My family and I have safely made it to Texas! It was an adventure getting here to say the least. The 24 foot truck I drove down broke down completely in the Virginia mountains which resulted in an all-nighter on the shoulder of the highway and then a moving crew loading everything into a new truck the next day. After getting through that adventure though I still made it down to Dallas the day I intended with the help of some energy drinks! The weather transition couldn’t have been more perfect. I left the north a day after we got 6 inches of snow, and arrived in Dallas to a balmy 80 degree sunny day. Ever since we’ve been getting settled in, catching up with family, and having a generally awesome time.
I’m now in my third week of training in my new role as Director of Customer Experience and I’ve spent most of it behind closed doors in the conference room reviewing products, policies, systems, and even taking customer calls. This situation is so dramatically different than my last role. The JM Bullion team is already awesome and effective and accomplishing great things on a daily basis. This is in stark contrast to my last role, while the people were awesome, the systems were a mess and there was a lot of work to be done. I remember once actually being introduced as “our savior” to some of the staff when I started my last job.
So in light of these differences it’s much less obvious to me as to what sort of impact I should try and make in this new role. I figured writing a post about it would also help me to think through a plan of attack once I can emerge from the conference room training sessions. So below are some of my thoughts about how to approach becoming the new boss or leader or manager or whatever your preferred terminology is, particularly when you’re not hired to do a full shakedown and overhaul.
Find quick wins. A fresh set of eyes on a company can do wonders for process improvement. I’ve already identified some redundant and inefficient procedures that I intend to improve as soon as I’m on the floor. Asking why everything is done when it doesn’t make sense is a great way to identify things that have always been done a certain way simply because they’ve always been done a certain away. Another obvious benefit of doing this is to gain favor with your new team. It’s a way to prove that you’re really looking to make their lives better and you’re not some terrible boss that’s just going to bark out orders and not care about the team you’re serving.
Simplify. All systems get more complex over time, so occasionally you have to take a fresh look at them and trim the fat. Coming in fresh is the perfect time to not only eliminate unnecessary software, procedures, and policies, but also a great time to streamline those that are valuable. In this particular case I’m working to set up a seamlessly integrated suite that includes the e-commerce platform, help desk software, phone system, and chat system. This will result in every team member having all prior communication through any medium a click away no matter where they are in the systems. I’m sure as this gets closer to completion I’ll have more posts about this project and the software I’m using for it.
Increase Communication. There are currently no weekly meetings established and I intend to change that. Since call centers are involved I’ll be doing two meetings each week so that someone is always covering the phones. I’m well aware of all the arguments about how meetings can waste time, but I intend to keep these to around 15 minutes like I did in my last job. The purpose will be to articulate the goals we are trying to achieve on a weekly basis as well and let everyone know how we are doing on those goals, address any concerns, feedback, or issues, and try to cultivate a team culture that allows everyone to speak up and suggest anything. This is quickly growing eCommerce startup so it’s good to keep everyone in the loop. In my last role I had the same policy and most of the really awesome ideas came from team members during meetings like this. Thinking as the leader that you will have all the answers is arrogant and wrong at best.
Request excessive feedback. Initially it’s difficult to get people to disagree or even be honest with their superior. I’ve found that I’ve had to actively and repeatedly request it in past experiences and to affirm it once it comes. The worst thing you could do in a situation like this is belittle or ignore feedback from someone who has far more knowledge of the trenches of the business than you. This is not to say that you need to implement every suggestion you get, but you need to appreciate and truly consider every suggestion you get.
Take the time to learn and understand. For the last week I’ve spent most of my time answering customer service calls and emails. I’ve been browsing the forums where our customers hang out and reading copious amounts of literature on the products and the market. I also intend to work my way around the office and get training on all the various departments of the business. I really believe that if you aren’t able to fully grasp what your team is doing on a daily basis you have no place in asking them to do it. In my last role I spent days picking and shipping orders, handling customer service for marketplaces, managing the feeds, and a variety of other things to get a good understanding of how these things were done and should be done, as well as what can be reasonably expected from an individual in that role. I can’t fathom entering a new business and being too proud to even try the tasks you were expected to oversee. On the other hand though, this can be overdone and you can get yourself trapped in solving the easy daily problems to avoid spending time solving the bigger problems that require more effort and thought. So I intend to immerse myself fully but only for a period of time that is sufficient to give me the insight I want. After that I can’t hide behind working in the business, I need to be disciplined in working on the business.
So those are my initial ideas for the next few weeks and months. Have any suggestions for me? Either way, stay tuned for whatever comes next!