Monday, September 29, 2008

10 Ways to Get Off on the Right Foot with Your New Manager

A fellow blogger emailed me and a few other leadership development bloggers with the following request:

Nicholas, Rowan, Michael, Dan, Kurt: I'm going to be reporting to a new VP imminently. I think this would be a good topic for your outstanding blogs. How to get off on the right foot with a new boss. They will be coming into a new organization and I've been there 7 years.

What to look out for?
How to be?
Information they are entitled to from me.
Information that I'm going to need from them?
Tips for beginning a positive and stable (and long) working relationship?

It think the topic is perfect for each of you and your respective sites and I and many others will benefit.

How about it guys? Thanks much, Doug

Actually, the timing was really good. I've been thinking about this very topic lately, and had a few ideas swirling around in my head. I'm going to assume that the new manager is a good, competent leader, and not a "boss" (double SOB spelled backwards). If not, than I'd have to come up with an entirely different "How to work for a jerk" list, and there's already plenty of those around.

So here goes:

10 Ways to Get Off on the Right Foot with Your New Manager:

1. Be good. That would have to be #1, be really good at what you do. Good leaders have a knack for sizing their new teams up within the first few weeks, and if you're good at what you do, they'll pick up on it.

2. Be proactive about introducing yourself to your new manager. If possible, send a resume ahead of time. Provide a summary of your responsibilities, the projects you're working on, your development plan, and any other information that may not be in your official employee file. And even it you think it may be, provide it anyway.

3. Behaviors that are appreciated by most new managers: enthusiasm, optimism, curiosity, initiative, and good judgement. Behaviors that are frowned upon by a new manager: cynicism, whining, finger-pointing, skepticism, and acting like a know-it-all.

4. Clarifying expectations are critical. Find out what your new manager expects from you, and employees in general. Be prepared to talk about what you expect from your manager, in case you're asked. But only if asked. If you're not asked, that's usually not a good sign.

5. Help your new manager learn. Be proactive, anticipate what they need to know and provide it at the appropriate time. Be patient. If your manager doesn't seem interested in learning, then again, that's a red flag. The best new leaders spend their first three months doing hardly anything but asking questions and listening.

6. Try to minimize how many times you say "we tried that before and it didn't work".

7. Be VERY open to change. Listen. don't listen to evaluate, listen for possibilities. Chances are there's a reason a new manager was brought it, don't come across as part of the problem. And maybe you are, but show a willingness and ability to adapt and change.

8. Learn about your new manager. Respectfully ask for a resume or bio. Find out about leadership style, or philosophy. Ask questions about interests, hobbies, family, etc... Show an interest in getting to know him/her, and offer information in return. Being vulnerable is the first step to building trust and a relationship. Play it by ear, don't offer too much too early (TMI), but be prepared to reciprocate.

9. Watch your manager's back. Assume you already have a positive and stable working relationship, and act that way. Assume anything you say about your new boss will get back to them or end up on the company intranet front page the next day. Be an ally.

1o. However..... don't be a blatant suck-up. What's the difference? A good leader usually knows the difference between sucking up and basic courtesy and competence.

For those that you that are self-destructive, here's 5 ways to get off on the wrong foot with your new manager:

1. Assume your new manager is incompetent, evil, and untrustworthy. Make them EARN your respect and trust.

2. Keep your head down and your mouth shut. Your new manager should learn the hard way, just like you did. Keep a low profile. Speak only when spoken too, and offer only the bare minimum of information. Experience is the best teacher, and we all learn by our mistakes.

3. Your job is to help your new manager learn the ropes and assimilate to the Acme way of doing things. Be a role model for conformity. It'll feel like you're breaking a wild horse for a while, but hang in there, they all come around eventually.

4. You know all of those grievances, grudges, and complaints you've been storing up? All of those things things your previous manager wouldn't listen to? Well, here's your big chance! Take the whole damn list with your for your very first meeting. Even better if you come in as the "spokesperson" for your team, your manager will respect your budding leadership potential.

5. Remember, your best chance at success and climbing the old ladder is doing everything you can to sabotage your new boss. The dumber your new manager looks the smarter you'll look. Don't miss an opportunity to correct or disagree with your manager, publicly, or even better, behind their back.

Oh, and by the way... if you're going to follow this advice, be sure to get the contact information for your old manager, you're going to be needing a new job soon.

Hope this helps, and good luck!


CherryPie said...

And there was I thinking the manager had to get the best out of his staff ;-)

Dan McCarthy said...

cherrypie -
Thanks for stopping by!
You're right, a manager does. I was responding to Doug’s request for advice on what HE could do.

James Higham said...

Thanks - I'll take some of that into the interview.

Miki said...

Hi Dan, great points, but if it's too much to remember Doug can always use the short version and treat his manager the way he wants to be treated.

This works especially well for speeding up recognition of managerial and cultural compatibility—or not.

Dan McCarthy said...

Miki -
Thanks, I love the short version!