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Leadership Management

Guide Your Employees: 10 Important Questions to Ask in a New Position

Taking on a new role is stressful for any employee. Create a smooth transition with these discussion points.

For any boss, manager and leader bringing in a new team member – are you ready for the onboarding process? There’s a lot of ground to cover! Beyond the logistical setup, think about how to help employees fit in with your organization. It’s an exciting time, but the first three to six months are intense as they get their bearings and try to figure out the new environment. As you help them develop an entry plan, encourage them to think about these 10 important topics. More than simple questions, they are issues that help employees understand the company and their new position. It creates a foundation for how they will lead, add value, develop strategies and accomplish goals.

10 questions to help you start a new position:

1) How does this organization tangibly demonstrate its value for people?

Hopefully, you should have experienced this from your first interaction with recruiters and interviewers. Learn about the policies and processes in place to meet team members’ needs and how they’re actually utilized. Look at the steps they take to develop people’s skill sets. Ask about the orientation process to help you connect with key individuals throughout the organization. Initiate casual conversations with colleagues to learn what they enjoy most about working there, along with some of their frustrations.

2) How are decisions made?

This reflects the organizational structure, the meeting cadence, the priorities, the processes and the sources of influence. And while there’s a formal system, the informal practice is the one to pay attention to. You may have to observe it first to really understand the flow.

3) How does the company make money?

This is more than the obvious response of “by selling products and services.” This is digging into the cost and profit drivers, systematic pinch points and the metrics used. Identify cost-cutting measures used in the past, along with decisions that inflated expenses. How have financial strategies evolved over the past decade, and what’s the future direction?

4) What does the customer want?

Companies carefully monitor and try to influence their customers’ demands and preferences. Gain an intimate knowledge of these customers, both internal and external. Learn how responsive and agile the organization is to meet customer needs.

5) What behaviors are rewarded?

In your formal orientation, you’ll likely hear about the values and expected behaviors in the company. But pay attention to what people do as well as what they say. Observe how people conduct themselves and the associated results. If they get what they want based on how they behave, they’ll keep behaving that way and others will too.

6) How do people communicate?

Every organization has its own lingo, acronyms, cadence, tone and style. Find out which conversations normally take place via email, phone or face-to-face. Are they diplomatic or direct in tone? Is information provided to broad audiences or on a need-to-know basis? How do you “read between the lines” to understand the real meaning behind that email you just received? Quickly learning and following these nuances will make you feel like you’re a member of the team.

7) How do people collaborate?

In many companies, the rigid organizational structures and silos of the past are now flexible teams, adaptable processes or systems and broad information sharing. Try to identify every area of the organization that interacts and has a mutual impact on your role. Then understand their motivations and how to partner with these various teams to get results.

8) What are the risks to business growth and how are they being mitigated?

To start, look at the impact of semiconductor chip shortages, the pandemic, climate change and supply chain issues. Are these fully external and uncontrollable forces, or can they be alleviated in the future based on different business decisions? Identify the impact of labor shortages and demands, product quality, customer needs and product or service capacity. These volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) forces will require companies to operate very differently in the future.

9) Who are the power brokers?

This isn’t based simply on titles or positions on the organizational chart. These are people who influence outcomes, drive decisions and share information in confidence. They typically know many stakeholders, both internally and externally, have broad networks and know how to get things done. They want to know you, to determine how you can help them retain their status. You want to know them, to determine what value they can add to you. And you need to know their source of power, whether from expertise, association, secret information, historical knowledge or leadership style.

10) What are the persistent problems that are difficult to solve?

One of the reasons you were hired is for your ability to solve problems. And even if you’re an expert in your subject matter, you still must learn how those problems manifest in this new environment and the drivers that create them. Only as you better understand the environment in which they operate can you begin to think about how you will address them.

This list may sound exhausting, but they are all critical points of reference to help you find success in your new role. Every person you meet is a source of insight to help you build your base of knowledge. So, start developing relationships from your very first interaction, commit to ongoing research and make sure your values align with that of the organization.

Editor’s note: this article was modified to include a manager’s perspective. You can find the original version here.

Looking to find new talent for your company? Read more about when you should hire your first employee.

About the author

Priscilla Archangel

Priscilla Archangel, Ph.D. is a seasoned leadership consultant, executive coach, author, speaker, and teacher. She has a passion for developing leaders, and motivating individuals and organizations to align their values, behaviors and goals with their purpose. Visit priscillaarchangel.com.

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