How to Impress Your New Boss
Picture this: You've just been parachuted from New York to the London office to start a new business for the firm. You know hardly anyone. Worse yet, even the most junior analyst probably knows more about the Euromarkets (your new focus area) than you do.
As a senior manager, you're expected to jump in, be credible and hit the ground running.
This was exactly the situation I found myself in.
Thankfully, I had help from unexpected quarters. There was Florence who helped me learn the nuances of the market. Tyrone who gave me the inside view of who I needed to get on board from the banking division. And Katherine who read over my client emails before pressing send so I wouldn’t accidentally offend a UK client with my American phrasing.
Florence, Tyrone and Katherine helped me make a successful start. But they were in the minority.
I was amazed at how many people simply waited for me to reach out to them. Whether they were assuming I was so senior that I didn’t need help, hoping I’d fail or just too busy to notice, they were missing out on an opportunity.
Because every new boss needs support to make a successful start.
Based on my experiences and having had my share of new bosses as well, here are three keys to success for onboarding your new boss in a way that’s mutually beneficial:
- Provide them with context
- Show up as someone they can trust
- Learn how they like to work
Provide them with the context they need
When someone starts a new role, and especially if it’s with a new organization, the one thing they’ll lack is the context. The lay of the land. Understanding the culture and how things work.
It’s like getting into an unfamiliar rental car and needing to locate the controls for the radio, headlights, air conditioning and windshield wipers. If someone can clue you in at the start, it’ll go much smoother.
There are two main kinds of context that every new boss needs. The first is related to the business. Like what the company’s priorities have been, what’s going well, where the big opportunities are, the key initiatives from top management and so forth.
One member of my Next Level Leadership coaching group even provides her new bosses with a document that contains the links to the most important documents they’ll need to run the business, and which to prioritize.
The second of kind of context is related to the people and processes. Every organization has its own processes for how decisions are made and how things get done. Since these are usually unwritten “rules”, your new boss will need help to avoid getting caught out by not knowing what might be a faux pas.
The way you talk about the context is important because it conveys something about you too. So, make sure you focus on the facts and avoid getting political. For example, if you’re able to speak fluently about the business results and priorities from a big picture perspective, your new boss will likely see you as someone who has a point of view and thinks strategically.
Which brings us to the next point.
Show up as someone they can trust
This starts with giving your new boss a clear understanding of who you are, the value you bring and how you conduct yourself.
Begin by getting clear on this yourself. How do you want to be known? What have you been working on and what do you bring to the party? And what can your new boss count on you for?
As you convey what they should know about you, you don’t have to do it all through telling. Some of this will come out in the way you have the conversation and what parts of the context you focus on.
Speaking honestly and not sharing gossip will show you are trustworthy. Talking about the big picture will show you are strategic. And having a grasp of the numbers will demonstrate you’re on top of your part of the business.
So be clear in your own mind what you want your new boss to know about you and find ways to express it. And when you talk about what you’re working on, choose the things that you’re excited about so you can authentically convey your enthusiasm for your work.
Whether you say things straight up – like “the way my team and I contribute to the group is X” or “you can count on us to provide the data you need”, or work it into the preamble – like “over the 10 years I’ve been at the company, the critical path to getting results has always been Y”, the most important thing is to be yourself.
Which brings us to the third part of onboarding your new boss.
Learn how they like to work
You’ll want to do this at two levels: the strategic and the human.
At a strategic level, you’ll want to find out what their mandate is. That is, what are they expected to achieve? What’s the mission they’ve been sent to carry out? This is crucial information. Without it, you won’t be able to help them achieve it.
It’s also useful to explore the extent to which they have formed a view on the direction they’d like to take the department and key priorities. This way, you’ll be able to figure out how you and your team can contribute.
In some cases, a new boss may not have clear answers yet, so be prepared in case they ask you what your thoughts are on the subject. And that’s another opportunity to add value, provide context and demonstrate you can look at the big picture.
Then there’s the human interaction level. This is about the way your new boss likes to be communicated with, whether that’s structured meetings, ad hoc conversations, emails, text messages or something else. And how they like to work with team members overall, including the types of things they want to be kept informed of and how often they want to meet.
You can also ask about what they value from their team members. This gives you the perfect window to talk about their expectations for you and what success looks like from their perspective.
As part of the conversation, you can reciprocate with sharing what’s important to you. For example, any pre-existing arrangements you’ve negotiated, like working half days on Fridays or “permissions” you’d like to give them, like giving you feedback in real time. You can also get permission from them to come back with ideas as they occur to you, or anything else you don’t want to feel funny about later.
I call this part of the conversation “good contracting upfront”. That means getting a mutual understanding of what’s expected, what’s okay and what’s not okay. Good contracting is a two-way street. You both need to agree.
But what if you’re in a different location than your new boss?
Being remote makes it even more important that you have these conversations with your new boss.
If they don’t reach out to you first, you can take charge and send them an email to welcome them and offer to update them by phone or video call. And if you can find a business reason to go to their location, all the better.
Just don’t make the mistake of cramming everything into one conversation
Relationships are built over time, especially ones based in trust. In fact, it’s better if you cover just one or two topics and take up less time per session. When you have something that takes just 5-10 minutes to convey and helps them be more successful, even the busiest person will have time for you. I know I would!
It’s in your interest to have your new boss get up to speed as quickly as possible
That way, they can be most effective in advocating for you and securing the resources and recognition you need.
As you onboard your new boss, remember to start with these three areas:
- Provide them with context – help them create their map of the organization and how things work so they can hit the ground running.
- Show up as someone they can trust – provide them with transparency on what they can expect from you and how they can best deploy your talents.
- Learn how they like to work – communicating and working together in a way that suits their style will make for a successful partnership.
Which of these areas would most help you with onboarding your new boss successfully?
Leave a comment and let me know.
For more strategies for developing a great relationship with your boss, check out the tips and trainings in Career Mastery™ on:
- How to Keep Your Boss Updated and Do It Well
- How to Manage Expectations From the Office While Working From Home
- How to Get Your Boss to Rate You Highly
- How to Manage Different Kinds of Bosses
- How to Be “No Surprises” With Your Boss
- and much more.
Great perspective to thrive in the corporate world!
Thanks Fathima and you’re right, these principles work even with an existing boss.
I’m just about to onboard a new manager and this article came in at the right time, thank you so much May, great insights!
Awesome, Rodrigues! Let me know how it goes.
Great article May!
Its super important that we do not cramp up lot of things a single time or in one conversation as you say.
On the third point, the human part is very important because if we know what type of a person our boss is, his/her communication style and priorities and the way he/she connects with people, would really help to have him/her settled with team quickly.