NEW vs OLD: Why and how to collaborate

21 Jan 2017
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Posted by Shira Ronen

As traditional companies (try to) become digital, social, and everything connected, the culture clash between NEW – those that have been brought in to drive new, innovative business – and OLD – those that represent the status quo – is becoming more and more prevalent. But are the two really enemies?

Whether you are the new kid on the block or a veteran leader in your organization, there is something to be learned from the other side.

Say, for example, you are the newcomer at a communications firm and have been hired to lead a team that focuses on digital strategy. This is a fast-growing area of the firm that is viewed by senior leadership as a golden goose for the company. The account management side of the firm (the traditionalists) do not feel the same way. You believe you will have an uphill battle because the “old guard” is so steadfast in their ways and comes across as close-minded.

While you think digital strategy is the future, open your mind to seeing the value of past practices. Be humble and listen to contributions the other side has to make. Seek out their input, and you will undoubtedly learn things you didn’t understand about the business. Moreover, when you have made them feel like they are still valuable to the team, you will gain an ally. Here is how you can approach a veteran member of the team:

“Hi, I just started at the company and wanted to reach out. I would like us to get to know each other and see how we can best work together.” Once you are in the meeting, share more details about your work and say, “You may have heard about the new initiative I am leading. I would like to share some details with you and get your thoughts about it…” Then, listen to their thoughts with an open mind, rephrase, and show understanding (not necessarily agreement).

Perhaps you are the veteran who is miffed by the newcomer that acts like a know-it-all? If you have added a lot of value to your company over the years, it can be offputting to see a new person come in, untested and get treated like a star. You might begin to fear that you are becoming irrelevant. Digging your heels in and creating resistance, will only make you hostile and turn others off. It is natural to feel guarded, but changing your frame of mind will help you recognize the value the new person offers to the company and to your role. If you harness that value correctly, you might even see them as an asset that will strengthen your own approach. Here is how you can approach a new member of the team:

“Hi and welcome aboard! I am excited to learn more about your new role and also want to offer my help if I can be of service. Can you tell me more about the project you are working on?”

By showing interest and truly listening to the newcomer, you will create a bond that will make them want to make you successful. Together, with their fresh ideas and your wealth of knowledge, you may even create something better than anyone could imagine at the start.

Only by embracing change, while maintaining what’s good and working well in the existing business, do companies really move forward.

I hope this perspective on collaboration leaves you feeling well-equipped to handle the inevitable rift between new and old at your company. If you try this approach, please email me to share your experience.