I’m not sure which is harder: becoming a new boss or getting a new boss. I’ve talked with plenty of folks in both positions. Neither is a slam dunk. Becoming a new boss means many pairs of eyes are on you, scrutinizing your every word and action. Getting a new boss means that every routine and expectation you had about work is now subject to change, perhaps even whether you still have a job. Most of what I write in these articles is aimed at the leaders, the bosses. This time, I’m going to focus on the leaders who are followers—those who get the new boss. Here are 9 tips to help in this scenario:
What methods and styles of communication does your boss prefer? Email? Phone calls? If you’re in the same building, face-to-face? How often? What level of depth and detail? How does your boss feel about instant messaging tools? So much of our success together depends on how we communicate and the content of those messages. Communication is a critical piece that needs to be figured out right away.
2. Skills and Talents
What are your bosses strengths? What is it that they are good at? This will likely be a focus of attention for measuring your own contribution to the team. What has your boss done that they are proud of? This, too, will give you insight into what is valued on this team.
Where does your boss need help? What are the gaps in knowledge, skill, or experience? Can you and others on the team help fill those gaps? Finding answers to these questions might be difficult. Sadly, most leaders have difficulty articulating their weaknesses. Even if they know what they are, they are often afraid to voice them. Go slow here. It is not likely a subject you can address directly.
What are the annoyances and pet peeves? What is likely to frustrate or push your boss into a bad mood (or worse)? Once you uncover these quirks (and this, too, might take time to discover indirectly), take care to analyze what this tells you about that person’s values.
What are their personal interests and hobbies? What do they like to do in spare time? What do the family vacations look like? Is your boss pursuing a passion? Effective working relationships are more than just business. Good relationships depend on knowing something about one another beyond work and showing an interest in one another’s cares.
6. Old vs New
This point is less about your new boss and more about how you think about your new boss: Try not to compare him with your previous boss. It’s a given that they are very different people. Avoid thinking that one is good and the other bad, or one is better and the other worse. Instead, think, “different.” They are just two different people with two different sets of skills, abilities, and philosophies. A sign of good leadership is being flexible and adaptive. Be a leader. Be flexible and adaptive in evaluating your new boss.
It can take months until you find the “groove” in working with your new boss. There will be starts and stops in the beginning. There will be mistakes and opportunities to learn (a lot) in the first several weeks. Give it time. You’ll both settle into a rhythm that hopefully facilitates effective work and mutual trust.
8. Explain Yourself
Help your boss understand your own strengths, talents, weaknesses, and concerns. Help them understand what you bring to the team and where you need help. A good boss (a good leader) will want and request this information. If your new boss hasn’t initiated this conversation, you may need to create a setting for this to occur: “We’ve been working together for a few months now. I’d like to get your feedback on how it’s going.” Such a conversation will be a good time to explore this.
The most important thing you can do for your new boss is pray. (In fact, your boss doesn’t need to be new to benefit from prayer.) In the end, your boss is no different than you–another sinner trying to navigate their way through a fallen world. Many of our frustrations with others, bosses included, are because we don’t truly understand the pressures and expectations placed upon them. Be gracious. Pray that God will guide them to be good stewards of their responsibilities (including you).
The summary for all 9 of these tips is captured in just three words:
If you focus your attention on these dynamics, you won’t solve every problem, nor will your work relationship be guaranteed to be a great one. You will, though, do a lot to encourage a successful and rewarding experience for both you and your new boss.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
Photo by John December. Available at Flickr.com.