I just finished my second rotation with Business Development/Product Management, and still can’t believe I have been with TMX Group for almost a year now – time really does fly fast! As always, with the end of each rotation, I’ve made it a tradition to share some of the lessons garnered:
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” – Benjamin Franklin
I owe a big thank you to my manager for being such a great role model in showing me how to stay organized, prepared, and always ready. During our weekly status meetings, she would always have a neatly-stacked folder where she would keep each team member’s documents/and updates. Crisp, clean, and concise was the name of the game and she demonstrated it impeccably. Shortly after, I followed suit. In product management, everyone thinks you have a very flexible and lax schedule, that is until the deadlines fast approach and you are met with the battle of completing all projects on time.
I particularly enjoyed our weekly meetings, and is something I will definitely take with me to other departments if not already present. The fact that I had to be prepared every week to communicate/present what I’ve been working on and the progress of each of my items was quite daunting at first. Once I started dancing to the Jazz, I immediately saw the effectiveness of these meetings. It allowed me to stay on track by breaking down a big project into small actionable items that can be completed within reasonable time. I always had a plan for every week, detailing exactly what needed to be done, who I would need to speak with/meet, and prioritize important tasks to complete first. To those who love complete freedom/flexibility, I assure you I do to – in fact, being more prepared and having a weekly plan allowed me to stay calm, collected, and focused. Even as big deadlines arose, even when I had to present my projects to very important people in our organization I always had control of the ball because my eyes were always on the net.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” – Albert Einstein
If you enjoy comfort, then a rotational program is not right for you. After 6 months of becoming comfy with your departments, colleagues, and work-lifestyle, just when you think you‘re settled in and are relaxed, it’s time to move to the next rotation. This means physically moving into a new atmosphere, new desk, new department, and working with new people – all of which require a mindset that embraces change.
So, how did I prepare for it? Well, I spent my first week just observing. I observed what time my manager and colleagues came to and left work, the level of formality used when they communicated with each other, the things my manager disliked/liked, etc. The point was to understand, very clearly, what was OK and what was NOT OK. After learning how to best fit in, I then pursued the opportunity to sit with my manager and ask her what she expected out of me. Once I knew what the benchmark was (status quo), I spent the next 3 months really understanding what the department does, listening during meetings, and completing all the activities assigned to me. Once I began feeling somewhat in-tuned with my work, it was time to crack status-quo and find extra ways of adding value. The easiest way to start adding value, is to come into work every morning with the “how can I make your life easier” attitude. If your manager is in a meeting, and you find yourself starring out the window, pull out a notepad/or laptop and take meeting minutes. Additionally, value can be exemplified by being innovative – find better ways of doing, thinking, and acting. Once you understand the workflow and really map out the processes involved within your department, it is easier to pinpoint weaknesses, gaps, and inefficiencies and leverage the strengths you possess to improve them.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you” – Dale Carnegie
I think the best way to becoming a team player, to gain people’s trust, and to get people to like you is to genuinely have an interest in liking others. What do I mean by that? I mean don’t just engage in small fluffy talk with your manager because you have to and you’re trying to sneak in that extra point (for when bonus/promotion day comes). When you talk to your colleagues, managers, executives, your attitude should be one of sincerity/appreciation (someone regardless of who they are is taking time from their life to talk to you, so always respect that person’s time and get something positive out of it by listening to what they say, taking interest in their stories, and reciprocating the sharing of information). Although it was a small team, I truly enjoyed working with this department because we all became good friends (even as we kept it on a professional level at work), if everyone executed on what they promised, got stuff done, added value, and took care of their piece of the puzzle, no conflict ever arose and we were able to foster great relationships with one another.
During these 6 months, I legitimately invested time on each and every one of my direct teammates, managers, and surrounding colleagues to get to know them on both a professional and personal level. Why? Because I know that I spend most of my day at work, that on average humans live 29,000 days, and that life is way too short for me to be miserable at work. If I’m determined to come to work with the right mindset, positive attitude, and value-adding determination, then obviously I need to be part of an environment that is friendly, welcoming, and trusting. Also, not all work environments may be like this at first, so instead of being reactive, become a proactive initiator of conversations. Be the one responsible for creating relationships – not the person who waits for the perfect time, or creates excuses like “that’s just not the way things work around here.”