I am currently in my rookie assignment. Starting in September of this year, I took a job change in new company, where I became head of HR for a biotech firm. The role is multi-site has an expanded staff (7) over my previous job (3). I had been very comfortable in my previous role, but I had a timetable for career progression of 3 years and a recruiter contacted me about this opportunity midway through year 3.
Because I was in Rookie mode, I didn’t have the “blinders on” that others did. This allowed me to ‘see’ some gaps in my new company’s benefits process, for example, where the original rationale was no longer appropriate. Also, I was not personally invested in the original rationale, so I could be totally objective in the evaluation.
My main rookie mistake was trying to categorize people too fast and initially setting expectations too low. In rookie mode, we don’t have the entire historical context, but rather than setting expectations low of people because of that, we should set them to max. Once I made this adjustment, people around me began exceeding my expectations, which in turn propelled my own performance.
As I progress through this rookie journey, “theme weeks” really help me. Week 1 was “Weightlessness”; I felt as though I was floating above fray and could see without the blinders on in the new org. Week 2 was “Get out of Jail Free”; I could look at and comment on things; and even if I had it wrong, people would give me a pass. Week 3 was “Extreme Gravitational Pull”; people in the org were now pulling me into their personal orbits and trying to influence me and my effect on them. Week 4 was “Turning off Some Spigots”; by this time everyone now knows me and what I do; but to maintain some benefits of having a rookie perspective, I felt like I needed to not get totally bogged down in all the things that were now flowing my way and not just prioritize, but actually turn some of them off.
In my experience “Rookie-ness” is a perishable state... in my case it lasted about 4 weeks before I found myself increasingly looking at problems and issues through the “company lens” and less and less like a rookie. I equate the “extreme gravitational pull” with the organization wanting me to assimilate with the team (for better or worse). Maintaining “rookieness” requires a little bit of arms-length approach to assimilation, and it’s a delicate balance in keeping that distance a bit longer.
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