You Are the Best, So Do Whatever You Like

Congratulations! You just won a new assignment that involves a lot of responsibility in a high profile situation. You’ll probably be tempted to immediately apply the full spectrum of your skills and experiences, so that you can figure out the right path forward.

Big mistake.

Your first job isn’t to be right. You first job is to earn trust. You accomplish this by fitting in and the best way to do that is to do exactly what the boss want you to do.

Barriers go up really quickly when people come into a new role or organisation and start to do what they “know” should be done. Without realizing it, you may insult or aggravate half the people who stand between you and success.

I know quite a few people who have trouble with the concept of doing something just because they were told to do it. These people think they are smart, but in reality they are sad (and often poor) creatures.

Being right isn’t nearly enough.

Time for a reality check

There’s no point being right if you can’t get anyone to agree with you. In business, most of us never get explicit authority. That is, you’re not going to be told, “You have the best judgment of all, so do whatever you like.”

Even CEOs have to answer to their Board and to their customers. Besides, you’re probably not a CEO, so you have to get personal authority and power. This means that your power depends on the trust you earn through your actions.

Which is why I’d like to share my Six Week Rule.

In most circumstances, such as when managing a complex new project, it takes about six weeks to earn the trust of the people that matter. You can best accomplish this by putting your head down and doing whatever they think is most important. If they want all the red boxes moved from Sydney to London, then move all the red boxes. If they want every Associate’s title changed to Happy Junior Colleague, then change all the titles (even if the Associates think this is the dumbest idea ever).

Build trust first, then use your judgment

Why does this take six weeks? I have no idea. But over many years of experience, I’ve noticed that a street smart professional can win quite a bit of trust in about a month and a half. Over a shorter period of time, people might be optimistic but still not fully convinced. If you take much longer than this to earn trust, you’ll probably come in one day to find all your possessions loaded into boxes by the exit door.

One last point… even when things make no sense at all to an intelligent new observer, there usually is some logic to why an organization functions the way it does. When you’re new, you can’t fully understand why Harry disappears for three hours each afternoon and no one seems to mind, or why Sarah hits the PANIC button every two hours.

Be patient, put your head down, and earn some trust. After six weeks, you’ll be a trusted colleague, and you’ll understand why Harry and Sarah act the way they do.