Focus: People Management - Coaching session with Stephen Bubb

Q: I've just started a new job. I really want to make a mark. How do I do this?

First impressions are crucial. You've got your job, so you obviously made a mark at the interview - now you need to fulfil your promise.

Your new employer should have developed an induction process. These tend to be rather rudimentary, in my experience, but I think you should be developing your own induction process - and this is how you should be doing it.

Do your homework. You've probably done some research at the interview stage, so keep digging. Get hold of your organisation's literature and try to pin down the problems and the opportunities the organisation faces.

Check out the organisational structure - yes, even have a look at all the boring financial papers.

Listen and learn

Focus on people. Listen and learn. Work out who the key people in the organisation are - and I don't mean the top people only, because you can often pick up some good tips from PAs and receptionists. Find out who the achievers are and hitch yourself to them. Discover the whingers and avoid them.

Get some quick wins. In your first few months, you should be considering what you could change or contribute that would improve delivery. It often takes a new pair of eyes to discover a new way of doing things or a useful change to existing procedures. Go for it, but watch your step - whatever you do, don't get a reputation for being too gobby or smart-arsed.

Consider development needs. It's never too early to do this. Check out your organisation's attitude to professional development. If you haven't got a mentor then do this now - is there someone in the organisation who has been there for a while and might act as an informal coach for you?

First impressions

Make a note. When I was first appointed to my Acevo job, Richard Wilson, then the Cabinet Secretary, told me he had always made a detailed note of his impressions of a job after the first 100 days because you are often at your most observant and imaginative in the very early stages. It is worth doing this and reflecting at a later stage. I did this - and how things have changed at Acevo.

Finally, my top piece of advice: network, network, network. Get to know the staff. Get to know the volunteers, the trustees, the stakeholders, the clients and the external influencers. Whether you are there for one week or ten years, carry on networking.

And remember, as David Lloyd George once said: "Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated - you can't cross a chasm in two small jumps."

- Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to

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