The challenges involved in getting to grips with a new role are well recognised and many companies nowadays have well-developed processes for on-boarding and performance acceleration. Such programmes typically include meeting the key stakeholders, focusing on understanding the critical issues, spending quality time with the new team, identifying the quick wins, learning the unwritten rules of the game, making an impact as a leader and defining the new vision plus key short-term strategic goals. Via this means the change for all concerned becomes accepted, the necessary adjustments get made and everyone settles down into the new situation more quickly than might otherwise have been the case.
Whilst this approach to bringing new hires on board undoubtedly seeks to satisfy the desire of organisations to ensure new people become productive as quickly as possible, it fails to recognise a key factor. One of real issues in transitioning to a new job is the underlying and more difficult process of letting go of the person you used to be in your previous role and finding the new person you need to become in your new position.
On-boarding programmes which start with the assumption that a change in role is just that – a change – are missing a trick. We need to broaden our view and recognise that starting a new job puts us in transition and is a complex process. It involves, amongst other things, the reaching of a point in time where we have to let go of something. It requires us to appreciate that to become something else, we have to stop being what we are now; to start doing things a new way, we have to end the way we are doing them now and to develop a new attitude or outlook, we have to let go of the old one we have now. Even though it sounds backwards, the ending of what came before must always come first and be dealt with if we are to move on to the start of something new.
If we overlook this aspect of someone starting a new job we run the risk of underestimating the complexity involved. Adjusting to a new role is much more than simply dealing with a change and, as we plan how best to ensure new people become productive as quickly as possible, we would do well to remember this.