How to Start Well in Your New Job

Leaders emphasize the importance of beginning a new job well, but often our best lessons come from our mistakes.

This past week I accepted a new job as full-time Interim Director of Worship at the church where I have been working part-time for the past year.

I searched the web for advice on how to begin a new job and here are some of the recurring themes I found:

  1. Dress right and make a great first impression.
  2. Learn everything you can about the company.
  3. Identify key leaders and find ways to align with them.
  4. Start earlier and stay later than your new boss to let him/her know you are committed.
  5. Keep perfect attendance the first 2 years of your new job.
  6. Be friendly.
  7. Report your progress to your boss weekly, whether they ask for it or not.
  8. Ask questions.

While these are good suggestions, I did not find the lessons I learned from mistakes I made beginning a previous job.

In 2010 I became the Interim Director of Music at a church in upstate New York. I had just finished eight and a half years at a much larger church in a much larger role, so I quickly began to apply what I had learned in my previous role to my new job.

Very soon I realized I was off track. Team members were working hard but were getting stretched thin, and I was getting frustrated in rehearsals.

The answer was simple: I was not working at my old church, so my solutions for the old job were not working. After some time we were able to get on track and move forward as a team in a more healthy way.

Here are a few of the lessons that I learned:

  1. Start slowly. I am a big proponent of notated music charts, and so I quickly began converting the charts at the new church to notated charts. I also began adjusting keys of songs where necessary. Finally, I began trimming old songs from the rep and introducing new ones. I did all of this at the same time. As a result often 70-80% of the music in a week was new to the band. Not good. Once I slowed down the team began to get back on top and catch their breath.
  2. Honor the past. I was so focused on the future that I would discount the way the team had worked before. I found later that carefully learning how things used to operate earned me the trust of the team. I also gained a better understanding of how to move ahead.
  3. Be patient. I am a dreamer and I can get all kinds of ideas in my head that I want to do now. Patience, though, is much more effective, whether you are transitioning culture, changing leadership, growing new worship leaders, or challenging difficult personalities. After all, Christ is very patient with us; why shouldn’t we be patient with others?
  4. Be humble. Admit you do not have all the answers, and admit it when you make a mistake. Don’t make excuses; just say it like it is and take steps to improve.

I definitely was humbled yesterday. After announcing my new role in the second service, the pastor commenced with giving his message. Because I had been through the entire first service I stepped out when the message began.

I was standing in the office when the pastor ran in and said, “Maurice, I’m off the platform.” Oops.

Here I had just been given a new role, and I blew it on the first Sunday.

Wow.

Fortunately one of my leaders stepped up and led that final hymn for me, but I had to profusely apologize to my pastor for my mistake. Trust me when I say I will be very careful not to make that mistake again.

What steps have you taken in order to begin a new job well?

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