The typical American worker now holds more than a dozen different jobs over the course of their career. Most Millennials expect to hold even more – as many as 15 or 20, according to a survey released last year by the executive development firm Future Workplace.
I’ve been fortunate to spend my entire career with one company, General Motors, which has never failed to challenge me or offer opportunities for growth. And yet, within GM, I’ve held more than a dozen different positions in everything from engineering and manufacturing to communications and human resources.
The take away, for me, is that whether you spend your career working for one company or 20, you need to hone your ability to start strong in each new position you hold. Here are five things I focus on whenever I start a new assignment.
Put the customer at the center of everything you do
Whether you work in accounting, engineering, or sales, whether you’re straight out of school or an EVP, remember that by focusing on the customer you will drive better performance. Their needs should inform every decision you make. If the voice of the customer isn’t already reflected in your new position, find ways in your first 90 days – and every day after that – to ensure that it is.
Listen to your team
The first 90 days is your best opportunity to earn the respect and trust of the people with whom you work. People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Be open, seek solutions, and listen more than you talk. When you value what others say, they start to open up, and that flow of ideas leads to better results.
Strengthen your team
One of your responsibilities as a leader is to ensure that you have the right people on your team. Expect and demand an all-in commitment from everyone. If you don’t have the right people, you’re not doing your job – because you’re too busy doing their work. If you have an employee whose unhappiness is holding back the team, help him find happiness somewhere else.
Take personal responsibility
If you inherit a problem with your new job, don’t dismiss it as the last person’s legacy. Never hide behind your newbie status or use it as an excuse to put off what needs to be done. Own the problem, develop a plan to fix it, and address it head on. Your team’s reputation depends not just on what you do right, but what you do if something goes wrong.
Adapt and learn
At the end of the day, your success will largely be determined not just by how good your plan is, but how well you adapt to meet the changing needs of the customer. Adaptation really comes down to one thing: leadership. And a big part of leadership is being able to look over the horizon and anticipate the changes to come.
In this series, professionals share how they rocked — or didn’t! — the all-important first 90 days on the job. Follow the stories here and write your own (please include the hashtag #First90 in the body of your post).