We all want new employees to be successful. We want them to fit in and be productive. How do you tell them to do that? If you were sitting down to mentor someone what would be the one big piece of advice you would tell them?
Paying attention is an easy piece of advice to give someone. But it goes beyond that if someone wants to know how to advance. Some of the best advice I have come across comes from an interview done in Fast Company with J. C. Carleson. She is an ex-CIA agent who has written a book called Work Like a Spy. In her book she tells how she applied what she learned in the CIA to become successful in the business world.
In the Fast Company interview, Danielle Sacks asked her the following question: So you’re a pro at the art of persuasion. What’s the best way to persuade your boss you deserve a promotion? Carleson’s answer contains what I consider a great piece of advice to give to new employees. It is:
You need from the moment you step foot in a place of employment to pay attention to people one level above you and several levels above you. You need to analyze what those people have in common, what types of people are succeeding, what types of behaviors are rewarded, what types of people get the blame, and be a chameleon from day one. You need to have a firm understanding of your rivals; if your boss only has so many dollars for salary increases, Joe is your main competition.
A simple but effective lesson
Pay attention to those above you, not just for their instructions, but pay attention to how they accomplish things. Pay attention to how they establish relationships. Pay attention to how they persuade people to get things done. This is the corporate culture. Unless you have been picked to be a “disruptive employee”, you need to work within the corporate culture. Learn the lessons you are being taught by other people’s behavior.
Carelson also says to pay attention to your co-workers. They are your competition. But that is a lesson for another time.