Taking My Talents (back) to Cleveland, Part 2

How I Jumped Into the New

by Kayla Cousineau, SVP Operations

As with any new job transition, there is a learning curve and it is steeper when you change industries. Knowing what to learn, how you best retain knowledge and where your gaps are is key to onboarding. In other words, one’s success requires a deep awareness of yourself.

My learning process looked like the following steps:

  1. Get to know the people internally. Understanding who does what at a 30-person company was an easy hill to overcome. Understanding how people approach their work takes more time but is vital to any effective partnership. OpinionRoute has new employees take a DISC profile. Like other assessments, it helps us understand our colleagues. It helps us understand how people are motivated, how they approach problems, and provides ideas for developing them. In health care, my surgeon colleagues and I would categorize administrators into types of physicians (for example, a surgeon-like-administrator was cut/no cut, dominant, direct, and action-oriented). This approach, although not based on science, did have merit.
  2. Build a knowledge base of external audiences, both clients and vendors. For example, we categorize marketing research (MRX) firms to better understand how they approach projects and discuss strategies for engaging with them. Meeting with vendors helps me understand how to optimize our partnerships and what implications their work may have on our internal operations.
  3. Learn the language, including the acronyms. I went from CMS and DRGs to LOI and CPI. I can confidently state that health care still has a much larger list—maybe only second to the military.
  4. Identify the operational processes. What is the process for a perfect project and then what do we do to troubleshoot projects going off course? What does success look like? How do we measure it? And is this all documented and easy to access? Of course, the processes must be defined first, then socialized, then socialized again. Insert your favorite communication best practice. I gravitate to the Rule of 7: You have to say something at least 7 times before people start to consistently act.

How I Learn

My approach to learning is to ask questions until I feel like I can explain it myself. Asking questions has always been a favorite pastime of mine. According to family lore, when I was in 4th grade there was a legendary night of fighting the beast that I refer to as long division. Both of my parents and two older siblings took turns one by one attempting to help me with homework. And one by one they gave up in frustration because I wouldn’t stop asking “Why?” every step of the way. Who knew this would turn into a character strength?

I am still navigating through industry applicability and making strategic connections in my head. It can be challenging given the amount of clients, vendors, individuals, etc. When I’m not following a discussion, I lean back on to my question asking skills or make an attempt to restate a conclusion to see if I’m tracking along. And I love a good visuals. I often times draw them for myself and my team. I’m a huge believer in helping people understand a process with visuals. No one wants to read a bunch of words (including myself) but if we can connect to the higher process and understanding from a summary point of view, then it’s a win. It also empowers teams to react to something (even if version 1 is incorrect) instead of create it on their own.

The Struggle is Real.

My struggle? Patience. I’m lucky to have a leadership team steep in expertise, always willing to take a question and truly embrace healthy conflict. Example? At our first team retreat, six months into my start, Terence made all six members of the leadership team share with one another two pieces of information: one thing that person did well and one thing they needed to work to improve. It was not a comfortable exercise….in the least. Our leadership team also supports my efforts to learn what matters most to my programmers and project managers.

Reflecting on the last year, I have realized how much I value lifelong learning, even the ones that come with major career and life transitions. When I moved to Detroit by myself to complete my master’s, I learned very quickly that Red Wings are preferred over March Madness. As difficult as it is to admit, I did not ask the restaurant to change the channels because my husband urged me to keep the locals happy. In the case of OpinionRoute, I do not have to battle geography changes that many people changing industries over the last few years have faced. My map app is finally resting after 4 years of tunnel and bridge confusion from commutes to Pittsburgh. I am fortunate to be working out of our headquarters in Cleveland where heading North just means you are going for a swim and sports opinions are (mostly) aligned.

Whether a new job is your decision or someone else’s, embrace that learning curve and lean into your strengths. You’ll discover heightened engagement for both you and your teams. Like Billy Madison, get up to the board and attempt those cursive Zs. These actions are essential for both personal and professional growth.

Photo via screenshot from “The Office”

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