This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
Regardless of whether you're new in the locker room or in the office, starting a new job is a big transition. The faster you can adjust, the faster you can make an impact.
This off-season, the Toronto Raptors signed DeMarre Carroll, a hard-nosed player known for his defensive prowess, and no stranger to being the new guy. As the Raptors begin training camp this week, Carroll will be joining his sixth NBA team in seven seasons, adjusting to a new organization and teammates.
I spoke to Carroll about how he approaches joining a new team. During our conversation, he offered several tips that transcend basketball. His advice is helpful to anyone starting a new job, no matter their line of work.
Understand why you were brought in
You were hired for a reason. The better you understand what your new employer expects of you, the better you can live up to those expectations.
"Coming to the Raptors, I know who I am and why they brought me here. That's to be a defensive-minded, blue-collar type player. That's not to say I can't play offence, but in order to be successful you need to really understand who you are as a player. It's good to step outside your comfort zone at times but there's a time and a place for that," says Carroll.
Having a thorough understanding of your job description and the challenges that your new employer is expecting you to manage will help you make an immediate impact. Be on the lookout for opportunities to grow and hone new skills, but don't take your eye off of the roles and responsibilities that you were hired to handle.
Come in ready to learn
You may have years of experience, but there's no way around it: when you start a new job, you're new. In order to understand how you can apply your expertise and make an impact, you need to understand the dynamics, processes and structure of your new workplace.
"Coming to a new organization, you need to have an open mind and make an effort to understand your new environment. For me, it starts with my teammates and understanding who they are and what they bring to the table," says Carroll. "First and foremost, I start with my teammates and work my way out to coaches, other staff and management."
As Carroll alludes to, understanding the big picture of your new organization, not just your immediate department, will help you in your career. Carroll starts by getting to know his teammates. In any line of work, getting to know your peers is a good place to start when it comes to learning about your new organization. Your peers often face the same day-to-day challenges as you and can be great allies in helping you navigate a new organization as you settle in.
Focus on the team
The relationships you develop with your colleagues impact how well you can work together to achieve organizational goals. You may find it easy to connect on a personal level with some colleagues, but even in the absence of that type of connection, you can build a positive and productive working relationship by focusing on the common goals you share.
"Family is big in this organization," says Carroll about the Raptors. "A bunch of guys on the team have newborns, and with me having a 19-month-old daughter, having that in common, we're kind of tied closer together."
But, he adds that this personal bond isn't a requirement when it comes to working well together on the court: "Not all the guys have babies, a family and a wife, but it doesn't matter. Just having success on your mind will bring a bond. We're in this together, chasing the same ultimate goal, which is an NBA championship."
If you're finding it difficult to connect with a new colleague, remember the common organizational goals you share. Focus on achieving results and outcomes that will benefit you both. This is an effective way to build mutual respect and a positive working relationship.
After my chat with Carroll, it was clear to me why he is such a respected player in this league. He approaches joining a new team as a true professional. The tools he has used to navigate the league and adapt to new franchises offer valuable lessons for anyone starting a new job.
Dan MacKenzie is NBA Canada's vice president and managing director.