How to become successful in your new company: Lessons from the dance floor
Some years back, I was invited to go to a dance club with some friends. What I hadn’t realized at the time: That club doubled as a country line dancing venue before 9 pm. Having arrived promptly at 8:15 pm to give myself time to acclimate, I went inside and saw something I’d never seen before. In front of me, there were several rows of people, all stepping and moving in near-perfect harmony.
Looking over the dance floor and into the crowd, I saw one of my friends. They came over and welcomed me. And then came the invitation to join in and learn to line dance.
My eyes shot back to rows of clearly practiced dancers.
A thousand thoughts raced through my mind in an instant. If I step in there, I’ll stick out like a bumbling sore thumb. Or what if I literally step on someone’s toes? But underneath the doubts and fears, I felt excitement at trying something new. And maybe liking it?
Those are some of the same feelings I get when starting at a new company. The thoughts of, will I be good enough? How do I become as good as the top performers? Where in the world do I start? A flurry of feelings of hesitation and nerves begins to mix with the eagerness and excitement of learning something new.
In these moments, sticking to the basics of learning has seldom proved me wrong. You have to learn to crawl before you walk. You have to learn to walk before you do cool, twisty things to the beat of the music. And as a new hire, you must understand the fundamentals of your role before becoming a top performer.
And that doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get it right away.
Fortunately, a lot of companies have a plethora of resources available to help you learn the fundamentals. But just like not all training is created equal, not all trainees are created equal. What you put into learning something new is what you get out of it.
In my years as a new-hire trainer and from all the opportunities I’ve had to experience new-hire training as a learner, one common theme is found in new hires that excel the fastest: participation.
Raise your hand. Ask questions. If something doesn’t make sense to you, odds are good that it also doesn’t make sense to others. The only “stupid” question in my experience is the one never asked.
It will also help you to volunteer for every activity possible. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and observe others who volunteer for activities and role plays. It’s challenging to be in the hot seat, all eyes on you, putting into action the little bit you’ve learned so far. And there is a chasmic difference in what you retain being uncomfortable compared to comfortably sitting on the fence.
From there, repetition is critical. Repetition is the mother of all learning. And the faster you learn, the quicker you can start contributing and making progress toward becoming a top performer.
So as you take the first steps to learn the dance of your new company, always remember that nobody expects you to be perfect. You will probably feel like you’re bumping into your new dance partners. You may even feel like you’re stepping on toes. You will probably be far more uncomfortable than comfortable as you move well outside your comfort zone.
But the more you raise your hand and the more opportunities you give yourself to learn from those who do it best, the greater the chance you’ll become a successful dancer at your new company.