Being thrown in at the deep end sounds like a pretty negative predicament. Swim or drown. They are your only two options. If you do ‘just keep swimming’, will there eventually be a lifeguard to fish you out?
Maybe it doesn’t have to be as negative as first thought. Do we sometimes need this push to get us out of our comfort zone? I’m not suggesting that we go around pushing people into swimming pools (could end really badly). In some situations, a person just might not have the right skill set to get them out of trouble.
But on the other hand, while it’s easy to stick with the shallower waters, does that really help us to grow in our personal and/or work lives?
It’s a risk, for sure. I mean, you might fail. But how do you know if you can do something if you never try?
If you do find yourself in a new role unexpectedly, here are some techniques to help you cope, that I recently discovered while in over my head.
- Take stock, and prioritise. At the end of the day, shit needs to get done. If you’re not lucky enough to have the advantage of contact with your predecessor, you’re going to have to figure a lot of this out for yourself. Start with the higher level goals, rather than drowning in the details early on.
- Surround yourself with the best people! You should quickly work out who is skilled at what…leverage off them and their knowledge. You will be surprised how the team around you rally to support you (or maybe I’m just lucky in this regard!)
- Communication is key. Keep all of your key stakeholders in the loop. There is nothing people dislike more than not knowing what’s going on, even if you can’t always give them the answer they want to hear. These people may include your boss and new team members, as well as clients, contractors, and suppliers.
- Keep your head above water by managing the stress. This will diminish over time as you become more comfortable with your new surroundings, but in the early days remember to eat, move, sleep, breathe…
The learning curve is steeeeeep! But being forced to think on your feet in a brand new environment means you don’t have to stick to musty conventional ways of getting things done.
Some might stick to a more traditional route in their career, but honestly, mine has taken more trajectories than I care to count. And sometimes that has happened because an opportunity came at me out of left field. Was I always ready for the change? Haha, no way! But has each change accelerated my growth and made me more rounded as a team member and an individual? Absolutely.
I’m not saying being thrown in at the deep end is the only way to learn and improve. But if you stay focused, and leverage off the knowledge of those around you, you can survive. And even thrive.