Newest Member of Your Team? 5 Tips for Hitting it Out of the Park
Every time you join a new team, change careers or insert yourself into a new group of friends, you become the "newbie" regardless of reputation or experience.
In the SEAL Teams, those that aspire to join the ranks of SEAL Team 6, or Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), might have several combat tours under their belt but none of that matters when you take it to the next level. If you are lucky enough to make it, you're back at the bottom of the totem pole.
The same thing applies when you join a new company or organization. Whether you are low or high on the chain of command, if you're new, you're new. Here are five tips to make your team forget that you haven't been around as long as them.
1. Keep your mouth shut and ears open.
Because there is much to learn. As a "new guy" checking in to SEAL Team 5 I quickly learned that new team members are to be seen and not heard. Less talking and more listening ensured a shortening of the learning curve and the potential for less hazing. And according to your platoon mates you don't know @#$% yet anyway, so don't bother.
Even though you have been hired based on specific talents that fill a certain need of the organization, the systems and processes are probably a bit different than your previous company. Sure, it's great to bring new ideas to the table and good management teams will encourage that type of proactive behavior, but be thoughtful in the manner in which you do so. Learn as much as you can quickly and your value to the team will increase exponentially. Those that hired you will realize a quick return on their investment.
2. Volunteer for everything.
This saying comes from the military but is valuable advice in any team environment. In the military, if you don't volunteer you will most likely be "volun-told" anyway, so you might as well step up to the plate.
Who wants to carry the 40 pound quicky saw in addition to all of your other gear? What, no volunteers? New guy up!
As the new member of any team it is beneficial to not just appear eager, but to actually want to take on more responsibility than your specific job description might entail. This is an aspect of a philosophy called Emergent Leadership. This behavior will be recognized by superiors and eventually rewarded. One word of caution however is to not take on too much too soon. You want to be able to succeed at a few things; not fail at many.
3. Arrive early and stay late.
If you're doing what you should be doing then you need to put in the extra time anyway. The goal here is not to simply be present before others arrive and still be sitting there when they leave, but to actually use this time to get a jump on your new roles and responsibilities. Again, this behavior will be quickly recognized by others and possibly even set a good example for those that have been around for many years. Even as a new team member your vigor can be the cure for complacency in the veterans who have been-there-done-that.
4. In the absence of orders, take charge.
As the Navy SEAL Creed says, "We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission."
Your manager is not always going to be around to hold your hand, nor should they have to. And then there is the reality that many managers simply aren't good at leading others. Regardless of strong or weak management, it's partly up to you to set yourself up for success. So take charge and make things happen. Opportunities aren't gifts. They are created, by you.
5. Earn your role, every day.
All SEALs wear the coveted Trident pin on their uniforms. And as the saying goes, "By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day." Just completing training and earning the title of "Navy SEAL" is only the begging of a long arduous journey. You have accomplished nothing yet in the eyes of your more seasoned peers.
Earning your role on a daily basis goes for everyone, especially senior leadership. But it doesn't matter what rank you hold. All effective members of a team wake up every day and ask themselves how they are going to add value to the team and drive progress towards common goals. Being the newbie on a team is indeed a privilege because it means you had what it takes to be given the opportunity. So take it seriously and perform even better than the team assumes you will.
Being positive and aggressive in the pursuit of your goals is a conscious decision you make every single day. So don't be afraid to be the "new guy." Because before you know it, someone else will be. And they will be looking to you for guidance.