Dream Jobs-The missing group you need to succeed

Middle office (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/ethanhein/4188173964/)

Middle office (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/ethanhein/4188173964/) by Ethan Hein (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/ethanhein/)

Some client work for my Omnigraffle portfolio. An example of stakeholder mapping.

Dream jobs have people who are stakeholders: people who have a vested interest in your work, but are not your customer. Because they are not your customer, your manager, or your coworker, stakeholders tend to be ignored.

That can be a killer when starting out in your new dream job. Here’s why.

Dream job stakeholders can help you understand your customer

The reason stakeholders are stakeholders is because your work indirectly impacts them in their work. Since they are impacted by your work but also work with your customer, stakeholders are in a unique position to help you understand what you need to do to best serve your customer through your work.

Stakeholders can protect you

You wouldn’t normally choose to have a manager that wasn’t right for you. But you can get a poor manager as the result of a corporate reorganization and there you go. All of a sudden, the management changes and they changes for you are not good. Having managers running around spouting off about the poor work of someone on their team (like you, poor work or not) is bad. Really bad.

Stakeholders, though, can shut this kind of trash talk down. They can defend your work in management meetings and can offer the view of the customer. Consequently, it is vital to enlist the support of stakeholders early in taking on the new position.

Stakeholders expand your business network

An important aspect of managing your career is building out your business network. This helps you help others in their business needs, but also gives you an important window into other opportunities. Starting out at a new company means your business network there consists of your manager and coworkers. That limits you to your immediate group and you completely miss anything going on outside of your immediate group.

Stakeholders can help get you out of this minimal business network so that you can expand your reach inside the company. In larger companies, this reach is important as it gives you the ability to consider positions in the company as they come up with stakeholder support.

Stakeholders are the lost constituency when starting your dream job

When starting your dream job, there is so much focus on doing your work, learning about your manager and coworkers and pleasing customers that stakeholders get lost. Yet stakeholders provide you a base outside of your immediate department and can provide critical insights into the company, your team and your customers.

Go look for stakeholders to help you solidify your dream job.

Overwhelmed and out of control in your dream job

Yippie! (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/mvjantzen/3469233785/)

Yippie! (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/mvjantzen/3469233785/) by M.V. Jantzen (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/mvjantzen/)

Want a little bit of out of control in your life? How about some information overload?

You get that in spades when you first start out in your dream job. It makes sense, of course. You are in a new job, often a new company, a new manager, new coworkers and different route to work and a different cubicle to make your own.

Yeah, information overload. The keys to containing information overload and feeling overwhelmed are these: control and perspective. These are the two principles of David Allen (http://davidco NULL.com)‘s Getting Things Done (http://www NULL.davidco NULL.com/what_is_gtd NULL.php)methodology. And while I don’t endorse any methodology, I use his.

In your new job, then, how do you get control and perspective?

Control means knowing your full inventory of work and tasks

The deal in a new job is this: you don’t know what is important and what isn’t. You don’t necessarily know what has a high priority and what doesn’t. So you need to write down every task you think you need to do based on your work and interviews with your new coworkers. Only when all of this is out of your head and on to your task management system will you not have that overwhelming feeling that you are missing something important.

The other advantage of this full inventory is that you will start to know what you know and what you still don’t know. This is like electricity; you only worry about it nowadays when it is off and needs to get back on. You don’t normally focus all your daily activities around whether or not the electricity is on. You know it will be on, so you move on to something else.

The same here. Once you know X is always priority one (http://www NULL.gaebler NULL.com/How-to-Prioritize-Tasks NULL.htm), you check if X happens and if it hasn’t, you move on. Getting a bigger and bigger list of what you know shows your advancement and helps you focus on learning more about what you don’t know.

Getting perspective

The keys to perspective on a new job are reviewing your notes to consolidate knowledge and tasks. Plus doing a complete review of everything away from the work. In the book, I call this the weekly review of your objectives for the week.

Reviewing your notes (http://www NULL.cse NULL.buffalo NULL.edu/~rapaport/howtostudy NULL.html#takenotesinclass) helps you find conclusions from them. Your tasks, your organization, your goals. When you go through your notes, you find if you fully (for now) understand what was in your notes or whether or not you need to find out more about what you wrote. This helps you get to know what you know faster and focus on understanding what you don’t know.

Then, doing the weekly review against objectives for the week helps you see where you made progress and where you need to ask more questions. If you go through your goals with your manager, can you describe the goal and know how it will be measured? If so, great. If not, you have now identified through the review that you need to find out more.

Three times is a charm

This process helps you see your work three times: when you take your notes, when you review your notes, and when you do the weekly review. This repetition is key to learning (http://honolulu NULL.hawaii NULL.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/adults-2 NULL.htm) about your dream job faster than others. It is about getting to success quicker and also learning if your dream job is really right for you.

Your team: extra dream job challenge for managers

remote_029 (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/iliveisl/4448978221/)

remote_029 (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/iliveisl/4448978221/) by iliveisl (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/iliveisl/)

Managers starting in their new dream job face an extra challenge for their work: they inherit a team (http://www NULL.mindtools NULL.com/pages/article/newTMM_84 NULL.htm) who have already been working together for a period of time. These people accomplish stuff. They are getting things done.

You just don’t know how well they are doing all that.

Managers must determine team effectiveness

Unless you’ve been specifically told the group you are inheriting in your dream job is doing poorly and have some facts that would back that claim up, determining team effectiveness (http://workplaceculture NULL.suite101 NULL.com/article NULL.cfm/measures_of_team_effectiveness), not just individual effectiveness, is critical in the first thirty days of starting the job. What is important is quickly determining a baseline of performance so that you can validate that baseline over time.

Who does the work? How does the group make decisions? What kinds of conflict are there? How does the team interact with each other (http://ami-consultancy NULL.blogspot NULL.com/2010/03/essential-actions-for-effective-virtual NULL.html)?

All of these characteristics will change as you inject your leadership into the team and start to delegate tasks and projects. Knowing how the group is working together will help you figure out what effect your presence has meant to team performance. But without the baseline, you won’t really know.

For managers, the first rule is this: do no harm

In addition to determining how effectively your reports are operating, you need to ensure that what you do does not harm the performance in the workplace. Think of it this way: the team produced work before you got there and will produce work after you leave. That work, however good, is valuable to some customer. So it doesn’t make sense to simply come in and blow all that up by changing everything.

Some will contend that changing the configuration of the team makes a great deal of sense. It could even be true. But it could just as easily be true that what they are advocating will hurt the team’s performance — and help the person advocating the change. Listening here makes great sense and so does making your own judgments about the team’s performance. You have your metrics. You have your standards of performance. You know where your team needs to be performing.

Listen. Watch. Do no harm. Then, once you understand where your team’s performance is, you can start to make changes.

How do you evaluate the effectiveness of your team?