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Rock Your Join Up

Written by Jim Keighley on April 20, 2014

“How do you think he does it? I don't know! What makes him so good?” Inspired by lyrics from Pinball Wizard, Pete Townshend

We're all new at many points in our career - newly graduated, newly transferred, newly hired. The leader who brought you into their organization expects you to quickly bring something the team needs. Do you know what that is? More importantly:

Are you actually delivering it?

If you want to be accepted and respected by your new team you’ll have to quickly balance what you bring to the equation with your team’s experience.

Your first big test will probably be when you are called in to help fix something – could be some equipment, some software, or a work process.

When that happens, the team will have already spent a lot of time on the problem trying every fix their collective experience suggests, and it hasn’t worked (or you wouldn't have been called to help).

Add value to your team by leading them to a more complete problem definition.

  1. Don't fall into the ‘didja’ trap.

    Your immediate contribution is NOT adding to the list of untried solutions since your team has more experience. Most people begin troubleshooting by trying to win a ‘didja list contest’. You know… "didja try this, didja try that..." Your team has FAR more experience than you do – and they will tire quickly of humoring you and your "didja" suggestions.

  2. Use your new perspective to help fully define the problem.

    This means you need to help identify symptoms and get a clear understanding of how the system, equipment or software works.

    The only problems we can’t solve are those which haven’t been fully defined. Once a problem is fully defined – the solution often becomes obvious.

  3. Discipline yourself to listen – not just hear.

    Don't jump to conclusions or correct your team without listening to everything they have to say.

  4. Separate conclusions from observations.

    Observations are valuable and undeniable. Unfortunately, sometimes conclusions about those observations will be woven into the description of the observation. You may know or believe that a conclusion is wrong, but if you discount the underlying observation - your team will quickly shut you out.

Huh? Let’s say we are back in the caveman era. Your tribe is sitting around their night fire and I stumble upon your camp and want to join up. To feel me out – your leader looks up at the night sky and says to me: "The stars are moving."

Simple four word statement with an observation AND a conclusion – did you catch both? Would you have heard and acted on what he said or did you listen and get what he meant?

Being educated at Rock U, I know that the embedded conclusion isn’t true – the stars aren’t moving – we are. Your leader didn't go to Rock U or even Stone State. A more correct statement of his observation would have been "the stars appear to be moving."

If I say: "No, no – you have it all wrong – the stars aren’t moving we are." I will be chased away at spear point and left to spend the night cold and alone.

But, if I acknowledge the observation as being accurate and work to teach a different explanation for it – I have a shot at being accepted as useful to your tribe and staying warm.

Your value to the team will come from your ability to lead them to a solution.

So listen, define, and teach – the solution will follow.

“Even on my favorite table. He can beat my best…

That deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball!”

Are you interested in more of Jim's insights? Here's a link to his post, Is your Boss a Single Point of Failure?. He also wrote the very popular post, Leadership Lesson's from The Who's "Magic Bus"

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