I’ve formally changed roles 11 times in the last 10 years and been moved as part of changes in organization so many more than that. What does this mean? I’ve had to adapt to a lot of new bosses over the years. You might say I’m more experienced at new bosses and new teams than at the technology space I work in. Over the years I’ve found three things that really help get the new-boss relationship off on the correct foot. These work great for me and I know they will work great for you too.

So, let’s go.

Tip #1: Continue Delivering

Most of the time you get a new boss as the result of a reorganization of the group you are working in. The result for you is that you’re working with someone you didn’t choose and who may or may not know anything about you, what you do, your team, or what they do. The most important thing to do in this case is to keep the lights on and the doors open. You know your space, you know your job, and if you haven’t been clearly yanked out of the old job, continue delivering. This is exceptionally helpful for your new boss. In the absence of direction, keep going on the prior mission.

“The most important thing to do when you get a new boss is to continue delivering on the prior mission until told otherwise”
~Jeffrey Kelly

Tip #2: Get a 1/1 As Soon As Possible

This is a really, really important tip. You have the following goals in a first 1/1 with your new boss. Be sure to ask questions, be engaging, represent who you are, and be flexible.

  1. Get an understanding for who they are.
    –> Watch, listen, observe.
  2. Get an understanding for how they work
    –> For example: How do you want me to make you aware of important issues or roadblocks? Do you typically setup team meetings and one on one’s with the team?
  3. Get an understanding for what he or she wants from you. But, don’t be surprised if they have no idea (See item #1: Continue Delivering)
    –> For example: Any suggestions for me as we start to work together? How can I help you the most as we go through this change? Do you have any quick changes you want to make to the team or my role? What are the biggest opportunities you see for this team?
  4. Start to build a relationship. People like people that they like. Don’t ignore this area… get going right from the start.
    –> For example: Do you have kids? Did you grow up in the area? What do you like to do away from work? Any plans away from work this weekend?
    –> Then you need to genuinely remember and continue to build the relationship the next time you talk.

There is a ton of information on the web providing ideas for building the relationship with your boss in a really positive and productive way. Google is your friend here, as are the following:

Tip #3: Adapt to Their Communication Needs

Different people prefer to communicate differently. Your new boss will really appreciate it if you come to them, at least at the beginning. Some things to cover are:

  • How to provide status and how often
  • How to raise significant risks or issues they may hear about elsewhere (you don’t want them to be surprised)
  • How to start the career management conversation
  • Get their cell phone number in to your phone and visa versa
  • What methods does the person prefer in different situations (voice, text, chat, email, carrier pigeon, potato, etc)

The only way you will find this stuff out is by communicating, either by 1/1, or email, or random in-person conversation. Make sure to get going on this ASAP.

Overall you will see that these three tips really put you in a proactive position in the relationship with your new boss. This is exactly where you want to be! It is your career. It is your teams’ work. It is your boss’s happiness and success. And, they all play a part in your success.


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