Many of you may know Leadership Coach John Keyser (C’59), a very loyal Hoya who has presented almost a dozen webinars and can be seen in the stands at every basketball game. Through his company Common Sense Leadership, John works with executives and business owners to help them develop higher energy, collaborative and more loyal teams. Anyone who knows John or reads his weekly Ideas & Advice blog can attest to the weight that John places on relationship building, which he believes starts with active listening skills and meaningful conversations.
I 100% agree with John’s viewpoints, and enjoyed reading this week’s blog post that focused on his favorite subject. John writes about his friend (let’s just call him Tim), who also places an emphasis on meaningful connections in the workplace. After starting at a new company, Tim asked his boss for the names of 20 people he should make an effort to get close with in the organization. In each of those 20 conversations he had, Tim came prepared with thoughtful questions and asked for recommendations on additional colleagues he should speak to for advice. After just a brief time at this new and unfamiliar place, Tim is not equipped with organization knowledge and a roladex of colleagues he may otherwise have never come across.
As Bridget pointed out recently, one of your most important assets in a new position is understanding the office culture (personalities, politics, policies, go-to people, etc.). While you may feel overwhelmed and see internal networking as additional work to pile on to your brand new duties, know that it will only increase the value of your presence and contributions. As these interactions may take place in the form of a scheduled coffee date, or wind up occurring unexpectedly at the water cooler, here are some trusted moves for successfully investigating your workplace culture:
1. Asking [appropriate] questions. Even if your colleague speaks bluntly or succumbs to gossip, keep your comments objective. Especially as a new employee, you never know who is listening or repeating what you say.
2. When someone provides you with information, LISTEN! Active listening is a skill to be practiced, and it shows great respect to your conversation partner. If you do not show interest, why would they feel the need to share their knowledge with you in the future?
3. Do your research on your colleagues area of expertise so you can compliment them on their work. This personal touch will go a long way.
4. Keep it light, or serious, or both! That sounds annoying, but you have to read the situation and figure out whether you colleague wants to keep the conversation a bit more fun and social, or if it’s the kind of person that does not want their time wasted at all and only wants to talk professional strategy.
5. Build on the initial conversation. Stay in touch by inviting your colleague to lunch, sending them an article that pertains to their department, or stop to ask how they are doing if you see them in the office. Remember comments from previous conversations and circle back to them later on.
6. Be ready for rejection. Not every person you speak with will be helpful, warm, or want to be friends with you. Stay professional and graceful, and over time prove that you are a great colleague.