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My First 90 Days: Beware the 7 Deadly Sins of Starting a New Job

January 19, 2015
Borderless Leadership
It has been said that it’s not how you start, but how you finish. When it comes to your first 90 days on the job, if you fail to start right, you may be finished soon after you start.
 
While your journey will inevitably have mistakes and failures, the first 90 days are especially perilous. Here are “7 Deadly Sins” of what you should never do if your goal is to ignite your career for long-term success.
 
Never fake it: You risk reputational and financial damage trying to fake knowledge and experience. Transparency and authenticity, especially about your limitations, garners the critical respect and trust that must serve you beyond those first 90 days.
 
Never start late or leave early: This sends the message that your job is not a priority.
 
Never be a “me” person: Whatever your job, sector or industry, you can’t win alone. Success in today’s highly competitive world requires a “we” process — totally collaborative. This is especially true during those first 90 days. The key is to fit in. That’s the best way to stick out.
 
Never over-promise: Cumulative small successes during your first 90 days will pay off far greater for you than trying to make a quick impression by gambling on high-risk opportunities with low odds for success.
 
Never be in the “gotcha” business: Trying to catch a colleague doing something wrong will, aside from engendering dislike, embargo you from critical interaction, input and opportunities.
 
Never “fire, ready, aim:” It’s OK to be impatient, but not imprudent. Early errors during that first quarter resulting from knee-jerk actions or reactions will derail your progress. Premature jubilation is especially unattractive.
 
Never assume anything: Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups. This means prior to your first 90 days you research the culture of the organization, the problems and opportunities inherent in the products and services rendered, the processes, your position and how it fits into the equation. Then with a mindset that is curious rather than critical, you cross the threshold and partake in your new adventure. This attitude will put your aptitude in high gear.
 
In my experiences as an employee, a manager and an executive, I have either personally committed or witnessed these “7 Deadly Sins.” One excruciatingly painful example of my own took place in the early 1970s. At age 28, I was fast-tracked to the position of President of Columbia Pictures Studio. In the first 90 seconds on the job, I committed the sin of “me” rather than “we” and suffered consequences that required far more than 90 days to ameliorate.
 
My predecessor, the President, hadn’t yet vacated his office. In my enthusiasm to demonstrate (at least for appearance’s sake) that I had the job, I decided I had to have his office immediately. The operations office relegated him to a minor spot in the building. While there was no excuse for what I did, I was young, relatively insecure, and overly eager to assert my new authority as President of the studio.
 
Oops…
 
This action sent the message that I was immature, disrespectful, and that my hubris was antithetical to the collaborative involvement imperative for success in this business. What I learned from this experience was that it wasn’t my title or office size that would determine my success. Those were merely trappings and suggested little about my true character or reputation. A physical office never made a good decision. I later realized that real power and authority comes from your authenticity and your ability to drive results in a collaborative, empathetic and inclusive manner.
 
This misstep in judgment set me in a direction that took quite some time from which to recover. However, by understanding what had transpired, taking ownership of my mistake and making amends to the people whom I offended, I was able to eventually turn a sin into a sustained, successful career crossing diverse industries over a long period of time.
 
By Peter Guber
 

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