If you’ve taken over a new team at work, or started a new management job, the temptation may be to hit the ground running and dive right in to make changes.
However, that would be a mistake, according to Sallie Krawcheck, chair of global professional women’s network Ellevate and former CFO of Citigroup.
What you should really be doing is listening for about three months.
“Even if you think you know what you’re going to do, you’ll learn so much and there’s isn’t any other point in the job where you can do that,” said Krawcheck.
Krawcheck came to this realisation back in 2002 when former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill asked her to head up Smith Barney, Citi’s then-new wealth management division. Suddenly she had tens of thousands of new employees, and while she understood the research side of Smith Barney’s business after running Sanford Bernstein’s research department, she wasn’t familiar with the wealth management side.
So Krawcheck went on tour, and sometimes Weill would join her. They flew around the country and talked to direct reports 3 to 5 levels below her, held town halls, and even made surprise visits to Smith Barney offices.
One time, when Krawcheck tried to turn on a slide projector at a town hall. She found it wasn’t working — Weill had disconnected it.
“I went to push the clicker and there was nothing,” Krawcheck said. Weill was delighted.
“Here was the titan of industry at the top of his game… probably 2002… and he giggled.”
Weill knew that disabling the projector would force Krawcheck to listen, rather than talk, and Krawcheck got his message. After a productive three months of learning, listening gave her a solid idea of how Smith Barney worked and what she wanted to do with it.
Krawcheck started every new job with a three month listening tour from then on.