Whenever I walk into a new place or new situation at work, this is how I approach it. First of all, I hate to be unprepared. I like to know as much as I can. I try to prepare, even it is only a deep breath and a quick assessment of the situation. But if I have time, I will try to prepare for a half hour, hour or even a day or two if possible. That is my first step.
The second step is to listen intently, and if necessary, question a lot. Listening is a skill I have had to cultivate. It’s not that I am a bad listener, I just sometimes get so enthusiastic about a subject I know, I think I’ve run people over in the past. Nowadays, I let people speak first, then come in later. And if I see someone getting more and more quiet, I let a few long pauses in, just to make sure the person or group of people can get their thoughts in, too.
On the other hand, if I know little about the subject, I’m all ears. I concentrate on listening, and try to interject with a decent question once in a while. Sometimes however, my mind isn’t quite as quick as I would wish. Questions pop up later. That’s ok though. I just write the questions down as they come up. I then I try to figure the answers out if I can, quickly. If I can’t figure them out, I do a quick internet search.
An internet search is a great way to get questions answered without taking time away from other people’s busy schedules. This can be a bit dicey though. I usually have to ask myself this question: “Would it be more efficient for both myself and my co-workers if I just asked them the question? If so, in email or should I ask them in person? Email is a great way to get answers, especially if the person being emailed to responds quickly and the questions are relatively short.
A more detailed answer though can sometimes work better in the give and take situations that can arise from more complex matters. If you need to ask questions however, try to be cognizant of the other person. Don’t hit them when they are crazy busy or as they are getting ready to go out the door, unless it’s something very short and/or the question needs answered immediately.
In short, whenever I walk into a place I assume I know nothing. Because that way, if I a lucky, I might learn something.