The Secret Power of Fresh Eyes
How being new can give you a different perspective
One of the biggest superpowers at work is one that no one recognizes. When you are new to a job, role, or team, you bring a perspective that no one else has. During that short period of time before you are fully embedded, you have a unique opportunity: a chance to take a look at the world from a viewpoint that others have lost.
This is a short-term gift, and you have to use and manage it carefully. It is incumbent upon you to learn as much as you possibly can during this period—and not allow what you’ve learned to go to waste.
We once moved into a house covered with this hideous wallpaper. Believe it or not, the pattern was of country chickens. Yes, that’s right. We spent eight years eating in a kitchen surrounded by chubby chickens, all gazing at each other with hearts between them (side note: this was before the cottage core/farmhouse aesthetic was made popular and certainly not in a Bay Area house). I don't know what the former owners were thinking, but the country aesthetic was definitely not our thing.
Not long after we moved in, though, something interesting happened: we stopped seeing the wallpaper. There came a point when we just never really noticed it anymore. When we were getting ready to sell the house, we brought in a staging designer, and she took one look at the wallpaper and laughed out loud. In fact, she asked us how we could have ever lived in a house with chickens and hearts all over it.
That was the first time in a long time that it even registered for me how tacky the wallpaper was. (In the end, we had it all ripped out, painted the walls a neutral color, and sold the house quickly.)
When you walk into a new role or company for the first time, you are seeing the wallpaper that everyone else has gotten used to. And if you strategize correctly, you can use that fresh perspective to make a big impact.
Taking advantage of the gift of perspective
I remember when I was invited to a senior leadership meeting for the first time after being at a company for a while. I debriefed with my manager afterward, and I asked him questions about the participants based on what I noticed. I knew these people already, and I had interacted with them individually before, but never all together like this. There was one person who dominated the conversation, there was the peacemaker, there was the sage. There were observers and provocateurs. Each seemed to play a role in the intricate dance that was their relationship. My manager responded that he had been there for so long, that he no longer observed that dynamic.
When you walk into a new job, you are still making sense of the world you’ve been plunged into. You are seeing things that others don't see anymore. You are noticing patterns that will soon become invisible to you. Capture those patterns. Write down your observations, even if they seem obvious to the people around you. Come back and look at them again a month later, then six months later. You will often find that your initial perspective was right, even if you didn’t yet trust your instincts.
“Why?” is a powerful question
When your kids are small, they ask one insistent question: Why? They see a world that’s full of possibility, but that requires explanation. They ask us why the sky is blue, long after we have forgotten the explanation we were given when we were children. They question the things that we take for granted. They don't take no for an answer.
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