By Joyce E. A. Russell
Special to The Washington Post
— "The speed of the boss is the speed of the team." -- Lee Iacocca
It's been said that the average American will have 10 or more new bosses over the course of his or her career. That's quite a few adjustments that employees will have to make. Building a productive relationship with your new boss is critical and should be a top priority for you. Here are some tips that can help you adapt to your new boss.
Maybe your job is the same but a new boss was brought in. Whether he or she is great or not, having a new leader still requires some type of adjustment. Do they work at warp speed when you were used to working at a more normal or slower pace? Do they involve you in decisions when you were never involved before? Do they list high expectations for you when you never had goals given to you before?
Even if the new boss is someone you've known for a while, the move still changes things. You may have some anxiety and excitement about working with this person in this new role. It is natural that you may be making comparisons between the new boss and your previous boss to best figure out how you should respond and act. It's also tricky if the new boss was previously a peer or colleague and now he or she is your boss. You will have to figure out how to best manage those personal and work relationships. You will also have to understand that now there will be confidential information your boss cannot share with you.
Regardless of what type of boss you now have, there are new opportunities for you. In general, here are some tips for working for a new boss.
Set up a one-on-one meeting as early as possible to learn more about him or her.
Determine your boss's priorities, goals and metrics to use to evaluate success. In this meeting, make sure to give a little background about yourself and your role in the organization. Your boss may not have had time to learn about what you do and your background.
Clarify expectations on your job so the boss knows what is reasonable or realistic. Don't make assumptions — get clarity on what is required or needed.
Secure a commitment to resources you might need to be successful in your job.
Find out what his/her work style is like. For example, does your boss come into the office early, or stay late, or do both? Does the boss like to be updated via phone calls, face-to-face meetings, or email? How often does he/she want to be updated? Does the boss like getting an overview or strategic view of the issues and projects or does he or she want detailed specifics? What type of decisions does the boss want to be involved in?
Identify your new leader's style in terms of likes, dislikes, hot buttons and preferences.
Be open and flexible to your new boss's style. You must be willing to embrace some change. This is not only a new boss, but it is a new person.
Make a good impression. I am not talking about being a "brown-noser" or a "yes person" who just agrees with the new boss or strokes his/her ego with comments about how great he or she is. Rather, it is important to share your knowledge and organizational insights with your new boss. Be careful not to just pile on the flattery. Be genuine.
Help your boss to be successful. This is critical for a new boss. Help him/her get up-to-speed on the organization. It will be appreciated. At the same time, remember that your boss is the leader. So, while you might offer help, you don't need to step in to take over.
Anticipate your new boss's needs. Show initiative and ask the boss how you can help. Go beyond the call of duty.
Stay positive and enthusiastic. This can have an impact on having everyone around you have a positive outlook.
Watch what you say about colleagues. It is not a good idea to say negative things about your co-workers or other employees. Be careful about making comparisons (even positive ones) between your new boss and the previous boss.
Find out who the boss admires and is influenced by. Make sure to develop good relationships with those folks as well.
Keep a "new boss list of questions or information" to share with him/her throughout the day. Use those short snippets of time to ask questions or share insights. Be organized in case you do not get larger blocks of time with him/her.
Get feedback. Set up a meeting within the first month or two to see how you are doing (from your boss's perspective).
Bring solutions to meetings, not just the problems.
Try to score some early wins and successes. Make sure to give them updates about what you are doing.
Remember, getting a new boss brings with it new opportunities. Use this time as a way to try out some things you have always wanted to do: Speak up in meetings, take on new projects, etc. Also, remember that it is an adjustment time for the new boss, too; so cut him/her some slack by giving time and space to adjust.
"No man goes before his time, unless the boss leaves early." -- Groucho Marx
Russell is the vice dean and the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management.