Everyone starting a new job faces the same dilemma. They know they should observe, listen and learn before passing judgment on anything. But then they see, hear and learn about things they know they can fix immediately with immediate impact. The dilemma is how much to share and when.

Solve this by listing all your ideas when you get them and then implementing them over time in priority order starting with those involving minor changes/minor impact.

Three main steps:

    1. Observe, listen and learn before passing judgment on anything.
    2. Write down all your fresh ideas when you get them.
    3. Share those ideas when others are ready to accept them from you and not before.

Observe, listen and learn

Our most important insight regarding executive onboarding goes to the importance of converging before evolving. Many of the 40% of executives who fail in their first eighteen months a new job try to start leading before people are ready to follow them. No one will follow anyone anywhere any time until they have earned the right to lead. And, as one of my partners likes to say, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

You can’t converge into the team becoming part of it until you know what you’re joining. This requires observing, listening and learning. The more time you can spend doing this early on, the easier it will be to converge later.

Write down your fresh ideas

You will never see things with fresher eyes then you do the first time you see them. Every interaction you have with everything and everyone in the organization pollutes the next interaction and filters your powers of observation, hearing and learning. This is why it’s so valuable to write down your observations and ideas when you get them.

You know most of your ideas are going to end up being useless. You just don’t know which ones. So write them all down. But don’t share them with anybody yet.

Share your ideas when ready

The art is in knowing when to pivot from converging to evolving and when to start sharing your ideas. That timing will be different depending upon the context and culture – how fast the organization needs to change and how open it is to change. The faster it needs to change and the more open it is to change, the sooner you can and should start sharing your ideas.

Apply a similar framework to help you determine when to share which ideas, starting with ideas requiring minor changes and having a minor impact.

You might think you should to start with the ideas with the greatest impact. In a turn-around situation, that would be the right approach.

In a more normal onboarding situation in which you can manage the pace at which you converge into and then evolve the organization, you’re better off building momentum over time. In these cases, it’s more important for the first ideas you implement to create early wins than for them to make the biggest impact on their own.

Thus, the prescription is:

  1. Start with ideas requiring minor change to create a minor impact. These will generate early wins quickly, priming the pump for ideas with more impact.
  2. Then move to ideas requiring minor change to create major impact. These ideas will have the highest return on the investment of time and effort.
  3. Next will be ideas requiring major change to create major impact. By definition, these ideas will require a greater investment of time and effort.
  4. Last on your list should be ideas requiring major change to create minor impact. Indeed, many of these should probably fall of the list completely.