Professionals get seldom stuck to a single role, company, or even the same geographical location for too long. This makes the ability to quickly transition into new roles a critical skill to harness and position yourself for greater opportunities. Normally, when Professionals derail from their responsibilities, their faults can almost always be traced back to a loop of habits that were developed within the first few months on the job. For every Professional who fails outright, many others survive but do not realize their full potential resulting in a loss of opportunities to advance in their careers and thrive in the industry.
The habits that form within the first few months in a new role will largely determine your success as a professional. Although transitions can open a window of vulnerabilities, the great thing about them is that they give us a chance to make the necessary changes to our work habits.
- Realize that there is a transition
Many professionals undergo transitions because of transformational shifts within their organizations that are necessary to thrive in the industry. An organization will undergo periodical transformational shifts that are mainly due to rapid growth, to improve competitive advantage, a merging with another company, or strategically make better use of its skills and resources. As a result, employees will undergo many unnoticeable transitions simply because they do not come with a corresponding change in titles. The most dangerous transitions are the ones that you do not realize.
2. Start Preparing Yourself
To start preparing yourself for the types of transitions you are encountering you need to understand them. It is not merely about what you are being expected to do but rather what it will take of you to be able to excel, exceed expectations and position yourself to be open to new opportunities. Approaching new roles with the mentality that what you have been doing to succeed will automatically continue to make you succeed can lead you to believe that you will be successful in a new role by simply continuing to do what you did in your previous roles. Doing what you know how to do (and avoiding what you don’t) can appear to work for a while but you can exist in a state of denial, believing that because you are efficient, you are effective.
3. Learn before you act
When a promising Professional misses the mark, failure to learn is almost always a factor. The more efficiently and effectively you learn, the more you quickly close your window of vulnerabilities to things that might potentially get you off track. It is thus essential for you to figure out what is important for you to learn and to learn it as rapidly as possible. Simply displaying a sense of curiosity, and a genuine desire to learn and understand processes translates into increased credibility and influence.
4. Structure Your Learning
When transitions occur, it is normal to feel like you are drinking water from a hose as there is a lot for you to take in. To strike the right balance of knowing what you need to focus on you will need to put together a learning agenda and a learning plan. The agenda will help you identify what you need to learn, and the plan will help you define how to go about your learning. These will help you translate your goals into a specific set of actions by identifying reliable sources of insight and using systematic methods to accelerate your learning.
5. Break It Down
The start of your learning plan is a cyclical learning process in which you collect information, analyse and distil it, and develop and test your hypothesis, thus progressively deepening your understanding. The main elements to focus on are: 1) the technical e.g. technologies, products, and strategies, 2) the organizational culture e.g. norms, values, behavioural expectations, transparent communication, trust, and collaborations, and 3) an organization’s politics e, g, alliances, organizational informative structures.
You will have hard data to learn from usually in the form of the organization’s functional plans, operating reports, and industry reports, and the “soft” information that requires vigilant observation. A comprehensive and efficient means to learn is by talking to people who have critical knowledge about the situation. Keep in mind that you need to listen to key people both inside and outside the organization. Talking to people with different points of view will deepen your insight. It will help you translate between external realities and internal perceptions and between people at the top of the hierarchy and front lines.
6. Harness Flexibility & Adaptation
The work environment facing Professionals who derail is no tougher than the one in which others succeed brilliantly. Transition failures happen because the employee either misunderstands the essential demands of the situation or lacks the skills and flexibility to adapt to them.
Armed with a deeper understanding of the organization’s situation, political networks, expectations, and culture, puts you in a much stronger position to figure out how to be flexible enough to adapt to the new role. A major downfall will be falling into being a victim to a compulsive need to act without having acquired the necessary information. Many employees are successful when they can balance between doing (making things happen) and being (Observing and reflecting). The pressure to “do” almost always comes more from inside the employee than from outside forces; it reflects a lack of confidence and a consequent need to prove yourself.
7. Virtuous Cycles VS Vicious Cycles
Vicious cycles arise when mutually causal processes feedback into one another to lock a system into a mode of operation that yields progressively negative outcomes. In contrast, virtuous cycles are those that yield favourable outcomes.
Virtuous cycles hold an important key towards growing and developing employees into leaders. Building virtuous cycles for you to be able to excel within the work environment is a knowledge-intensive activity. A virtuous cycle of learning and performing will help accelerate your development and increase performance significantly. A learning mindset creates a virtuous cycle of learning and performance because it enables you to learn more from experiences, which in turn results in employees being more resilient and performing better. This leads to achievements of better results and reinforces the importance and value of the Learning Mindset.
8. Build the momentum
Your overriding goal in getting up to speed and taking charge is to generate momentum by creating virtuous cycles and to avoid getting caught in vicious cycles that damage your credibility. When momentum is ignited, everything begins to move forward, tasks are getting accomplished, business goals are being met and employees, customers, and clients are happy. Creating momentum in your life means doing a little more of the things that move you forward and a little less of the things that hold you back. This involves learning a key skill of creating decisions that make your life less stressful by stretching your limits to ensure that daily tasks are accomplished as planned and not cumulated over to the next day.
Strategies that are effective include breaking your goals into small completable tasks. You can start by focusing on 3 key activities per day. This will be effective in helping you secure early wins as you complete valuable tasks and help you build the confidence that even bigger tasks are achievable. Begin by breaking daily goals into hourly goals and starting with easier tasks that help you build momentum. A few hours of pre-entry planning before you start also goes a long way. You can then move from planning daily goals to planning weekly goals. Then focus on what you would like to achieve by the end of the month, then the next month, and so on. The plans will be sketchy, but the simple act of beginning to plan will help clear your head.
9. Accelerate Others
In a machine, every part is necessary for the machine to operate successfully. The same goes for any type of workplace organization. Every employee and their contributions are the bolts and pieces that add up to the main engine. Each worker’s transition materially impacts the performance of roughly a dozen other people—bosses, peers, direct reports, and other stakeholders. So even if you aren’t personally in transition, you likely are having the transitions of others inflicted on you.
You should approach your efforts to get up to speed with everyone else as an investment process— and your scarce time and energy as resources that deserve careful management—you will realize returns in the form of actionable insights that are accompanied by a subsequential alliance of working effortlessly as a team.
Also important is to take into consideration the resources that are possessed by the organization as well as the industry. This can include knowledge possessed by your fellow employees and peers; the patterns of interactions amongst them, their responsibilities, and the rules and routines that provide cohesion.