You’re getting a new boss.
Do you understand their expectations? How do you build a relationship with them? How do you get on with a manager when you feel they dislike you?
In any workplace, your relationship with your boss is crucial. A healthy relationship with your manager is key to boosting performance, increasing efficiency and reducing workplace stress.
In their survey, Gallup found that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units.
As a member of your tribe, your leader is an incredibly influential person in terms of your ability to perform in your current role and your overall career. Why not set the relationship up for success and proactively onboard your boss?
Here are my top tips on how to work with your new leader.
#1 The First Meeting and Managing Expectations
Organise a meeting with your new manager as early as possible and use the time to initiate some key topics of conversation. It doesn’t have to be super formal, this is about starting the conversation of how you’re going to work together.
First, establish what is important to your boss – their priorities, areas of focus, big-ticket agenda items, vision, and strategy.
I remember years ago, when I was working as a performance and productivity consultant, one of my senior clients said to me ‘My boss just doesn’t understand my priorities.’ No wonder they weren’t working well together.
You need to align your priorities with those of your boss, not the other way around. Understand your boss’s priorities, and then figure out what your priorities are in relation to theirs.
Understand your boss’s expectations
Next, find out what your boss expects of you. In some cases, this may be a difficult conversation. It’s also one that sets the parameters by which your future achievements will be measured.
Here are a few of the questions you might consider asking your boss during this first meeting:
Your goal is to get insight into their vision and strategy so that you can understand how you, as a member of the team, contribute to that.
This conversation should also address logistics such as communication and reporting. I hear people say too often that they have no idea how their boss wants to receive information. So ask how often your new boss wants updates and in what form – do they want a report, a 10-minute chat or an email?
It may sound basic, and it is, but if you’ve never actually talked about these things, you could be doing something and it’s totally not what your boss wants
#2 What you need from your boss
Share your expectations of their leadership
Part of setting expectations is outlining what you expect of your manager. You need to be clear about what you need from them as a leader. Let them know how you want to communicate with them, where you would like autonomy and how you will ask for help when you need it.
They may not agree with everything. That’s OK because now you can negotiate and find ways to work together. If you don’t have this conversation, you aren’t setting yourself up for success.
This is also an opportunity to set clear ground rules around one-on-ones between the two of you – how often you will meet and what will be discussed. One-on-ones are essential to maintaining a healthy ongoing relationship between a boss and a direct report. These regular meetings are an opportunity for a leader to check in with their team member, provide mentorship and opportunities for development, as well as sharing feedback, wins and lessons.
Sadly, I am still hearing of one-on-ones that are regularly canceled or avoided altogether – both of these scenarios are a red flag.
The message that sends is that ‘I’m not important enough to my boss.’ If you’re in a role where you have responsibility for people, part of that responsibility is to spend time with them… How well are they going to perform if they don’t feel valued by their boss? They’re not. There are some individuals who are completely self-motivated and really diligent, but for most of us, we do want that acknowledgment. We want to feel like we are valued by our immediate leader.
So establish your one-on-one time with your new boss early on.
Part of establishing a positive relationship with your manager is letting them know your achievements. Don’t automatically assume that your boss recognises your success. Be clear about what is going well and what needs more work. Share your wins and lessons on a regular basis.
By being proactive about this, firstly you’re making sure your boss knows what you’re doing, and if they need to refocus you, they can. You’re also giving them information by which they can measure the progress that you’re making.
#3 When things go wrong
If your relationship with a new boss gets off to a bad start, I suggest revisiting it as quickly as you can. Be open about it. For example, ‘let’s acknowledge that maybe it’s not going the way that either of us would have liked it.’ Then see what you can do to reset your expectations of each other in order to be more effective in future.
It doesn’t mean that you need to be best friends. Instead, focus on creating the opportunity for the two of you to perform as well as you can by understanding how you can work more effectively together.
Your boss can be an integral part of your success. It won’t just happen though. You need to put the effort in to get the outcomes that matter to you. Remember it’s never too late to onboard your boss.
I’d love to know your thoughts.
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