3 areas to consider when navigating organizational relationships

/ by Ryan Feldman

Apiary Digital® recently surveyed a select group of performance marketing leaders—from startups, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between—to learn their secrets to success during the first 90 days in a new position. To capture the pearls of wisdom shared through this survey, we’ve created a blog series, “The First 90 Days.” This is part of the multi-part series.

70.8% of marketing leaders surveyed cited understanding nuances and internal relationships before changing things as key to success during the first 90 days in a new position. 

You’re new in your role and possibly new to the organization. Chances are, you’ve got an overwhelming desire to jump right in and start proving your worth. Stop right there! Do not underestimate the importance of building and cultivating relationships with the people in your organization—at all levels. Taking the time to develop good relationships goes a long way with building credibility, making it much easier to get buy-in and support on your ideas later on. 

The following 3 areas should be taken into account when embarking on relationship- and trust-building in your new organization.

Embrace observation mode 

The last thing you want to do is jump into your new role, guns blazing! Your first week—even up to your first month—should be spent in “observation mode.” Here’s what that looks like: 

  • Meet with everyone in the organizationthose above you, those working for you, all major department playersreally listen to discover where their priorities are; note where there appears to be some common ground across departments and learn what their pain points are.
  • Focus on establishing knowledge and do a lot of listening. It’s totally okay to insert ideas and observations in conversations, but preface what you say with phrases like “if this makes sense” and “in my previous role” to help soften things a bit—it’s all about delivery!
  • Ensure you’re learning and understanding current internal processes for things like how to successfully get approval for an increased budget; who to talk to, to grease the wheels.  
  • Don’t assume things are going to be the same in your new organization as your previous one—even if it’s the same industry vertical and position title.
  • Work on getting a general sense of what’s going on in each area, but don’t get too in the weeds or you risk coming across as micromanaging.

In truth, how long one waits to start making changes really varies from industry to industry and where the company is in its stage of maturity. It also depends a great deal on company culture. In general; however, taking an observe-recommend-observe approach is safe. Some of the first recommendations may be a bit more on a superficial level—they can get more detailed over time. And remember: One of the reasons you were hired was for your fresh perspective! Listening carefully during those first few days and weeks across multiple channels can really benefit your new org.

⚠ Pro-tip: Generate quick-wins using tactics that don’t require massive organizational changes to prove yourself out of the gate (and don’t forget to give credit to your team, too!). People will trust you more when you bring up larger changes later because your prior decisions yielded results.

Build trust within your team

In addition to spending the first few weeks on the job in observation mode, it’s also important to really get to know your team with the ultimate goal of building trust. Afterall, those are the people you’ll be spending the most time with! A few things to keep in mind while building relationships with the team:

  • Don’t just talk about work projects—find out who they are, what motivates them to come to work each day—and find out if their motivation aligns with what they’re working on.
  • While getting to know your team, look around to see who seems to need more support than others and who’s self-sufficient. This gives you an idea of who you can trust to work more or less on their own, and who needs more guidance from you.
  • Make a point to let the people on your team know that you’re open and willing to take feedback from them. Find ways to empower them so they feel comfortable approaching you and pushing back, as needed. 

One of the quickest ways to demonstrate to your team you’re not interested in taking all the credit is to find ways to attribute successes to the team and not just yourself. It makes the team look good and helps build trust.

⚠ Pro-tip: Never use “I”—always use “we”— it’s very subtle, but can make a HUGE difference. Always give credit where credit is due because it’ll help build trust with your team and help them trust that you’re not going to take the credit for everything. Make a point of calling out people on your team when they do extra-great work. 

Human hands applauding

Be available to your team

Coming in as the new person to an organization and as the new boss makes you an unknown player. With that comes a level of uncertainty and possibly even some frustration— if an existing team member had their eye on your position, for example. The best policy is to make yourself as approachable as possible:

  • Hold regular office hours and welcome your team members to stop by if they need to touch base about something. Meetings don’t always need to be formal. Some of the most productive ones are actually more “drive-by” in nature!
  • Don’t come across as too busy to talk to your team—if you’re really slammed, ask for 10 minutes to finish your thought and tell them you’ll be right with them.
  • Make it clear that there are no “stupid questions” and ask them yourself, too… if you demonstrate you’re not afraid to ask for clarification on things that may appear to be obvious to everyone, it helps set your team at ease to do the same. The truth is, everyone is always in a state of learning! 

⚠ Pro-tip: Meet with everyone on your team BEFORE reading over their past performance reviews! This helps you form your own opinions and doesn’t color the relationship you’re working to build with them.

In a nutshell: While you’re first starting out in a new marketing leadership position, avoid the temptation to jump in and start making changes. Take the time to really listen and learn as much as possible; build relationships across your new organization. It will pay off!

Stay tuned for the next installment in the series which will cover conducting an evaluation of team members to identify opportunities for up-leveling performance.