When you’re with the same company or with the same boss for years, you are believable. You have history. They know you and what you’re capable of, and they are (presumably) familiar with your track record and achievements. But when you start a new role, it’s a different story. There are new rules, new targets, new bosses. You have to work to become believable.
You might ask yourself, how do you go about doing that? Of course, you could wait for time to tell—but in today’s supercharged environment, who has time? Follow these four steps to prove yourself (and become believable) when you start a new role.
Walk the talk
When you’re new, you need to be sure what you say matches what you do. For example, I was sitting around a conference table with a new president. He was expressing how he cared about people—”Put others first,” he said.
Then someone spilled their coffee all over the table. Everyone reached forward to try to stop the mess, except him. Instead, he stepped back and checked his suit for splashes. This is the opposite of what you should do. He was all about himself, and he wasn’t believable as a caring leader.
Think about how your actions match your words. If you say you value honesty, you can’t cut people off abruptly—especially if you feel attacked. If you want to be believable, you must align what you say with what you do.
Go for the middle
When you’re with a new boss or a new team, you know you have to show what you can do for them. You may have been a well-liked president at your last company, but that was then. You can’t expect your new employees to feel the same way without your doing some work upfront. The pressure to demonstrate performance is real. So, what decisions do you make? Do you underpromise and overdeliver? How is your approach a reflection of your leadership style?
When you’re new, they don’t know where you are on the continuum. If you’re too extreme either way, you’ll stir up skepticism. As a theater director, I’ve learned that the best approach is to begin at an easy pace. Audiences need time to adjust and tune in. Think of how many plays you’ve seen that open with an actor doing something small—standing looking out, sitting looking down. The audience has to get comfortable sitting in the dark as the lights come up on the stage. Your new boss or your new team has to get comfortable so that they can pay attention and engage with you in your new role.
Let your personality come through
How many times have you heard the expression “Put on a happy face”? It sounds like sound advice, right? After all, who wants a boss that’s too serious?
But to be believable, you need to get past this black/white thinking. When you do this, you’re putting on a mask. As the unknown, you have to take off your mask and genuinely let yourself engage with what you’re saying. When you tell people your strategy, you need to figure out how to make your ideas come alive. You have to share images. You have to tell your stories. You have to be in action mode, not edit mode. You can’t be worrying about what you’re going to say next; instead, engage with what you’re saying now. You have to let your personality come through
Make it clear that you’re listening
When you’re in a new role, you’re so focused on absorbing and taking it all in. You’re listening to align with your new boss or empower your new team, because you know that you have so much to absorb so quickly.
You may fall back to your experience in school, where you had to (frantically) take notes of what your professor was saying. Your job was to take it all in so you could pass a test at a later time. In business, the test isn’t at the end of the quarter. The test is in every meeting. You have to speak up and demonstrate that you’ve heard and understood them.
It’s not enough to hear what your new team or your new boss is telling you. You need to demonstrate that you are listening. When you’re driving, you can’t just notice the light turning red—you have to stop your car. Similarly, in your meetings, you have to demonstrate your understanding.
One easy way to do this is to begin by rephrasing what you’ve heard and then adding value or posing a relevant question. So, if your new boss says “You have to do ‘x'”—you begin by saying “I understand that we have to do ‘X.'”
Starting a new job is an exciting endeavor, but proving yourself does require some work on your part. Don’t be afraid to let your real personality shine through—just make sure that you make an effort to get to know your new teammates in the process.