“Big ears, small mouth”. This is one of the best pieces of advice for any new person going to their first day on the job. I entered Caterpillar with almost no knowledge of the industry. In addition, I had no professional work experience besides the military. From day one, I felt the pressure that every new guy feels. People react to that pressure differently. Some stay completely silent. Some have something to prove and want to be heard. I don’t believe either strategy works. There is a balance that every new person should follow.
Learn how to listen. During your first 100 days, your #1 job is to be a sponge. You are gaining knowledge that will help you become a value-adding member of your team. Your goal is to go from being a trainee to a self-sufficient employee as quickly as possible. Don’t feel like you must interject your opinion in every conversation. Sometimes it is okay to listen, take notes, and be thankful for the learning opportunity. If you don’t understand something, ask away. This is your time to learn.
Get to know the small and big picture: You also need to be an active learner when nobody is around. Study their processes and training materials like it is a final exam. In addition to learning faster, your team will notice the added effort and dedication. Master the processes and daily responsibilities. Get to know the schedule. Become familiar with the systems and databases used. Eventually, you will want to learn more about the bigger picture (the “why” behind what you do). There should be some online content that can help explain bigger picture, but the best knowledge will come from the team around you.
Get to know the team. You will want to know the role of everyone around you. Who are the people you will be interacting with daily? Who are the knowledge experts? Who are the leaders? Who are the ones to stay away from? Every team has a certain culture that you will need to know. It is my opinion that during your first 100 days, you aren’t in the position to disturb this dynamic, yet. I am not saying to do the wrong thing just because the group is doing it (always stay true to your morals). You should think carefully before stirring up anything at this point.
During this delicate state as a new employee, your team is still sizing you up. They aren’t completely sold that you’re a good fit and are looking for red flags. Don’t give them a reason to make your life difficult later. Instead of creating a red flag by speaking too much and disagreeing with them, ask them to teach you. People like to feel that their knowledge is valuable and are usually happy to teach you. Take advantage of this generosity. Due to your inexperience, being curious is a great thing to have at this stage.
Know when to speak up. During my first 100 days as an Operations Supervisor, I didn’t believe that my thoughts mattered to the rest of the team. I would often stay completely silent and listen during the staff meetings with other supervisors. I would only speak when specifically asked a question. I rarely spoke up and added to the group discussion. Luckily for me, I had a Facility Manager that let me know during a performance review. It was my first review that actually had an area for improvement (many managers shy away from giving this honest and valuable feedback). He simply wanted to hear my opinion more.
Since that review, I have continued to ensure that my opinion is heard during meetings. I don’t have to voice it every two seconds. Rather, I make sure to listen first and add my opinion when it could add value to the conversation. I no longer get hung up on worrying if others will find it valuable. Once you have a good handle on the job, learn to trust yourself. If you think it is valuable, it probably is. Others will benefit from hearing it. If you don’t say it, others are either thinking of it or will take the credit when they bring it up. I have left plenty of meetings angry at myself for not speaking up when I had the opportunity.
At the end of your first 100 days, the above tips should put you in a good position among the team. You will have a fair amount of knowledge for specific processes and the big picture. You will have a good relationship with the team and understand how they work. This is your time to start suggesting improvements and getting more of your opinion out there. Good luck!