Dream Job-What to find out at your first meeting with your manager

265/365: Ball Pit Conference Room (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/if_winter_ends/4623510796/)

265/365: Ball Pit Conference Room (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/if_winter_ends/4623510796/) by if winter ends (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/if_winter_ends/)

Dream jobs start off with meeting your manager. After the obligatory introductions, the first meeting with your new boss on your dream job is a little scary. You don’t know each other that well leading to some apprehension (http://www NULL.foxandthefirefly NULL.com/component/content/article/3-health-articles/15). You don’t feel like sounding dumb with the questions you ask and your new manager can feel overwhelmed by all the information to present.

How do your start your dream job off right?

Begin with your department

You were hired to do a specific job in the manager’s area, so the first area of focus needs to be understanding what your group does, what other departments it interacts with and how it is measured.

Start with the functions in the department; what is the work the entire group does, not just what you are supposed to do. Listen for all the interactions you will have with others on your team to get your work done. Listen for how the department is measured as it is your first clue as to how well the business can measure progress. Like your progress, for example.

Don’t worry too much about the people in your group just yet, although they will come up (“John takes care of all the reporting for us….”). Instead, focus on the functions performed in the department and how they fit together. Work on what the work flows are within your group. Not everyone will interact with everyone else, but you should clearly see why the organization was put together as it was.

The rest of the company organization

From your group, move on to how your department interacts with all the other areas on the organization chart. If you are in a Fortune 500 company, you could very well only interact within a single company division. Or, in a smaller company, you could interact with everyone in the company (http://abcbusinesssuccessblog NULL.businessconsultingabc NULL.com/2010/05/24/common-family-business-issues-and-conflicts/).

The key is to functionally understand what organizations provide work input to your group, what your team does with the input, and then where your work output is sent (http://corporatedeathspiral NULL.blogspot NULL.com/2010/05/satisfying-internal-customers-its-still NULL.html) once completed.

You need to get the functional work flow right

A key to successfully building your skills in your dream job is to understand how the work flows. This work flow gives you a greater context about the work you do and how your work impacts others. Without understanding these relationships, you’ll always be ignoring some important input to your work, ticking your coworkers off for not getting what they need from you completed and have customers wonder why you were picked for this dream job in the first place.

Right off the bat, have your manager work with you on understanding the organizations you work with. And you know what? Not only will it help your understanding of your new work flow, it will also give you the first look at what your manager knows about your work and how the department provides value to the company.

Wouldn’t you want to know how your department adds value to the company? Yeah, me too.

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.

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?