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The typical office tour wasn’t enough.

By Mark Johnson
May 2, 2017

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you make a great first impression at work?” is written by Mark Johnson, CEO and co-founder of Descartes Labs.

About a year ago, an employee came into my office on his first day of work and put a piece of paper on my desk. It was a list of what he was planning on completing his first day, week, and month on the job. I was blown away. The structured, thoughtful approach he took made a great first impression on me and prompted a fantastic discussion about how he would tackle that critical first month of work.

Typically, when you start a new job, you’re given a tour, introduced to some people, handed a ton of paperwork to read through, and maybe given a meeting with your CEO or supervisor for an hour to talk vaguely about what the company is doing and your role in its success.

This employee’s proactive starting point, on the other hand, allowed us to immediately create a conversation that was both actionable and eye opening. At a bare minimum, it showed me that he had thought deeply about the job and done his research on what we needed. And more importantly, it allowed me to see not only how the employee thought about the role, but also some things I hadn’t yet thought of that he saw as critical to his success.

I think a new employee might fear that a document of this nature would hold them to a high bar before they know the ropes. In my opinion, it actually provides clarity, holds everyone accountable early, and offers a strong reference point for later discussion. It doesn’t necessarily set goals in stone, but instead allows the new employee and their boss to collaborate around what everyone involved needs to bring to the table if they want to succeed.

While it was the company’s responsibility to provide a job description, this employee took the initiative to bring the description to life with a specific plan of action. His goal—and yours should you use the same approach—was not to “be right” but to show initiative, be transparent, and show his organizational style and approach. In this case, it drove a dialogue that would ultimately align us on what was highest priority for our business.

This experience got me thinking about how our onboarding—and ultimately the success and value of new team members—would change if everyone brought something like this in to work on day one. Now, we are building it into our onboarding process at Descartes Labs. It has also driven us to look at our interview process; it’s critical that it be in-depth, clear, and open, so new employees have what they need in advance to be able to create such a document. Through all of this, we build a launch pad for new hires that gives them the greatest chance to succeed and prepare them to contribute to the company and existing team from day one.

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