can, sit near your team. You can also schedule weekly touch-base meetings with your direct reports so you have dedicated face time with them on a regular basis—and so that they know they will always have the opportunity to discuss something with you.
Mistake #4: Believing You Don’t Need to Know the Details of Your Employees’ Work
Some people think that the role of a leader is to just tell others what to do and set expectations. But there’s more to it than that. You can’t hold employees, especially new direct reports, accountable if you don’t fully grasp what their roles entail and how they approach their work.
While you don’t need to know all of the nitty gritty details of their responsibilities, you want to do more than just care that tasks are getting done. Understanding the “how” of operations and the “whys” behind how your employees tackle them will make both you and your team function better. You’ll be able to better manage them knowing their strengths, weaknesses, and preferred forms of communication, and they’ll feel more comfortable around you and motivated to do great work with the knowledge that you’re invested in their success.
Take the time when you’re just starting out to talk to each employee individually to learn about what they do, what their current challenges are, and how their tasks fit into team or company goals. You can even ask the following questions in your next one-on-one:
What challenges are you facing that are making you less productive?
What’s missing from the team that will help make everyone’s life easier?
How do you like to receive constructive feedback?
What are you hoping to learn from me that will support you in your role?
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
Or you can have them fill out this user manual so you have all the information you need about their working style.
Mistakes are going to happen when you’re starting a new job, whether you’re a manager or not, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get things “right” the first time. Even just reading this article means you care deeply about being a good boss to your new team—and that’s a great place to be in!
Most importantly, make sure you enjoy this new beginning—because it’s one more phase in your career that will help you grow and become the kind of leader you want to be.
While it’s tempting to measure career growth and success solely according to the number of rungs we scale on the corporate ladder, management isn’t the only path to a satisfying career. Being a manager comes with responsibilities that don’t appeal to everyone. Even worse, managerial work could take you away from the aspects of your job you love most.
But just because you don’t have any interest in presiding over a team doesn’t mean that you’re destined to stagnate—or that you have to grudgingly heave yourself up to the next level. In other words, you don’t always have to move upward to move onward.
We asked professionals who’ve blazed a trail off the management track to fill us in on four ways you can continue to evolve professionally—minus the supervisory duties.
1. Look for Opportunities That Offer In-Role Advancement
Not all growth involves taking a step up. Certain roles offer opportunities to stretch yourself within the same position, through a greater variety of projects, more prestigious assignments, deeper work, or more responsibility. When hunting for your next non-managerial job opportunity, consider point-blank asking about what growth looks like within the role rather than what’s beyond it.
While working as a media agency VP, Nathanael Yellis realized managing a team came with some emotional costs. Being on-call as a resource for his direct reports—as well as being beholden to his own manager’s schedule—took away from the time and energy he was able to spend with his family. So he set out to find an individual contributor role that still offered in-role growth.
Yellis ultimately found it within his current position as an Inbound Consultant for HubSpot. There, not only does he have more direct control over his time, but he can still develop his career without stepping up to a managerial role. “I have promotions available to me that come with increased status or customers who are more critical to HubSpot’s success,” he says. “As I continue to grow in the role, I’ll have the opportunity to work with larger companies in a wider variety of industries.”
Because he’s customer-facing, he’s able to establish clear boundaries for when and how he interacts with clients, such as deciding he isn’t available for conference calls between 5 and 8 PM. “Beyond that,” he says, “not having to make the emotional commitment to managing people frees emotional bandwidth I have at home.”
2. Make a Lateral Move Somewhere Bigger or More Prestigious
If you’re not interested in becoming a bigger fish in a small pond, consider bigger ponds, whether that means a larger company, a greater swath of sales territory, or a more prestigious brand. In the case of Danielle Radin, the digital correspondent for NBC San Diego, the puddle-to-lake leap meant a bigger broadcast market.
While Radin had a master’s degree that primed her for the managerial track, she found that she liked being a reporter, and didn’t want to deal with the office politics that came with managing others in the newsroom. Instead of hopping up the ladder, she’s been hopping to larger markets. “In broadcast the goal is to move up to bigger markets, which are ranked by population from 1 all the way down to 209,” she explains. “I started in one of the lowest-ranked markets, 195, and was able to jump to San Diego, ranked 28.”
Of course, few fields offer quite the concrete ranking system by which to measure your growth, but other indicators, both quantitative (think: company size and potential number of clients) and qualitative (think: influence or reputation) can be your guide when you’re looking to make a lateral move.
3. Go Solo as a Consultant
Once you become an expert in your field, you can deploy your skills and experience in a consulting role. That’s what Stacy Caprio, founder of Accelerated Growth Marketing, an SEO/SEM consulting company, did.
Caprio previously worked as the search marketing manager for a finance company, but didn’t like the idea of having to be responsible for anyone else’s work but her own. She tested the waters by consulting as a side hustle and eventually made it her full-time career. When you go it alone, you can chart your own career growth with the same metrics you use to measure your consulting business’ success, such as reach and revenue.
Though the freedom of consulting is a huge perk in itself, Caprio says it’s also been more financially lucrative than her previous position. “I like that it has given me the opportunity to learn so much and be hands on in what I do, instead of just a supervisor who has no idea what her employees are doing,” she says. “It has also allowed me to make a lot more than I would have been able to make in a managerial role.”
4. Deepen or Broaden Your Skill Set to Become an Expert
If you’re not devoting time and energy to cultivating managerial skills, you can focus on honing other skills, whether that means perfecting your sales pitch, becoming a financial-modeling wizard, or mastering every project management tool under the sun.
In addition to having the tangible metric of market size by which to gauge her growth, Radin says her non-management path has given her the opportunity to improve her writing, editing, shooting, and presenting abilities on a daily basis. “Find a niche in your job that you truly thrive in, and improve it as much as you can so that you are considered one of the top in that skill set,” she advises.
While a deeper skill set is satisfying in and of itself, you can also establish a few key performance indicators to assess growth more objectively. Alex Tran, a digital marketing specialist, opted out of management to focus on the more hands-on aspects of her career. Instead of measuring her performance according to how close she’s getting to a head-honcho title, she uses other metrics relevant to her industry.
“In marketing I am measuring our brand visibility and reputation. If we are getting more leads than we can handle, that is great,” she says. “That means we will need to expand and hire more, which is what every growing organization wants. I am a grower, not a leader.”
Stepping outside of management may give you a chance to expand your skills outward as well. When Caprio made her move to consulting, she found that she was able to extend her expertise beyond the parameters of her in-house role. In those 9-to-5 jobs she held, “my focus was 70% running paid Google and Facebook ads,” she explains. “Once I was consulting full-time, I really dove into more than just theoretical SEO, which enabled me to develop a new skill set driving more unpaid traffic to sites.” she adds. “I used this to further expand into buying my own sites and growing them, so one thing led to another.”
I sat fidgeting in an uncomfortable chair that was placed adjacent to my boss’ expansive desk, feeling the sweat already start to tickle my forehead. I kept picking at a piece of torn upholstery toward the bottom of the seat, despite my best attempts to look cool, calm, and collected. But, no matter how many articles I crank out about successfully putting in your two weeks notice, I’ll admit it’s pretty tough to look confident and composed when you’re quitting your job.
That’s exactly what I was doing. I was seated across from a man who had been my manager for years—starting when I was just a college intern to when the company took me on full-time—and explaining to him that I was hitting the road.
“So, I guess you could consider this my two weeks’ notice,” I said to him while doing my best to avoid any direct eye contact. “Oh, here, I put it in writing too, in case you need that or, like, something,” I added while practically throwing him an unsealed envelope and simultaneously trying to edge my way out of the room.
“Well, this is a surprise,” he said, with a forced smile on his face. “Where are you going? Did you receive a better offer elsewhere?”
I swallowed nervously, took a deep breath, and attempted to keep my voice from trembling. “No, not exactly,” I replied, trying to stifle the nauseous feeling that was slowly rising from my stomach to my throat.
“So, why are you leaving?” he pressed, “Where are you going?”
“I want to be a freelance writer. I’m going to do that full-time,” I quickly responded.
His face said it all. Like so many others, he was confused as to why I would leave the comfort and security of a traditional, full-time job (and, hello, health benefits!) for a life of uncertainty as a freelancer.
I wanted to explain to him that this was something I just had to do. I’d been thinking about it for ages, and I could no longer tolerate it being only that—a thought. I needed to take action and give it a try.
But, in reality, I didn’t say any of that. Instead, I kept my mouth shut. Why? Well, the truth of the matter was I didn’t really have a plan that I could share with him. Sure, I had one big client that I was hoping would carry me until I could get things off the ground (that client actually ended up dropping me only a few months later, but that’s a story for another time). But beyond that, I didn’t have any other potential opportunities lined up. I lived in a small town with very few connections to the type of work I wanted to be doing. I really had no idea how I was going to go about running my own freelance business. Oh, and I had absolutely zero clue how I was going to pay those pesky things called bills.
As someone who loves security and predictability, to this day I have no idea what came over me. But, regardless of the fact that I didn’t really know what was coming next, I quit my job anyway.
Looking back, jumping ship from my full-time position with no firm back-up plan in place probably wasn’t the smartest thing. And, I’m definitely not trying to encourage you to march into your own boss’ office tomorrow and use that exact same tactic—unless you’re prepared for a lot of shameless crying into an open carton of those delicious (and somewhat addicting) frosted animal crackers.
However, I do think taking that terrifying leap of faith was one of the most enlightening career experiences I’ve had so far. Call it stupid, impulsive, or brave—at the very least, it was educational. Here are a few of the (many, many, many) things I learned.
1. You Don’t Need the Approval of Others
When I would tell people about my plan to sprint away from my cubicle in favor of the freelance life, I so desperately wanted them to reassure me with statements like, “Oh wow, you’re so brave!” “Good for you!” or even a friendly and dad-like, “Go get ’em, tiger!”
Unfortunately, that’s not really what I got. Instead, I was faced with a lot of, “Wait, you’re doing what?” types of comments.
In the end, it really didn’t matter. I was the only one who needed to feel good about my decision. And I did—at least in between the animal cracker crying sessions mentioned earlier. Yes, we all naturally crave approval and reassurance from others every now and then. But, trust me, you don’t need it—at least not as much as you think you do.
2. Scary Is Exciting
There’s a reason that people fork over wads of cash in order to see a horror film about possessed grandparents or to walk through a haunted house where someone is guaranteed to leap out with a chainsaw. There’s a big part of being terrified that makes you want to run and cry—but the other piece is actually somewhat thrilling.
In the first few days (ahem, alright, months) after leaving my full-time gig, I’d sit down at my computer and feel totally overwhelmed. Every day was a battle to try to scrounge up work and at least take one step in the right direction. But, at the same time, I felt absolutely exhilarated. I had no idea what was coming next, and that actually made me feel surprisingly motivated and optimistic. It was one of the most distressing, nauseating, and anxiety-inducing times in my life—but it was also the most exciting.
3. You Never Know Until You Try
I hate to sound like a cheesy, cliché high school commencement speech. But, this sentiment really does ring true. You have no idea what you’re capable of until you push yourself to try it.
I’ll be honest—it’s not that I strongly disliked my full-time job. However, it didn’t set my heart on fire either. A big chunk of my duties were administrative. And, while I did perfect the art of mail merging like a total boss, I didn’t really feel all that challenged or fulfilled by my work.
However, as a self-described creature of habit, I think that I likely could’ve dealt with that mundaneness for the rest of my life. There was a big part of me that figured I was suited for that sort of life and career. It was safe and predictable. I was content.
Fast forward to now, and I’ve accomplished things that I never even thought were a possibility for me. I’ve been published places that I assumed were mere pipe dreams. I’ve worked with people who are essentially celebrities in my eyes. Just think—none of it would’ve happened if I had stayed with the “safe” route.
4. Your Career Really Doesn’t Define You
We all have the tendency to use our careers to define ourselves. But, it’s important to remember that your job isn’t who you are—it’s what you do. As Muse Managing Editor Jenni Maier explained in her article about being laid off, your position definitely adds to your life, but it doesn’t make up the entirety of it.
When I left my job, I felt the need to justify my decision and clarify every last detail until people were literally snoring in front of me. There was this immense need to explain my employment situation in order to give myself a purpose and identity.
Turns out, that’s really not the case—all of that pressure to define myself using my career was totally self-imposed. In fact, most people honestly didn’t care if I was a dog walker or the Dalai Lama. Although, above anything else, they were most likely just wondering why I gave them a play-by-play career breakdown when all they asked was, “Paper or plastic?”
Jumping ship from my full-time job was undoubtedly one of the scariest career decisions I’ve made in my life thus far. But, even though it had my knees shaking and my palms sweating, I’m glad I did it. It’s worked out well so far, and I’ve managed to learn a lot along the way.
So, if you’re contemplating taking your own leap of faith anytime soon, I hope these lessons encourage you and help you see the light at the end of the tunnel. And, in those moments when all you feel is sheer panic? Well, reach out to me on Twitter. I’ll come running—frosted animal crackers in tow.
When you’re a manager, your employees are constantly watching to see how you behave and what you say. As a result, it’s important to be intentional about your choice of words in any setting.
As the boss, there are certain things you probably shouldn’t say.
You’re probably aware of the more obvious statements, like:
“I’m only doing this because corporate is making me.”
“I really shouldn’t be telling you this, but…”
“I just need to vent to you about [Person]…”
However, in addition to these obviously-nots, there are a few others phrases that, although seemingly harmless, may end up hurting you and your team.
1. “Keep Doing What You’re Doing”
Leaders often say this to their high performers—the low-maintenance team members they know they can count on to deliver. It’s intended to encourage them to keep it up by letting them know they’re doing a good job.
Still, as an executive coach, I’ve heard time and time again from high performers how frustrating this type of feedback is.
Why? Because they’re often ambitious. They want to advance in their careers, and they crave feedback that will help them grow. The absence of constructive criticism sometimes exasperates them so much that they’re inclined to seek out other opportunities where they’ll get the mentorship they need to continue moving up.
A Better Alternative
To maintain your high performers (and keep them growing), try: “You’re excelling with X. Let’s give you an opportunity to stretch by giving you more chances to do Y.” Or, “You’re doing really well! Let’s explore your career goals so that I can make sure I’m coaching you to get you ready for your next step.”
2. “Was That Clear?”
While this might seem like a reasonable thing to say, it might not always give you an accurate picture of whether or not your team understands your intended message.
For example, I’ve often seen really bright leaders provide so much information that it overwhelms their audience. In those cases, people might not even know where to begin to respond to the question. Further, if this is posed in a group setting, people are less likely to speak up for fear of looking like the only person who’s confused.
Even in those cases in which your audience thinks that everything’s clear, they still might not be on the same page (like when you’re talking with a peer and realize that you’ve each walked away from a meeting with different conclusions).
A Better Alternative
Instead, say: “Let’s do a quick review of the key takeaways to make sure I articulated it clearly.” (Then, you can review them, or better yet, you could have other people in the room review them for you.)
3. “Failure Isn’t an Option”
While this might be something that’s appropriate for life and death situations, for most leaders this isn’t the sort of phrase you should be using too frequently.
Although it seems like it sets the bar high, the reality is that it’ll likely encourage mediocrity.
Think about it: If people are afraid to make mistakes, do you think they’ll be willing to experiment to see if they can make something better, or do you think they’ll stay safely within the bounds of what they know?
A Better Alternative
You can tell your team, “To be innovative, we’ll probably have to take some calculated risks. I don’t want us to make mistakes on purpose, but they’ll inevitably happen. Let’s make sure to learn from them so we can continue to improve.”
4. “Don’t Bring Me Problems, Bring Me Solutions”
This statement is usually meant to encourage problem-solving and proactivity. I’ve also seen it said by bosses who want to prevent employees from incessantly complaining about issues while doing absolutely nothing to solve them.
But according to Wharton professor Adam Grant, it can prevent people from speaking up about important issues they simply don’t know how to solve. This can result in leaders being unaware of where their team stands.
It can also create a “culture of advocacy” where people come to discussions highly invested in their solutions. As a result, they’re more concerned about selling their ideas than engaging with the group to work collaboratively.
A Better Alternative
To encourage your employees to speak up when needed, try: “To make this place better, we need to be aware of all problems—whether or not you know how to solve them. I’m also open to hearing your proposed solutions, too, so we can collaboratively improve our environment.”
To excel as a manager, you’ve got to be a great communicator. When you’re speaking, keep your goals in mind, and think critically about the messages you’re sending. With that sort of intentional communication, odds are you’ll have a positive impact on your team.
Whether you consider this fact disheartening or motivating, you can’t deny its truth: You probably spend more time with your co-workers than you do with anyone else.
When you’re in the office at least 40 hours per week, the people you work with become a big part of your life. So it pays to have solid relationships with them.
Not only does that give you a strategic advantage in the workplace (hey, it never hurts to be well-liked!), it also makes work that much more enjoyable.
If you don’t consider yourself particularly close with your colleagues, don’t worry—cultivating a more caring and supportive atmosphere at work doesn’t need to be a complicated undertaking.
Here are four super simple things you can do to show your co-workers that you care and, as a result, make your office a place that you look forward to spending time in.
1. Offer Help
Think of the last time you were struggling at work. Maybe you were swamped and overwhelmed, or perhaps you were stuck on a challenging project.
Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone had stopped by your desk and provided some advice? Or even offered to take something off your plate? Wouldn’t that alone have made you feel so much more valued and supported?
Absolutely. So, why not do that same thing for a colleague? When you see someone who’s stressed or confused, just ask: Is there anything I can do to help?
Even if your co-worker doesn’t actually take you up on your offer, just the fact that you recognized the challenge and wanted to do something about it goes a long way in fostering a more empathetic culture.
2. Get Personal
No, you don’t need to get too personal—after all, you’re still in the office.
But, even though you’re in a work setting, aim to forge a relationship with the whole person—not just a job title.
This means that the more you can get to know about your colleagues’ interests and passions outside the office, the easier it will be to connect with them on a more human level.
Whether it’s asking about his marathon training or admiring her desktop background featuring a photo from her recent vacation, don’t neglect to strike up the occasional small talk. Doing so will demonstrate your investment in them, while also giving you common ground that you can use to connect even further.
3. Provide Recognition
Everybody loves to get a pat on the back for a job well done—that’s universal. But gratitude and adequate recognition can easily fall by the wayside when we’re wrapped up in the chaos of our everyday lives.
Step up and be that colleague who always applauds the hard work of your team members. Maybe that involves sending a quick Slack message to let her know how much you enjoyed her presentation. Or, perhaps it means highlighting your co-worker’s contributions when your boss commends you for your own hard work on a recent project.
These sorts of comments might seem small, but they can make a huge impact when it comes to helping others in your office feel valued.
4. Do Something Nice
Little acts of kindness won’t go unnoticed—particularly in the office. So, when’s the last time you did something nice just because you felt like it?
Go ahead and pick up some bagels on your way into work one morning (when in doubt, free food is always effective). When you’re heading out for lunch, ask that colleague who looks insanely busy if you can get anything for him.
Your co-workers are sure to appreciate those little niceties and treats that you sneak in every now and then. Plus, as an added bonus, doing these sorts of things makes you feel good too!
These four strategies are great for showing your co-workers that you actually care about them. And they’re incredibly simple and take almost zero effort on your part.
So, if you’re eager to forge better, more supportive relationships with your colleagues (and if you aren’t, you definitely should be!), put these four tips to work. You’re sure to become one of the most-liked people in your office—while simultaneously cultivating a more positive atmosphere for your entire team.
Acclimating to a new company can be both exhilarating and daunting. You want to jump into the role with enthusiasm, come across as a fast learner, and prove that hiring you was 110% worth it.
I know: I returned to work after 10 years away and put a lot of pressure on myself to adjust as quickly as possible. While my re-entry was through a fairly unique 10-week returnship program (a.k.a., an internship program for mid-career professionals who’ve taken a break), I was subject to the same uncertainty anyone would feel upon going back to the workforce after time away.
Fortunately, in addition to my background in front-line business roles, I’d had experience in leadership and professional development, so I realized that assessing the landscape and “fitting in” would be critical to my success.
With that in mind, here are my four best tips for adjusting:
1. Pay Attention to Company Culture
The role of culture can’t be overstated: Cultural norms can span the range of high-level company values to very specific action steps. They usually come in the form of unwritten rules.
Are senior leaders approachable, or is there a more formal channel that you need to be aware of?
Do colleagues eat lunch at their desks, or use that time to meet and network?
Do people leave at a reasonable hour or is facetime important?
Are they “always on” (through emails and logging in), even when they’re out of the office?
Culture’s the outcome of encouraged and accepted behaviors. And sometimes, there are aspects of culture that aren’t discovered until you make a mistake. For example, early on in a new role, I mentioned “business development” when referencing a topic. The senior leader in the room stopped the meeting to inform me that our firm never engages in selling, therefore the proper term was “client development.”
It didn’t count against me: Mistakes happen! But one way I was able to fit in and move beyond my faux pas was to make a note of it and use the preferred terminology moving forward.
2. Be Open to New Experiences
Regardless of your most recent role, changing companies means you’re entering a new situation. And this new group will inevitably do things differently.
Rather than fight to do things the way you’re used to, embrace the opportunity to adopt new approaches. For example, if your new team seems more focused on output than on strategy and analysis, learn more about the associated business impact before trying to change direction.
Or, if your boss is heavily focused on a thorough analysis of ROI before moving forward with a new program, make your best attempt to understand the drivers of that need.
Try it the new way at least once. That way you’ll give yourself a chance to determine which battles are worth fighting (and which aren’t).
3. Take the Time to Build Your Network
Your co-workers will be key to your success at your new company. Achieving results will require knowing whom to reach out to—at every level.
Figure out who has the insights, time, or interest to help you and introduce yourself. You’ll find that most people are happy to share their expertise if you ask. And take the time to see if you have skills, insights or contacts that would be of help to your new colleagues. It never hurts to build good will. The stronger your internal network, the easier time you’ll have when you need help.
Bonus: You can also build your overall network, by updating your online profile with your new role. It’s a natural reason for people to reach out and reconnect, which is always worthwhile.
4. Learn All You Can
The benefits of exposing yourself to multiple perspectives and new experiences are vast. If you remain open-minded and park your ego at the door, you’re bound to benefit from an amazing amount of learning.
Seriously, by just carrying around a notebook your first few days, jotting down questions, and seeking out answers, you’ll pick up so much more knowledge than you had before. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re supposed to know this—the fact is that you don’t and the more quickly you learn, the more at ease you’ll feel.
Above all, it’s important to remember that you’re entering a group of established professionals and they’ll respect you for taking the time to understand how everything works.
While you may feel an urge to share your past (and possibly lofty) experiences with your new team to establish yourself, resist the temptation to brag. Rather, use time with your colleagues to understand what they do and what they see as priorities. There will be plenty of time to add your perspective once you’ve gotten a more complete picture and have the data you need.
Before long, you’ll stop feeling like “the new person” and start feeling like someone who’s been there forever—in the best way possible.
If you want to be more productive in your life, you’ll have to change some of your current habits.
Self-awareness is key, so you first need to be aware of the things you do (or don’t do), the toxic impact that they may be having on your life, and where they could be holding you back from accomplishing your goals.
These four habits can absolutely damage productivity, but there’s a clear path on how to break all of them.
1. Texting Every Five Minutes
On average, we spend over four hours a day on our phones, which includes 85 texts that we send (for adults under 45).
Pretty crazy, right?
The reality is, every time you reply, you’re resetting your focus and hindering optimal productivity.
How to Break It
The first step to help text less is to turn off notifications to keep you from being distracted when new ones come in.
If you’re too tempted, commit for a specific duration of time (for example, one hour) to not look at your phone—you’ll get used to this over time.
2. Saying “Yes”
Saying “yes” certainly has its benefits, especially when presented with an opportunity that’ll show the depth of your capabilities. But this can be an unbelievably slippery slope.
Once you become stretched too thin, you’ll no longer be able to deliver quality work across various projects, and they’ll all begin to suffer. On top of that, while your intentions may have been in the right place, it may prevent future opportunities from coming across your plate.
How to Break It
When presented with a new project, stop and think for a minute before saying “yes.” Consider the short- to long-term impact, and start getting comfortable with saying “no.”
Trust me, your boss will appreciate the fact that you’re being honest, especially if various projects could be negatively impacted.
3. Getting By With Being Disorganized
Personally, this has been the bane of my professional existence. Sure, a messy workspace could mean you’re a genius, but if you’re organizationally struggling, it can be damaging to your productivity where you’ll be left playing a perpetual game of “catch up.”
How to Break It
First, you should declutter, physically and digitally. If you’re willing to part with the messy desk, it’ll be a cathartic exercise to actually have a fresh space to work at.
Next, think about how you’re prioritizing and what tools you’re using to monitor all the tasks you have. Over the years, I’ve become intimately familiar with the likes of project management tools like Basecamp, Trello, and Asana, but have also upgraded my notes and to-do lists with the likes of Evernote, Todoist, and Dropbox Paper.
Regardless of what you use, do some “grooming” and prioritize by those tasks with the highest weight.
4. Living Without a Schedule
It’s 9 AM Monday morning, and you’re digging yourself out of the abyss that is your email inbox.
But five minutes later, you get pulled into an urgent meeting that ends up lasting two hours while there was a time-sensitive email that you missed.
Where there are definitely intangibles that you can’t get away from, taking an extra step to control what you can with a schedule you create will pay long-term dividends (especially for your sanity, too).
How to Break It
Spend 30 minutes on a work night (or Sunday) to plan out your day. Check your email, plan your to-do list, and know exactly where you’re going to allocate your time. Block out 30- to 60-minute time slots on your own calendar to ensure you stay on-schedule and on-task.
With the additional visibility, you can plan ahead fewer surprises, and if something unplanned does happen, you’ll know exactly where you need to pick things back up.