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Organizations often fail at orienting new employees, doing the minimum and perhaps even fumbling that. So why not plan your own orientation? It’s your own job and career, after all.

Montreal consultants Linda Arsenault and Philip Jones stress the integration process starts the moment you accept your new job. “Keep in mind that every word spoken, every silence maintained, every action taken and every inaction will undergo scrutiny in the initial days. Therefore it’s advisable to have a well-prepared approach to control the message and shape perceptions,” they write in Are you About to Change Jobs?: Create your 90-day Onboarding Plan.

Keep in mind that we are hired for our competencies, but may leave or be dismissed based on our relationships, soft skills or poor adaptation to the work environment. How will you strike the appropriate balance between leadership and humility?

An important element of your onboarding plan must be discerning the company’s distinctive DNA, which you will need to adapt to. This involves the people and culture. What are the mission and values, pace of work, approach to work-life balance, dress code, recognition methods, decision-making processes, level of commitment of employees, communication modes, approach to hierarchy, style of debate and feedback customs?

You also need to understand your job – its history, how coveted it is, who held it last and where they are, and how often it turns over. Often neglected, but vitally important, are expectations: What do people want from you in this position, including the concrete results in the next quarter so you can develop specific steps to achieve those goals.

Before the job officially begins, Ms. Arsenault and Mr. Jones recommend gathering information about the company; having lunch with your new manager; sending a note to direct reports about how you are looking forward to working with them; reconnecting with people in the company you know, including those who interviewed you; and preparing the message you will carry into the job, so you can control your image and brand.

During the first 30 days officially on the job, the two consultants say your primary objective will be to develop your internal network further so you can better understand the organizational DNA. As you meet with people, keep in mind that the power of your questions and the quality of your listening will be much more appreciated than the opinions you offer. “Adopt a posture of patience, humility, questioning, listening, observation and analysis,” they advise. By the end of the first 30 days, you should have met between 20 to 40 people, investing between 60 to 90 minutes per day on your onboarding meetings, creating a strong network of contacts.

As well, of course, you will be meeting regularly with your manager, key stakeholders to your work (get your manager to suggest names of those folk), and direct reports, identifying expectations and coming to understand the role better, notably priorities and urgencies. Find out how you can mutually support each other.

In the next 30 days, they urge you to focus on validating the understanding you have developed of the DNA, summarizing it in one or two pages. As well, obtain feedback from your manager on how you are faring, identify quick wins for the coming days that fit the overall company strategy and goals, share what you have found with your team to ensure you are on the right track, and develop your external network. Take time to also prepare a SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – in your new environment.

During the final 30 days of your 90-day onboarding plan you will gradually assume greater control over decision-making, initiate actions and implement strategies. You want to develop short, medium and longer-range plans and align expectations with others. “Moreover, this month is a conducive period for self-evaluation as well as celebrating your achievements,” they write.

Quick hits

  • Author Mark Manson says when you keep a scorecard in relationships, everyone loses. He suggests this week you stop viewing one relationship in your life as a power struggle.
  • At first, marketing consultant Ann Handley wasn’t sure how to rate Taylor Swift’s recent album, The Tortured Poet’s Department. After about a week, she came to like it – a lot. Her lesson: It takes time to connect, be it to new music, a new book, new people, an audience or a customer.
  • Calgary consultant Adrienne Bellehumeur recommends in her newsletter leaving your phone in your office when on coffee breaks. Taking it with you and turning it off is not as effective, she insists; you must fully remove temptation to check e-mail and scroll websites.

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston-based writer specializing in management issues. He, along with Sheelagh Whittaker, former CEO of both EDS Canada and Cancom, are the authors of When Harvey Didn’t Meet Sheelagh: Emails on Leadership.

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