That’s the percentage of respondents to a recent poll by the Center for Creative Leadership who said their best working relationships were with their managers. With everything that’s been written about managing up, down, and sideways, that percentage really had me scratching my head. But, with a new boss starting this week, I need to spend less time head-scratching and more time getting my ducks in a row so I can make sure I’m not part of the 84% club.
It’s likely my new boss, as bosses typically do, will want to meet with everyone on the team one-on-one within his first few weeks on the job. And that meeting, as well as other early interactions I have with him, will set the tone for our working relationship. So I’ve got to be on my best behavior because the way I present myself early (both good and bad) could typecast me for months to come.
Everybody approaches working with a new boss in his or her own way, but I’ve found a few things to be particularly helpful over the years. Before that first one-on-one meeting, I take some time to think about my role, what I’m responsible for, some key projects I’ve managed or completed over the last few months, and anything else I think he or she might find helpful. That way, I avoid sounding like the guy from the movie Office Space who ends up yelling “I have people skills” because he couldn’t explain his job to some outside consultants. Not a great first impression.
Role clarity and expectations are huge. During our first meeting, we have to make sure we’re both on the same page. What’s his role? What’s my role? What does success look like for him, me, the team, and the department? This is also a great time to talk about what’s been working and what’s not (without unloading or throwing anyone under the bus).
I want to be myself, but not completely…at least not right away. I’m an extroverted extrovert. For some, that can take some getting used to. During my first interactions with a new coworker (whether a boss or peer), I try to tap my inner introvert. I want to spend more time listening and learning about the new person and making sure I am doing whatever I can to make sure the onboarding process flows as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.
And finally, we can’t forget about management style. How does he or she typically manage people, processes, and projects? It’s good to talk about management style early so you can adapt, if need be, to avoid any surprises a few months down the road.
Adjusting to a new boss can be both exciting and stressful. But, I know one thing for sure: a little prep and open communication on my part will go a long way toward reducing the stress and helping me positively manage our working relationship.
And this way I won’t have to do any yelling. I have people skills!
Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (courtingyourcareer.wordpress.com).