Navigating New Boss Dynamics

People don’t leave companies, they leave their managers. Or so the saying goes. And yet that is not always an option.

What makes it worse at times is that sometimes a peer gets that dream role that you wanted. Or someone more junior gets what you thought was rightfully your next move. or maybe you get a boss from another company whom you feel is not the right fit for the role.

Feeling disappointed, frustrated or even pure baffled are common responses to the situation.

But common as they might be, they are not super helpful. Fact is, a decision has been made and now you need to make things work.

Recently an executive coaching client of mine was faced with the same situation during a corporate re-org. And once we had done the work of processing the understandable feelings & a post-mortem on the range of reasons why the selection process may have played out the way it did, we then turned frustration to acceptance and asked

How can we set a new dynamic for this relationship ?

Here were some talking points I suggested he take up in the first meeting:

Establish a sense of genuine camaraderie to the extent possible. Helping someone new feel like the team has their back is a great way to open the door to a productive relationship.

  1. Ask that this new boss would consider as markers of success – short and long term. Go with your suggestions and why those should be the metrics he or she should care about. This question has the added benefit of you understanding how the new incumbent views the world around him or her.
  2. Ask about the apprehension and fears of this person about this role and the future of the task that lies ahead.ย  This allows an opportunity for an authentic connection. I can not begin to tell you the amount of times newly promoted people feel the strain of the demand of the role but they dare not admit to anyone else. Leadership can be a very lonely place where people often have to portray an image without the luxury to reveal their true strain and stressors. Ask so you can find ways of supporting them.
  3. Be real and be realistic: The incumbent may not fully grasp the realities of the organization or its dynamics. It take a while to understand the landscape, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and resource availability or constraint of a function. By being helpful with this information you can be a trusted ally.
  4. Resource discussion: Once you understand what he or she is after, be willing to ask for the resources needed or the constraints/challenge that you are navigating and ask for their support. Only when you point out challenges, also point out a few solutions so it does not look like you have not thought things through.

And a bonus idea:

Be open to any criticism that they may have about the current approach. A new person wants to add value quickly and in that vein they may end up being critical (sometimes overly) of the situation in front of them. Take it with a pinch of salt but pay attention to what they are noticing so that you understand their world view better.

Which of these questions do you think was most helpful and why ? And what other questions would you and to this? And just before you go…….

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