GETTING A NEW MANAGER
Starting an important new relationship in a positive way
Are you getting a new manager? You may not have asked for it. You probably didn’t plan for it. Yet, like it or not, your current manager is leaving, and your new manager will be starting in a month. So, what’s going to happen now?
Does this mean that you’ll also have to change your job? Or is this a good opportunity to make a great first impression, and potentially change the direction of your career?
Many people in this situation limit their thinking to what has changed about themselves – which, in this case, is nothing. However, a new manager may have different opinions, different policies, and even a different management style. The situation has now changed: if you simply keep doing what you did before, you’re not facing reality.
This was very much the case for Anne. Anne had worked with her existing manager for eight years. They got on well, and had an effective working relationship. At a team meeting Anne’s manager announced that her husband had a new job, which meant relocation and she would be leaving in two months time. She was excited, she said as it gave her the opportunity to retrain. Anne told me, that she had sat there, and whilst feigning excitement for her manager, inside the feeling of dread had already started to grow. She said she felt physically ill.
We reflected over a couple of coaching sessions what this would mean for Anne. Anne realised that this could be an opportunity for her to make a first impression (this is one of the rare times that this possibility exists). But she wasn’t sure how best to do this or how to act.
SO, WHO IS THIS NEW MANAGER?
In some cases, your new manager may be a new hire. However, you are also new to your new manager and this is important to remember – they will very little about you and you will have to work to make a positive impression; and you have to be supportive, and prove yourself.
In this case, how well Anne had worked with her current line manager was irrelevant. It was up to Anne to build a relationship with her new manager. Things would in all probability be different, so Anne had to expect to change the way she worked; and expect to experience a three-month adjustment period, during which both she and her new manager would both ‘settle in’ and get used to each other.
WHAT IS THE NEW MANAGER’S BACKGROUND
Anne’s new manager was coming from retail, however, in many organisations the new manager may have been promoted from within the team or from elsewhere in the organisation. Anne and I reflected on three possibilities:
- Her new manager may understand that he or she doesn’t really know the work Anne did,
so the new manager may look to Anne for help
- Anne’s new manager may think he or she knows what Anne does, but doesn’t
This person will need Anne’s help, but doesn’t know it. Anne’s goal in this scenario
was to educate tactfully, considerately, and sufficiently
- Anne’s new manager may know what Anne does, so Anne can focus
on the other aspects of building her working relationship.
Even if Anne’s new manager does know what Anne does, this did not necessarily mean that Anne would or indeed should interact with this person the same way she did with her previous line manager.
We considered the scenario that Anne’s former line manager may have known exactly what to do in all situations, because she had done Anne’s job before she was recruited. Anne’s new line manager may have a more general management background. He or she may not have detailed knowledge that Anne can use to check her work, or may not be able to offer advice on specific topics (this can be particularly true if you have a technical role). On the other hand, we discussed, this could be a significant opportunity for Anne to accept a new level of autonomy and responsibility – and get great career experience!
MAKING THE RELATIONSHIP WORK
An important step for Anne, in managing the relationship with her new line manager was to accept it. Whatever Anne may have thought about other candidates for the job (including, perhaps, herself), Anne had to face the reality that a choice had been made, and Anne would have to work with this person. (In Anne’s case she had competed for the job, and had to build her resilience and get over her disappointment of not being appointed herself; if Anne did not do this she would be setting herself up for failure.)
Another important consideration for Anne was to remember that some parts of this situation did not apply equally. She had one relationship to manage with her new line manager however, her new line manager had several relationships to manage with all team members. However, Anne’s relationship had to be a top priority for her. Anne also needed to remember that her new line manager was also the ‘gatekeeper’, with the ability to allow her – or deny her – access to a number of things that could impact on her job satisfaction.
Anne also needed to achieve a balance. On the one hand it was important that she was helpful, but on the other hand she did not want to appear too eager. We discussed how Anne may achieve this and a strategy Anne felt she could work with was to offer help and then assess how that helped was received, and ask for feedback to strengthen the relationship.
HELPING YOUR NEW MANAGER SUCCEED
As with all roles, it was also very likely that Anne’s new line manager would have probationary objectives set by their line manager, to assess competence etc, in role.
We reflected on what may be going through the mind of Anne’s new line manager and how Anne could make a positive impact:
BUILDING COMPETENCE AND LEARNING THE NEW ROLE
This includes dealing with information overload and creating a learning plan.
LEARNING ABOUT AND UNDERSTANDING THE TEAM MEMBERS
This means not only getting to know them, but also working out who the key players are.
CREATING QUICK WINS TO ESTABLISH CREDIBILITY
Credibility also means focusing on results that are important to the new manager’s manager, and linking tangible results with longer-term business goals.
NECESSARY CONVERSATIONS WITH YOUR NEW MANAGER
Shortly before the new manager took up their appointment we developed a checklist of what Anne and her new manager should understand and agree upon as they got to know each other. These conversations could range from informal chats to formal meetings. Anne accepted that she would need to use a range of intuitive factors namely: common sense, individual preferences, and mutual availability as her guiding factors.
DETERMINE HOW HER MANAGER VIEWS THE CURRENT SITUATION
Anne needed to be empathetic and understand how her new manager sees things. For example, did Anne’s new manager think that the objective is to maintain a currently strong position or turn around declining performance? Anne may not agree on every point, but at least she would know.
LEARN WHAT HER MANAGER’S EXPECTATIONS ARE
What did Anne’s new manager want from her now and in the longer-term future? How would Anne’s success be measured? If Anne understood what would help her new manager succeed (see above), this would help Anne relate to his or her expectations, while making sure that what’s asked of her was still realistic.
UNDERSTAND HER NEW MANAGER’S STYLE
What Anne does is important, but so is how Anne does it. Anne has a preferred way of working, and so does her new manager. It was important for Anne to seek to understand how her manager likes to operate, and show him or her how she likes to operate. This will lead to a better chance of achieving more together – and a better chance that both careers will benefit.
For an inspirational story on building relationships, se Katy Hutchinson’s talk:
Developing a Positive Relationship
DETERMINE WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE
Anne felt she needed more resources; Anne needed to be open about this and explain what the benefits would be if more resources were available.
ESTABLISH OPPORTUNITIES FOR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
This was a mutually beneficial opportunity. Anne considered how she could ask how she could contribute to particular activities that would also help her career development.
I suggested to Anne she use a reflective diary to map the discussions to then choose an opportune time to start a discussion about personal development.
When you get a new manager, you’ll both go through an adjustment period, usually of about three months. This period is important for you, because it’s an opportunity to build a strong and positive relationship with your new manager. Depending on your manager’s profile and background, you may need to educate him or her on many things, including your own role in the organisation. Follow our tips to succeed with your manager – and you’ll help your manager succeed as well.