Managing Partner at Blue Book Ventures. Inspirational Business Leader, Workplace Pundit, Best-Selling Author & Venture Capitalist
A Little About Me
Richard A. Moran is a San Francisco based business leader, workplace pundit, bestselling author, and venture capitalist. He is best known for his series of humorous business books beginning with bestselling, Never Confuse a Memo with Reality and is credited with starting the genre of "Business Bullet Books."
Wouldn’t it be nice if someone left you real operating instructions when you start a new job? In that spirit, here is a note that can be left on the chair of 99% of the people starting a new job or assignment.
Hello new person and welcome to my former chair and workspace. Leaders often leave notes for their successor so why not us? We are leaders of this domain! I always liked working in this spot and doing the best I could. I hope you do too. Since you are new and we probably won’t meet, I thought I would leave you some advice and suggestions to be successful from this very spot. In no particular order…
Noise cancelling headphones are your best friend. It doesn’t get that loud here but the headphones will drown out all the annoying habits of your neighbors like the guy who trims his fingernails or the woman who smacks her lips on the red licorice.
Treat your time in this spot like someone is paying for you to be here. Someone is. Try to make the place a little better every day. As the new person, you will notice things that everyone else is now used to. Play the “new person” card.
Responsiveness is a skill that is highly valued here (and in most places). Respond to any email or text even if all you say is “Got it, stay tuned.” Be thoughtful in subsequent responses.
Don’t be late for meetings. Don’t call meetings unless you have something to talk about. Have an agenda for your meetings. Not every meeting needs a Power Point presentation or spreadsheets. Sometimes you can just talk.
People only sort of care what you used to do or where you went to school. Everyone is more interested in what you are going to do now and in the future. Don’t be the person who makes it routine to talk about, “When I was at ________.” No one is that interested.
Use lunch to get to know your coworkers and be aggressive about it. If no one asks you to lunch, ask others. Eating reheated leftover fish burritos in your workspace will not help with your integration.
Implementation is a skill that gets noticed here. Try to be known as the “new person” who gets things done.
The chair you are inheriting is impossible to adjust. If it doesn’t fit I suggest you call someone from engineering or swap chairs with someone to get the chair more your size.
Make friends. Nice people are all around you although it may not seem like it on your first day when you can’t find the lavatory and your temporary ID doesn’t work. The relationships you build at work can last a lifetime and build the network that will always support you.
Volunteer for projects. You will gain more experience and get you out of this chair that refuses to be adjusted.
OK, that’s enough advice for your first day. You might want to keep this list handy. Don’t be compared to what I did in the job, do your own thing. Good luck, I know you will do great things.
Some jobs are so enjoyable that you might consider showing up even if you weren’t on the payroll. It’s a rare occurrence but such jobs should be enjoyed because one like it may never happen again.
Example One: An early job for me in my career mosaic was as a lifeguard on the ocean. I was perched on the beach all day in an elevated stand enjoying the sun and water and all things beach related. There were rescues and emergencies but those situations only enhanced the job because in those cases I was helping others. I was surrounded by lifeguard partners, friends and special people that made the experience even more exceptional. And I was paid.
Any one who works as a taster in a candy factory, in animal rescue facilities or in the ski patrol might identify with the “getting paid for this?” question.
Example Two, and the other dimension to the “getting paid for this…” question is from the dark side. Amanda was a longtime employee of a government agency. Her job was to verify signatures and file documents for future reference. After twenty-five years on the job no one had ever asked for her to pull or verify a document. Not one.
Amanda’s job is an example of a situation where you are getting paid although you know you are really not doing anything. You are not adding value, you are bored, you are not being productive, or helping the organization in any way you can discern. In short, you can’t believe no one knows that you are hanging out being sort of busy, drawing a paycheck and being a drag on the success of the organization. And you are getting paid for it.
People who work in civil service, in the bowels of large corporations or unsuccessful organizations might identify with this conundrum.
If you have an Example One job you are lucky. If you have an Example Two job you should either look for another job or hope you are never discovered. Most jobs fall between the two examples given but the point is, someone is paying you to do something. The more closely aligned to the core of the business, the more likely it is that you will feel like your efforts make a difference and that you will be well compensated. Ask yourself, who is paying you and for what activity.
What you do should be related to what the organization says they do. If you work for FEDEX, one would hope you are doing something that help with deliveries. If you work for Chipotle you should be doing something that relates to food. If you work in a professional service business you should be doing something that serves clients in a way that makes them want to pay for it.
It’s not a mystery. A truly special organization will try to create roles that will make people say, “I can’t believe I am getting paid for this”. On the way to “special” the least one should expect is a line of sight to feeling great about making a contribution because you are being paid to do just that.
We’ve all been there, you are exhausted from working too hard or suffering from jet lag or you binge watched “Game of Thrones” until 3:00 a.m., or you forgot to set the alarm and you know what happens next. Instead of waking up at 7:00 a.m., you open your eyes and it is 8:30 a.m. on a day when it is important to be on time. It’s a sick feeling, like you might throw up. You jump out of bed, start cursing at yourself, now what?
You ask yourself, do I have a good excuse? Traffic? Ran out of gas? Uber driver crashed? My crock-pot caught on fire? The White Walkers stole your car? The Rack Monster held you prisoner? Anything that will say, “It wasn’t my fault, really, really, pinky swear!!”
The excuse sort of doesn’t matter. You missed something and the first thing you need is a recovery plan and to outline some thoughts in your head. Some things to think about…
Are you just late or did you miss the whole thing?
Can I text someone to see what is going on and if they even miss me?
Is it my meeting? Can I just reschedule?
Is my boss there? Is anyone else late?
Is it a meeting about cutting jobs? Did they talk about me?
Are all the presentations on my laptop? Is anyone looking for them?
Do I have “bed head” and will it go away in time?
If you are late because you didn’t get up in time, you have to deal with it. Unless you have a really good excuse that involves blood or flames, the excuse probably doesn’t matter. You are just plain late so move on and try to avoid it in the future. If you are chronically late, the reason could be something other than a faulty alarm. It could be your job itself.
When you dread going to work, you will oversleep. When you love your job, you will jump out of bed (usually) in order to get there and contribute. There is always traffic and always reasons to be late if you can’t stand showing up. Chances are, if you don’t like your job and always oversleep, you will be ill-prepared too. If you like your job, you will be ready for what the day brings.
Showing up on time is important but if dread is a part of your work, it could be time for something new. Showing up on time and being ready and able to do great things in a role you love is better.
And if you still oversleep all the time, it could be time to get a dog.