TRUST ON THE WAY IN PART IV: FIND YOURSELF A GUIDE
Dante was right.
Whether you're now in New Heaven or New Hell (or even somewhere
in between), it helps to have a guide.
When you start in a new role, or even
on a new assignment, it's rare that all the territory is known
to you. So how do you find your way, and avoid both the obvious
and the hidden pitfalls? Unless you already know the players,
you'll need to find yourself a guide, or even several.
In whom can you place your trust? On
whom can you depend for the inside scoop? Who can tell you
where the land mines are? It would be ideal if you could find
one person to fill each of these roles, but they are often
too disparate a set of needs for a single solution.
Instead, being successful in building
trust on the way in requires a certain set of information
gathering and judgment that sheer intellectual force on your
part cannot accomplish by itself. Perhaps you can do it alone,
but it's risky. You will be better served by finding one or
more people performing in one of these two roles: the ask-me-anything
guide, or the trusted advisor.
The Ask-Me-Anything Guide
This is the internal person to whom
you can ask the silly questions, or all the things you think
you should already know but are embarrassed to ask.
You can ask this guide what people you
should know, to whom you have been introduced, and whose roles
you should know, to say nothing of their names. Except you
can't remember for the life of you what their names are or
what their roles are.
The ask-me-anything guide tells
you what the three-letter acronyms are that everyone uses,
but whose meaning escapes you. You need someone you can ask
without feeling foolish.
While an able administrative person
might help you with the everyday, it's valuable to figure
out who else can help you with the more complex issues, help
you figure out what's missing, and the like. One bit of warning,
however: You'll need to quickly sort out the lobbyists from
the legitimate aides. It's funny how often people with personal
agendas will be the first (or longest) in your office, giving
you the inside scoop as they see it.
The Trusted Advisor
The second person is someone external,
whom you can use to test your impressions and with whom you
can do some early soundings. While the first days and weeks
are the busiest, they are also among the most crucial. It's
the time when you need a trusted advisor. (You would expect
that advice from someone who also co-wrote a book called The
Trusted Advisor, wouldn't you?). But it's true. This
is the time when you really do need it.
Your trusted advisor could be a former
colleague, mentor, or personal friend who not only understands
you and how you operate, but can also grasp your attempts
to explain the structure, politics, personalities, and objectives
of the new organization or the new task. It might be a consultant,
but it doesn’t have to be.
I have a partner in my own organization
who excels in this role. He’s never held a position
in a large corporation, but experienced top executives in
large entities tend to gravitate toward him. His work would
hardly classify as consulting work in the classical sense.
But he sure does have the ear of the senior-most people, and
they quietly rely on him heavily for all sorts of things.
The Choice is Yours
While it’s great to keep one’s
own counsel, it can be a lonely road, and no one will be there
to help you avoid making the wrong turns. The person can be
an insider or an outsider. Just as long as you have someone.
To whom do you turn? Let
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