You’ve just moved to a new position, or perhaps a new boss has just come on board. The change, no matter how smooth the transition, is disruptive. A critical step in leadership development is establishing a good relationship with your boss. You want the new boss to understand how you lead your team, what your team does, and what challenges you face. How do you get this new relationship off to a good start?
The first step is to schedule time to discuss expectations with your new boss. This can be difficult. In fact, one of the most common problems I see while coaching leaders is not making time to talk, even briefly, with a new boss. At this meeting, make sure you completely understand what your boss wants you to do, Ask what she is graded on or what success means to her. If you have completed your own Leader’s Compass, this would be a good time to share that. It might help start a conversation about her philosophy.
Take notes. Yes, it will impress the boss, but that’s not the reason. The notes will allow you to look back on that initial conversation to clarify the questions which will arise. That isn’t to say the single meeting will be the only time you need to ask questions, but your notes will provide a memory jogger, especially concerning your general impressions.
As you build a relationship with the new boss, keep in mind what he told you. You should periodically review your notes from that first meeting. Beyond that, here are some general rules any boss will appreciate. It’s good to remember them as you build a relationship with your new boss.
1. Your boss probably expects you to deal with issues on your own so don’t come running to her with every little problem that arises. If you’ve seriously considered the situation and honestly don’t have a solution, or maybe you feel the solution is beyond your authority, then elevate it. However, the boss will appreciate it if you have suggested solutions as well. After all, isn’t that what you want from your own team?
2. Always provide the boss with honest input. Of course your input must also be well thought out and professionally presented. You want that from your team and you owe your boss the same courtesy.
3. Remember that you represent your area of responsibility. Your boss expects you to do so professionally and to the best of your ability. Your thoughts or criticism of other areas is seldom appropriate or appreciated. Conversely, when you have observed someone outside your area of responsibility doing something exceptional, don’t hesitate to mention it.
4. If you disagree with the boss, professionally and succinctly state your reasons. But, once he makes the decision, it is your job to execute it to the best of your ability.
5. Ask how often the boss wants to hear from you and in what way. You may already have requirements for reporting, but find out if she has additional requests. At the same time, find out how the boss wants you to communicate. Often email or a short note is sufficient just to let the boss know what you’re doing. If in doubt, ask. It’s important to develop an honest open communication channel with your boss early in the relationship.
Now that you’ve established a good relationship with your boss, how’s your relationship with your team?