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Learning to be New Again.

 Recently, I accepted a position with a competitor.  The new position was a step-up in responsibility and pay from my previous employer.  Don't get excited, I am still middle management, just another bloody, sweaty rung higher.  My father would tell the joke, that management was like a tree full of monkeys;  if you look down all you see is smiling faces, when you look up, all you see are a**holes.  Not always 100% true, but true enough I suppose.

I now have an opportunity to manage a larger group of co-workers that are comprised of both hourly and salaried employees.  This opportunity allows me an exposure to experiences that I wouldn't  have otherwise.  But there was something that I did four years ago that made it all possible.  My previous job, although not new in responsibility, was in a different facility than that which I had worked in before. Same company, similar job, but a whole different environment.

When I moved from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis in 2008, I did so for a lateral move that allowed me to move where my new wife lived.  I stayed with the same company, which in turn was a great decision all in its own with the looming financial crisis and the subsequent collapse.  There were only a few people at the new facility who I knew from before, putting me in the position to earn respect from peers and subordinates.  I recognized that I could bring something constructive to the table, and that it would take me 3 to 4 years to fully implement those improvements.  At the same time, the change in location gave me the opportunity to learn how to be "new" again, while still having the security of working for the same employer.

What does learning to be new really mean to you?  To me, it meant learning a new local culture, figuring out how people have been doing things, the different kinds of limitations or restrictions that apply, the various personalities in the workplace, and the new expectations that each person has of me.  It is too easy to say things like "Why do you do that?" or "That is completely f*cked up", or "Everyone here is stupid", or the deal-killer "Where I came from, we did it this way . . . . . ."  Yes that pain in your temple just came as a result of you shooting yourself in the head.

Don't get me wrong, although I know better than to vocalize my thoughts, too many of them creep out through my betraying body language and tone.  There is a special brand of patience needed to weather the first several weeks, so you can absorb your surroundings without poisoning it with opinion, presumption, and conjecture.  When I assumed my most recent position, I was more new than ever before since I left my first job out of school.  I knew some of the supplier base, since both companies (the one I left, and the one I joined) were within 250 miles of one another and used common suppliers and contractors.  Other than that, I was in a completely new enviornment of personalities and requirements.

If I hadn't had the opportunity to practice being new four years earlier, this most recent transition would have been overwhelming.  On the first day out of orientation, I first contacted the department clerk, since I knew she would know what was going on.  After my first day of work, I started a Word file recording my thoughts and experiences on a daily basis.  There were a great many observations that I kept in that private journal, knowing very well that I would look back someday and remember what it was like to be a stranger in a strange land.

There were a great many expectations in the new job that were vastly different from my old one, mainly due to the increase responsibility of being a department manager and the different business culture with my new employer.  Both of these are still challenging, even 100 days into this new chapter in my life.  I still make entries in that journal, although not every day.  The past three months have been a frustrating lesson in active listening and focus.  I have used the journal to record the different items that I want to concentrate on.  Many of these are from my observations, while more originate from my employers expectations.  My predecessors were both fired for not taking those expectations seriously, therefore addressing the cultural needs are paramount to success.

from Nobody's Fool

The good news is I am writing again after almost 10 months.  Blogger is going to want their renewal payment in another month or so, I better get my money's worth.

Vios con Huevos, Amigos


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