School started back this week in Atlanta, the city where we live. Seeing the kids at the bus stop brought back memories of when we moved to another neighborhood when I was starting the 6thgrade and was the “new kid in school.” Those first weeks were miserable. While all of the kids were socializing before school, during recess, and after school, there I was standing alone on the outside looking in. They knew I was there, but none of them reached out. My life changed when one of the kids came over and talked to me. I also remember how the others kids were looking at us as we talked. The next thing I knew, I was part of the group.
Being the new person at work is very similar to being the new kid in school: If no one reaches out to you in friendship, your life is miserable, regardless of how much you like what you are doing. To that point, studies have shown that having a friend at work is more important to job satisfaction than having a supportive boss. Reason being, boss’s come and go; whereas, friends last forever.
Similar to my experience-changing event at school, it also changed at work when someone reached out to me whenever I joined a new company, new function or business, or new board. I will always remember how Gabe Lance reached out to me at Georgia-Pacific and Darrell Untereker at Medtronic. Both were well-respected and trusted within the company. Neither had to reach out, but both did. We went on to do some very innovative things at work.
Just as important to reaching out to the new kid/hire is reaching out to the person who has a new idea or different style. Reason being, the status quo rejects new ideas and different styles at lighting speed. Life becomes miserable because the person is ostracized along with their ideas. Sadly, most of the time the person winds up leaving the company. Ironically, organizations frequently say that they are constantly looking for “Unicorns”—talent that is so rare that they make tremendous difference. What’s funny is they already have them but can’t see them because they are standing on the outside looking in. As a side note, unicorns are unicorns because they can see much more broadly than others. In other words, they can see connections, thus opportunities, that others can’t. To that point, studies have shown that people who are on the outside see everything that goes on in the inside; whereas, people on the inside only see who they are interacting with or what they are looking at. For example, a study was done of first-grade kids. They gave each of them a diagram of the room and asked them to plot where everyone went to play. The popular kids could only plot where they and their friends played. The unpopular kids could plot where everyone played.
In closing, be the person who changes someone’s experience. All you have to do is broaden your circle to include the new kid, new idea or different style. You will fundamentally change their experience and create new opportunities for yourself and organization.