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How to proceed when you take on a new role or a new job? What are the first things you need to do? Episode 3 opens up a lot of interesting points on this question. Two people join their new jobs and take on new roles in this episode, though in diametrically different positions. Jon Snow and Ned Stark.
We can equate Jon Snow joining the Night’s Watch at Castle Black to a fresh MBA joining his new job as a management trainee, along with a bunch of others who are graduate trainees. Jon has been coached and trained extensively by his father, Ned Stark at Winterfell on weaponry and also on various values. He finds himself surrounded by a bunch of other recruits who range from rapists to destitute people who haven’t had the privilege Jon has been brought up with. He treats them with utter contempt and they in turn attempt to kill him. Finally it was his uncle Benjen who tell him “You are better than no one. Here a man gets what he earns; when he earns it.”
What could Jon have done differently? The most effective way for Jon to assimilate would have been to come down from his high horse, spend time with other new recruits, and truly get to know them. Then he would have realised that there are some great people among them and more importantly, he would have realised that it was his privilege that made him better equipped than them and not any inherent superiority.
When I joined Titan as one among 14 management trainees 27 years back, the ones who succeeded among us were the ones who quickly struck up great relationship with the non-MBAs who were at lower levels. The ones who had a chip on their shoulders refused to build bridges and in turn got ‘killed’ career-wise by their less privileged colleagues.
Observe, learn and plan before you act
As hand of the king, Ned Stark took on a unique role. It was that of COO, CFO and advisor to CEO all rolled into one. With those powers and with the additional advantage of being the CEO’s (king Robert Baratheon) best friend, he could have turned the kingdom around. He screwed up spectacularly. His first act after entering the head office (Red Keep) was to insult each and every other member of the small council (the senior leadership team).
If I were he, I would have done the following…
1. Have 1-on-1 meetings with each member of the senior leadership team to primarily probe and listen without revealing my hand
2. Meet up with some of the other influential people in the organisation including direct reports of senior leadership team and do the same
This will help in understanding a) the equations and politics of the team b) who is with me, and who against c) what drives each individual d) a SWOT of the overall organisation.
Apart from this, the other crying need was for Ned to put some sense into the CEO (King Robert). It is not an easy task, but Ned, with his unique position as the CEO’s bestie and also his COO/CFO/Advisor role, was in the best position to make a difference. A series of coaching sessions with Robert, rekindling a vision to get things back to the former glory, could have made a huge difference. In fact, I play a role very similar to this as a co-founder and CEOs close friend in Zentron Labs, a startup. This gives me the ability to be a mirror without giving offence.
Once Ned had done all the above, he could have made his moves, building relations and aligning with those in the leadership team he deemed fit, getting other influential people on his side, and finally easing out those who are detrimental to the kingdom, the king and himself. Ned Stark was honourable, but he was an honourable blundering fool, who ultimately was more detrimental to the kingdom than his far more devious enemies.
RamG Vallath: Bestselling author of “From Ouch to Oops”, Success Coach, Startup Guru.