Most people have probably changed bosses a few times during their career. I’m part of those who find it exciting and interesting to get a new boss. I paint bright pictures of how they will sweep into the office, smile, introduce themselves, and transmit their energy and charisma to the team within ten minutes of our first meeting.
That may be one reason why people still see me as overly optimistic, and sometimes naïve. Because how often does this actually happen? Most people are just people, and even if they do become managers during their career they do not necessarily possess the charisma of an engaging world leader.
But, if you are not the charismatic leader you would like to be, there are still things you can do, and some things you can try to avoid, to help the team welcome you and appreciate you as their new manager.
I have a few examples of this retold from my connections’ stories:
The first one is about a person who was nominated for a position in a company known for its touchy relationship with unions and a not too motivated group or employees. Once the nomination was official, he decided to take a one-day tour of the company, both to introduce himself and meet the teams and unions, his future co-workers. As he didn’t know the details of the business, he invited everyone to present the key subjects they were working on. He was open with everyone about his intention to listen and analyse the information, and then discuss the company’s situation with the leaving manager to avoid any sudden disruptions in the ways things worked. This allowed both him, and the co-workers, to gain mutual trust and appreciation from the start, and begin a positive transformation of the company.
The second example is of a manager who was nominated in a company where the employee satisfaction was relatively low, and there was considerable mistrust within the teams. He waited until the first day of his mandate to do a one-man presentation about himself in front of the staff. However, rumour had preceded him, and people were already wary of his arrival, doubting his ability to drive change. At the end of the speech, he let the audience know that he intended to meet up with the different teams during the coming weeks. However, the team introduction round was interrupted, and many never saw the new manager other than at critical work meetings. Needless to say, this manager experienced a much more difficult task in gaining the trust and appreciation of his co-workers to achieve a positive environment for change.
Here are a few thoughts on what can be drawn from these, albeit simplified, scenarios.
As soon as you can speak with the teams about your arrival, or your departure if that is the case, make sure you do. That doesn’t mean that the departing manager is no longer the manager until the handover date, it means that he or she trusts employees with information that concerns them.
Firstly, you gain in credibility by not hiding information. Transparency, when well managed, is part of good leadership. Secondly, rumours spread quickly, and most people listen to them whether you like it or not. Rumours also make people uncertain and wary. Take the chance to precede rumours by sending a positive message on the change in management; it will save a lot of time trying to fix things once negative ideas or wariness take hold of the general “corridor” discussion.
Do it together, with both the arriving and the departing manager if that is possible (it is always reassuring to see that the person who comes in is respected by the one who leaves, and vice versa). If your predecessor or successor is a grumpy punk, then so be it, but make sure you go at least halfway, you don’t have very much to lose here.
Why should you not wait until the first day of your new job? Well, if it is on Monday next week, why not. But if the wait is longer, you can be sure that the wildfire of rumours will help spread the message before anything is made official.
This may sound like silly things to do. Some people I have talked to have heard comments like: “People are grown ups, they can wait until I begin” and “Why should this matter, the teams have their tasks to carry out anyway.” Sure, but regardless of age and experience, people appreciate having access to information, they appreciate attention, and they are therefore, most of the time, more than happy to share information about themselves and their work with the new manager early on. And think about it: if they can do their job without a manager, or the manager doesn’t impact their work one bit, then maybe they don’t really need one?
We have all heard about the window of opportunity of “the first ninety days”, the time period you have to prove your worth in a new position. There is no reason why you shouldn’t increase the chances of giving those first ninety days a positive outcome. It may change the reply when people get the question “So, what is the new boss like?”
– And if you still want to add some charisma to those other things, here are a few tips from Forbes.