Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and best-selling author who’s been onboarding new employees for about 25 years. He’s a go-to resource for remote teams and he’s here to share some ideas to help you feel a little bit more comfortable onboarding virtually at a new job.
- I want you to think back to the first day at your current company, or maybe a previous company, or even your first day of school. If you want to think back that far. I mean, were you a little bit nervous? Did it feel like you didn't know what was going on? Now, I may be projecting here, but for me, starting off somewhere new has always been extremely overwhelming. From all the new people, to figuring out where things are, or what to prioritize, it's just a lot. So, now imagine doing that virtually with maybe a dog barking, or a kid crawling around in the background, because that's the reality for a lot of people right now that are starting new jobs. Hi, I'm Kelly Ruda with LinkedIn learning and today Kevin Eikenberry is here joining us. He's a leadership expert and bestselling author who's been onboarding employees for about 25 years and he's a go-to resource for remote teams and he's here to help share some ideas that might make virtual onboarding just a little bit more comfortable for you at a new job. Kevin, welcome. - Kelly, thank you. You know, you use the word of the day, overwhelm. You probably are feeling overwhelmed, but anytime you go to a new job, it's going to be overwhelming. After all, it's one of those important things in your life and it's a big deal. It's the first day. We're going to talk I think in the next few minutes about just not just the first day, maybe the formal onboarding, but just the first maybe a couple of weeks as you are getting yourself onboarded, but you're going to be overwhelmed. It's okay, take a breath. Grant yourself some grace. That will help take your anxiety down a little bit in and of itself. Let me give you one thing that's actually better when you're starting a new job at a distance rather than in the office. And that is that when you're on video with people, you can see their names. They're not wearing name tags at the office chances are. So, the reality is that there's at least one thing that's a little better and a little easier when we're doing it remotely. - That is so much easier. I feel like that's what it is. When you go to a new office, you see all these different people and you have no idea who's who's and you're getting emails from people, and you have meetings with people, and you're like, I don't know who any of these people are. - Exactly. - So, that's a really great goal. So, one of the other things that I think of is questions. Whenever you start a new job, there are so many questions throughout the day and usually I can just tap my desk neighbor for some help. What do you recommend remotely? - Well, again, I said we'd talk about the first day and the first few weeks, perhaps. So, before you show up for any new job, I would encourage you to make a list of questions that you know you're going to have, put them in a journal, put them on a white pad, put them on a notepad, whatever. And think about those questions because you don't have to think about them in real time. You'll think about them ahead. But, once you've done that, then keep doing that. So, when you're in the office with people, you might just turn and ask them, but you might not realize that that might be actually interrupting them. So, when you're remote, chances are all of the questions that you're generating in your head don't have to be answered immediately. So, start writing them down, making a list, and then every time you have the chance to talk to the appropriate person, you can just go through "Hey, I've got five questions for you, Kelly, can we have five minutes to just go through those real quick?" And chances are, you will say yes and then I can check those off of my list. So, think about coming prepared, but then using a list, using a list of questions to keep you on track, because otherwise, if all those questions are floating around in your head, it's adding to the overwhelm, it's adding to the stress and anxiety. And if you start to say, okay, I can set that aside, I know I got them. If I can set that aside, it's going to make you a lot more comfortable and you'll make sure that you get answers to all your questions eventually. - Yep, it sure will. So, one of the things you mentioned is you talked to the appropriate person. I think of it as the go-to person. How do you figure out who that is? - That's one of the things I would ask early on and I would ask maybe the person that hired you, maybe the HR person that's going to work with you at the very beginning, maybe the coworker that's been asked for you to shadow them, and/or your leader, supervisor, boss person. I think that you want to find out from them who are the right people for every kind of question. Here's the thing, you don't necessarily know enough about all the people around you to know who the right person is. So don't assume, and don't sort of get yourself off on the wrong foot with someone because you're asking them questions for which they don't feel prepared to answer. So, if you'll just take a little time to find out from people what kinds of questions should I bring to you? I'm not trying to be difficult. I'm actually trying to make both of our lives easier by doing that. So, I would just make that part of what I try to figure out early about who am I going to ask what kind of questions too? - Yeah. And that actually brings up the point of working remotely, whether you've been doing it for a long time, or you're starting a new job, there's this hint of maybe a little bit of loneliness or feeling disconnected from people. How do you recommend building those relationships? If I'm just starting a new job and I'm trying to figure out who the go-to people are, how do I do that? - Well, if this is your first remote assignment, know that it is an isolating thing. That your world will start to look much closer around you. You'll start to develop a tunnel focus on your work. And that might sound like a good thing to start with, but it's really not because you weren't hired to work from home. You were hired to be an effective remote teammate and to be a teammate you have to know the people that you're working with. So, here's my advice. My advice is that you find a way to schedule time with all of those people you're going to interact with and to start with you know that it's the three, four, five, six people that are on the team with you plus your supervisor. You'll figure out if there are others, but that's where I'd start. And just make it a point that in the first week or two, that you schedule some time with each of those people. It's like a virtual coffee break and coffee optional. But, what I want you to do is to say, "Hey, I'd like to spend 15 minutes, 20 minutes with you, just getting so we can get to know each other because you're going to want to know more about me and I'm going to need to know about you so we can be successful. We're not going to have those chances as if we were in the office. And, so I'd love to spend 15 minutes, not about the work or tacked onto the work conversation. That's just about us getting to know each other." In my experience, if you ask people that, they're going to say, Sure." It might take a few days to get it scheduled, but in most cases, "Yeah, let's do it. When do you want to do it?" And I would say too, Kelly, that if you can't get anyone to take you up on that offer, you might be in the wrong job. - Yeah, those personal connections are extremely, extremely important. So, let's say that I'm someone who's a little bit more introverted, a little bit nervous about just reaching out to someone versus them coming up to me at my desk and saying, "Oh, hi, welcome to the team." Right? What do you recommend for that person? - Well, some people will come up and say hi and then we don't have to worry about those people. But, the other people, remember both people win when this interaction takes place. So, being introverted it may not be your first inclination to do it, but it doesn't mean you can't do it. It doesn't mean you've never done it. I'm just urging you and encouraging you to do it because everybody wins when you do. Think about it like a puzzle. When you start any new job, there are all sorts of puzzle pieces. What are my job? What other people's jobs? How do I interact with them? What works best for them in communication? All of those puzzle pieces are sitting out there on the table. And all you're trying to do is start to piece the puzzle together. And so that's what this is about. It's about being curious and being open and trying to help figure out the puzzle in your own mind so that you can be more successful so that you can not just be on the team, but an effective remote teammate. - I think that puzzle piece makes it feel a little bit more comfortable. When thinking about how do you fit on the team that you're working on on the remote team virtually. Now, another thing that I think about is what about the work? After I've gone through meeting people, I've done the traditional onboarding? Now it's time to get to work. How do I know my priorities? I mean, do I just start working on something? Do I ask my boss? What's the right step? - Well, in a perfect world, in a conversation with your boss, your manager, your supervisor, that they're going to say, here are the priorities, here's the work and all of that. But, you may be sitting there on day two, four, six, eight with nothing more than a job description and no disrespect to our HR friends, but a job description isn't the whole job. And so, if you don't know the priorities, if you don't know the boundaries, if you don't know the benchmarks, if you don't know what good looks like, if you don't know what the expectations are and you've got to ask. And you may be frustrated that the boss hasn't shared that with you and you might even be justified in being frustrated, but it doesn't mean that's where you need to go. Where you need to go is to just the place of curiosity to say, "Hey, I want to make sure, I mean I understand the big pieces, Kelly, but I don't understand the details. Can you help me prioritize? Can you help me figure this out?" Now, some people will want to go talk to their colleagues and it's fine to go get your colleagues opinion and their perspective, but remember the person that you go to might be, well, they might be a low performer. If you don't know that, then you might be getting a perspective that isn't the one that's going to set you up to succeed. Or, maybe the person that you ask, you know is that wise more senior person with 15 years, 20 years or whatever, they're a high performer. So, what the boss is expecting of them could be different, could be at a higher benchmark. They might have less interaction with the boss and that might be justified. It's the single most important conversation you need to have with your supervisor. What are the goals? What are my expectations? What are the boundaries? What are my priorities. - So, what I'm hearing, if we were to kind of theme this overall is relationships matter. So, make sure your relationships are strong with all your coworkers, get to know them. And then the second thing, it sounds like direct or intentional communication is what you would recommend. Those are kind of the themes. Am I correct in understanding that? - And I would say that those things are both true and I like that you changed it from the word direct to intentional because it's not about being demanding or being blunt or anything like that. It's just making sure that you have the resources, knowledge, and perspective that you need to be successful. And none of us can be successful without having some clarity about the relationships and how everyone fits in with us and how we fit in with everyone else. So, taking the time, making the time, investing the time to do those things are some of the most important things that you can do as you onboard into your next great job. - Now, Kevin, it feels like what you've done is you've taken this overwhelm and you've made it feel just a little bit more manageable when we think about what it's like to onboard remotely. So, thank you. We really appreciate it. - My pleasure, thank you for having me. - Now, to hear more from Kevin, you can check out his book called "The Long-Distance Leader" and also keep an eye out for his newest book that's coming soon, it's called "The Long-Distance Teammate." You can also watch a number of his courses right here on LinkedIn learning if you just click on his profile. And also connect with him over on LinkedIn for more resources or any questions that you might have, or just to say hi. Now, thanks for joining us as we navigate what it might look like to transition virtually during this, the new normal.
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