Stop Wasting Time: 10 Ways to Learn What Matters

One young leader is laid off. The other just started a new job. But, both shared the same concern. “How will I fit-in?”

Our need to fit-in reflects our need to connect, belong, and matter.

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Fitting-in and standing-out need each other. Fitting-in without standing-out makes you mediocre. But, standing-out without fitting-in makes you aloof.

Do what matters:

You must know what matters before you can do what matters.

10 ways to learn what matters:

  1. Learn from support staff.
  2. Gain insights from direct reports.
  3. Query colleagues.
  4. Observe those directly over you.
  5. Watch how people relate to top leadership. (If you’re in the middle.)
  6. Discern untitled power-people. Every organization has an official chain of command and an actual. Watch who people listen to and talk about.
  7. Interview suppliers.
  8. Connect with external customers.
  9. Attend to board members.
  10. Listen to your heart.

Mistakes from the middle:

If you’re in the middle of an organization, don’t  focus directly on pleasing those over you. Build productive relationships with those beside and below you.

You please top leadership by connecting with those beside and below you.

People over you want you to fit in. When you spend too much time with the boss, you neglect the people who do the work.

Mistakes from the top:

If you’re at the top of an organization, don’t neglect relationships with key board members.

4 tips for finding what matters:

  1. Don’t wait for those over you to show the way. Seek guidance from people doing the work. Ask support teams about reports, policies, and procedures, for example.
  2. Clarify relationship-expectations though behaviors, not aspirations. If new managers don’t have time for chit-chat now, they won’t have time later.
  3. Reflect on how you want to be known and act accordingly.
  4. Connect. You can’t make a difference from a distance.

How can new or future employees learn what matters in organizations?

What mistakes hurt newly hired managers and leaders?