Starting a New Job
In December of 2020, John (name changed to respect his privacy) started a new job as a senior program manager at a large aerospace company.
It was a really tough transition, moving from a smaller team of just 30 people to a company of many thousands. The team he managed included highly skilled engineers. With a background in business, he felt like an outsider among such a technical team. It was difficult to gain their respect.
John also faced challenges from his colleagues, the other program managers.
There were 12 program managers, all at different levels. He was hired at the highest level, replacing the person who is now his boss. So, he faced some animosity from others who had more experience in the role than him.
Another stressor was that his new company operated as a matrix. He recognized that building strong relationships was going to be very important while working within a matrix management structure. However, he was having a really difficult time doing that.
How did John respond to these challenges?
For those first few months, he was unhappy. He is naturally a very social person. However, under the pressure of this new job, he withdrew, avoiding social interactions that in the past brought joy.
About 6 months into his new role, a dismal performance review was a wake-up call. He realized he had to do something about his situation.
John knew he needed help. He wanted support from someone who would really listen to him. Someone outside his organization who could help him dissect what was going on and strategize what to do about it.
In my initial call with Alida, I was struck by how well she listened to me. How she asked thoughtful questions to really understand what I was experiencing. She did not jump right to strategies I could try. She took the time to understand the entire landscape of my situation.
After analyzing the situation, Alida supported John to identify and leverage his strengths and personal style. John saw how his new and different work context had kept him from being fully himself. In the past, he had been great at building relationships and following structures and processes. In this new environment, those strengths didn’t come as easily to him.
I saw how building relationships is an area where I really excel. However, the people I work with are highly analytical. This is why I was having such a difficult time connecting with them.
I also came to realize why working within a matrix management was so difficult for me. I spent 20 years in the military, a highly structured environment where I thrived. Adjusting to the unstructured aspects of matrix management was not easy.
Alida helped me really understand what I bring to the table. This helped me see that my style is quite different from most of my colleagues. I realized I was not valuing my strengths. I was not valuing myself.
So, what did John do with these insights?
First, he implemented new strategies to navigate the stress of his job. He developed morning and evening routines to shift into a good space, mentally and emotionally before work, and to shift out of work mode at the end of the day.
Working with Alida made me realize how much stress and anxiety was spilling over into my home life. Now, when I get home each evening, I’ll park in my garage and then sit there for a second. I take a deep breath before I walk into the house.
He also changed how he views himself and his role in the organization. He recognizes and appreciates that he has very different strengths compared to his colleagues and brings those into his work every day. He has positioned himself as a valuable support for the challenging technical jobs his team manages, taking care of the business functions so they can focus on what they do best.
With Alida’s support, I was able to move past adversity and find my way. After two years in the position, I now lead our highest profile program!