Kung Hei Fat Choi! And welcome to the Year of the Horse. How are getting on with your January New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t want to knock the enthusiasm for making resolutions, I just wish that introspection was prized throughout the year, not just at the start.
I joined the BIS Digital team last year and moving jobs has made me think a great deal about not only how I do things but why I do them in the way I do. The move has given me the opportunity to challenge my working practices and experience how liberating (and threatening) change can be to help you shine a light on your habits - good and bad.
Being new isn’t great. Obviously everyone does their best to make you feel welcome (you hope). But at the heart of it you’re probably having to take in a vast amount of information and find your place in an established team. You’re trying to cope with feelings of frustration that you don’t have the relevant institutional knowledge and to adjust to an entirely new culture, all while building relationships with lots of people simultaneously. And, if you’re working in digital, your role probably involves running some kind of change programme - asking people to do new things or work differently. Great if they are open to change but difficult if they thought your hire would do all that techy / new-fangled / digital stuff for them…
During my first 6 months, when I was feeling this pressure most, I decided to focus on all the invisible baggage I had picked up over the years. Things that I just knew didn’t work, or things that I automatically assumed were the way things had to be. This was my opportunity to create new habits and challenge the way I worked. Who was going to tell me it was out of character? These people didn’t know me - I was free to experiment to my heart’s content.
So I chose to funnel all my work interactions through email, Twitter or mobile; I took my landline off the business directory and adjusted my email signature. I gave my personal mobile number to my team and senior colleagues and told them that in an emergency, this was the best way to contact me - not the work Blackberry. I stopped obsessing over the flashing red on the Blackberry and feeling I had to respond to every single email in record time, even on a weekend. I held myself back from creating briefing documents and overarching strategy presentations (unless I really needed to) and instead focussed on delivering mini-projects every week that tested my theories. I refused to fall into the newbie’s trap of attending every meeting that might affect me and instead focused on creating a network of contacts who were more likely to give me a heads up on relevant issues. I experimented with collaborative working tools like Trello and become much more open to sharing information across teams using Google docs - yes I’m a bit of a control-freak but I’m working on that too.
I’m no way finished yet. I’m still trying to remove those blocks in my thinking and working practices that are so hard to see when you’ve been in the same team or organisation for a while. All the change is scary and often uncomfortable but it really helps unlock all those rigid ways of thinking that we all fall victim to over time.
Whether it is a new job or a new year, ‘newness’ forces you to come at everything afresh and that feeling is worth trying to hold onto. Understanding underlying principles and your own propensity for entrenched thinking empowers you to solve new, difficult or unusual problems. Maintaining an uncomfortable level of introspection is the price we pay for that empowerment. Thankfully, this is not just for January - if we fall off the wagon, we can get back on any time.
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