How to successfully integrate into a new company
By Adil Wali , 22nd Sep 2010

New team-members are not created equal

I’ve had the opportunity to evaluate and hire around thirty very talented people in the last few months, and it has been a pretty eye-opening experience for a lot of reasons.  Perhaps the most interesting reason is the varying outcomes I have seen from all these new employees.  I have seen some new employees do a fantastic job of integrating themselves with the culture and the team, and I’ve seen others crash and burn.

It got me to thinking, “what is it that makes certain new people successful in an organization and others not-so-successful?”  If there are certain attitudes and behaviors that drive good outcomes for a new team-member, I’d like to know what they are.  This is especially interesting because I find that some team members who I am excited about during hiring/evaluation process actually don’t do so well in their first 30-90 days.

So, I’d like to better understand what works and what doesn’t.  That way, I can try to help coach new employees in that direction.   I’ll establish a working list here, and try to add to it as I learn more.

Things you should do when you join a new organization

  • Respect how the organization got to where it is. The most successful employee don’t just walk in guns ‘ablazing.  Instead, they seek to understand how the organization got to where it is now, and what things have been successful or not-so-successful in the past.
  • Assume that past decisions were made for a good reason. I’ve seen a few new team-members actually disclaim that they ‘they are not here to question past decisions.’  They assume that people made the best decisions they could with the information they had.  This is a great way to start off on the right foot with a new team.  Of course, no organization is perfect, and all of them have skeletons in the closet.  But you are better served focusing on the future rather than the past.
  • Recognize that some of your great new ideas were probably discussed before. This is one of the most common mis-steps.  I see a lot of new people come to the table with ‘great new ideas’ that they assume no one has thought of before.  It’s great to be forward-thinking and to have new ideas, but it makes a lot more sense to first ask if folks have talked about things like this in the past, and what has been done until now.  (Most companies are not short on ideas… they are short on execution!)  If you don’t ask these questions, you look ignorant about the history of the organization and you look like you are trying to take the credit for ideas that people have already had for a long time.
  • Get to know people both personally and professionally. You cannot underestimate the importance of close personal connections in the workplace.  You don’t have to be best friends with your co-workers, but you should make an effort to get to know them and what motivates them.  The more comfortable people are with you, the more likely they are to come to you when they need something.
  • Ask questions… rather than giving answers. This is more of a meta-point that covers a lot of the other points above.  But it’s a great rule to live by.  If you find yourself providing more answers than questions in your first month, you are almost certainly doing something wrong.  You have to seek to understand before you seek to be understood.  (Take it from Covey!)
  • Seek out a mentor. There is almost certainly someone in the organization who knows more about the brand and the culture than you do.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a strength.

This topic is not only timely for me, I think its hugely important in any rapidly growing organization.  There are lots of new faces and there is a lot of uncertainty.  What I have found is that some of the brightest people have the least organizational savvy.  So if you think this advice doesn’t apply to you because you ‘smarter than that,’ I encourage you to think again.  No matter how smart you are, you are not going to be effective in an organization where you haven’t built trust and don’t have the ability to gain buy-in.

Joining a new organization can be harder than most people think.  Hopefully some of this advice helps people on their way…

About the Author

Hi, I’m Adil Wali. I became a Microsoft certified professional at age 14 and started my first web development company. That led to a career as a serial entrepreneur, advisor, and startup investor. I got my first “real job” at 33, and I’m now a FinTech executive with a passion for the markets.