Five weeks ago I joined Brandwatch as their first-ever VP of Global Community and Belonging.
The night before my first day I had the first-day jitters and tossed and turned in bed. The following thoughts ran circles around my mind, “What if my performance doesn’t live up to the expectations set in the recruitment process? What if important stakeholders are directly opposed to my views and approach?” And of course that age-old anxiety inducer: “What if I got it all wrong in the interviews and I just don’t vibe with the company culture?”
Thankfully those concerns were soon allayed by the encouragement and insight I received from across the company. In this article, I share what I did in month one to make the most of the role and hit the ground running.
Write a personal statement of intent just for yourself
The night before I started my new job at Brandwatch I opened up a Google Doc and wrote this sentence at the top: “Why I’m here at Brandwatch as the new VP of Global Community and Belonging”. In this document, I wrote why I felt this role was right for me and why I believed I was the best person to do the job. I wrote out the values and beliefs that drive my every action and why I’m so determined to make a change when it comes to inclusion at work.
This doc has helped me ensure every action I take is driven by my purpose. It helps me be proactive instead of reactive. Simon Sinek said people don’t hire you for what you do, they hire you for why you do it. Joining a company the size and maturity of Brandwatch as VP brought on heavy imposter syndrome when I accepted the role. I know I won’t have all the answers right away, but I also know that doesn’t matter. I am here to co-create and share how I think with my collaborators so we can make positive progress together.
Tell your line manager how you like to work because effective communication is key to success
In our first 1:1 my line manager, Brandwatch’s Chief People Officer Jessi Marcoff, and I had an honest conversation about our expectations of each other. While my role officially sits within the people team, Jessi made it very clear that I’d be working cross-functionally with every department from engineering to sales.
She shared a list of folks I should set up 1:1s with, encouraging me to spend my first month in listening mode. She reminded me that I have community and belonging skills and expertise no one else in the company has and that’s why I’m here. With that in mind, we discussed our working styles and how to make the most of our relationship.
Schedule as many 1:1s, as you can, to be a sponge for information
At Brandwatch I am a VP but for me to succeed in my role I have to ensure each individual, regardless of their role or level, has the resources and support to excel in their role. According to research by Culture Amp, there’s a strong positive correlation between an employee’s sense of belonging and their engagement and productivity.
In addition to the folks, my line manager suggested I meet, I also scheduled 1:1s with folks across the company I’d interacted with on social Slack channels, LinkedIn and Twitter. It was a fun way to make my first work friends and also get a range of different perspectives from across the business — from new joiners to OGs, from the C-suite to individual contributors. I believe it’s essential for new leaders to have the humility to listen compassionately to every individual in the company who reaches out to them, especially if your role involves community and belonging.
Identify the influencers in the company
Entering at the leadership level means there is an expectation you will be the driver of the changes needed and identified throughout your recruitment process. The funny thing about change is that it isn’t really about you and your ideas, rather it is about your ability to engage people around a shared and co-created vision. Your role is to support each of them as they pursue their unique ways to get from the present to that shared vision of the future.
For this reason, effective leaders are very good at identifying who drives the culture and whose words and opinions matter. These are not always the folks with the most impressive job titles or highest seniority. Often they are individuals who have spent hundreds or thousands of hours building relationships across the organization. People who have earned the trust and respect of a wide group. Identify these people and understand their motivations. They will help you succeed because they know the business best — warts and all.