Why I Am Starting My Job by Stopping

Ryan den Rooijen
Ryan den Rooijen

This week I started a new job. As this is a role at a different company and in a different country, this means a lot of change. Many people have asked me how I feel. Truth be told, this transition might be three quarters exciting, but it is also one quarter daunting. I am keenly aware of the pressure to get stuck in. However, because I want to do a great job over the next years, I am starting by stopping.

You see, my natural tendency is to come in, identify an opportunity, and get to work fixing things. This is heightened by two factors. Firstly, it is overwhelming to be faced with a multinational organisation with myriad opportunities and domains to explore. Zeroing in on one area at the start can be very comforting. Secondly, I am new! I want to do stuff. I want to prove my value. Why was I hired? OK, let me show you.

Yet despite these tendencies, it is important to stop myself and not get stuck into details and delivery straight away. I know that would diminish my potential impact.

Is was either this or a photo of the Spice Girls, so you are welcome. Photo by Ximena Ibañez.

Firstly, starting a new job is always a challenge, even if it is in the same company. New responsibilities, new stakeholders, new expectations. Moving to a different organisation compounds this with new colleagues, new operating models, and perhaps a new industry entirely. Finally, move countries and you can add new culture, new routine, and new home to that list. None of these are easy to deal with in themselves.

Unless you take the time to pay close attention and let yourself soak up the relevant information, you will miss pertinent information. These could be major things, like misunderstanding strategic initiatives, or more subtle things, like cultural norms that favour a particular meeting or communication style. They say the devil is in the details, and this is never more true when you are far from home, finding your feet.

On that point of communication, the facts are as important as the feelings. In any program trust greatly speeds up delivery. You might have the best plan in the world, but unless you are able to draw upon a modicum of goodwill you will not get very far. While there are some tried and tested approaches, like truly listening to people and empathising with their position, these cannot be rushed. It takes time to build trust.

If you learn to listen carefully your survival rate in any job is likely to rise. Photo by Nathan Anderson.

Finally, as the saying goes: if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Proving your value through quick wins and lighthouse projects can be powerful ways of establishing credibility and building momentum. However, these should not replace a deliberate strategy that charts a clear course for the organisation. Without this strategy, you will never achieve the broad or lasting impact that I will assume all of us desire to have.

These principles provide a good litmus test of your own leadership as well. Many shortsighted managers will start their hire's first week by piling on the to-do items and insisting they get to work completing these. Luckily, my leadership asked me to focus on one primary thing: to listen and to understand. While the role overall might be daunting, at least I feel like I am being set up for success. I hope you are too.

– Ryan

Digital Transformation

Ryan den Rooijen

Chief Strategy Officer of Appsbroker CTS, the leading Google-dedicated consultancy. Formerly Chief Ecom & Data Officer.