I recently interviewed Rob Carranza for the Cameron-Brooks Podcast: Above and Beyond. Rob is a former Air Force Navigator with a Mechanical Engineering degree. In the podcast, we get into some interesting topics about his background and his transition to Johnson & Johnson as a Product Development Engineer. In his first role at J&J, he led a team of engineers, as well as other technical professionals. I asked how he successfully did that and he, in a very transparent comment said, “I had a little bit of reservation when I started thinking about leading mechanical engineers, some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. PhDs from all over the country and I am a “papered” mechanical engineer who hasn’t practiced in eight years. That was the blunt truth.” He then went on to deliver his 5-step approach to quickly gaining credibility and making an immediate impact with a new team:
- Be curious – Carry an intellectual curiosity. Don’t always try to be the smartest person in the room. Recognize that in most cases, you are surrounded by team members who have ideas about how to make your organization better.
- Be observant – One of the best ways to assess a new situation is to watch and listen. As leaders, we often feel pressure to come in and immediately start giving input and fixing things. In Rob’s experience, he was able to quickly gain credibility by having a willingness to seek first to understand.
- Be fickle – Specifically with thoughts and ideas. Initially, try to be more measured with your input and feedback so that you are not always seen as someone who tries to take over every situation. This has two benefits: 1) you will empower your team to take a greater leadership role within their sphere of influence and 2) when you do offer advice or feedback, it will be more impactful.
- Be thoughtful – Strive every day to do something good for someone on your team. Seek ways to remove obstacles and contribute to your team’s initiatives.
- Be elegant – Show humility and be willing to do whatever it takes to move your organization forward.
Rob’s leadership advice is timeless. For another article on connecting your military background to the business world, read our White Paper on the topic here.
Pete Van Epps