Senior Editor Tanisha A. Sykes gives some candid advice on how to click with your new leader from the beginning.
Many moons ago, I was a young whipper snapper who flurried around the office just happy to be there. One big reason for my jubilation was the relationship I had with my boss. From the beginning, she believed in me, boosted my confidence, gave me company scoop and fought to get me hired as a full-time copy editor. I was in love—literally, unbeknownst to her. Then one fine day, she uttered the words: "I'm leaving..." I thought leaving to go where, to do what, with whom? My heart started pounding, my stomach did flip flops and I was left in a daze. I finally spoke: "Leaving to go where?" Wow, she was moving on after the next closing of an issue, with two weeks before she would exit, stage left. I immediately felt like the loser girlfriend being dumped by the dude I was madly in love with (ok, that happened too, but in college on V-Day, screw you MH). So I responded like any hurt, impressionable, careerist would: "What am I supposed to do?" Her leaving was an assault on my growth, my level of comfort on the job, and potentially my career choices. Whoa, whoa, whoa, backup twisted sister. Did I just say that someone else's fate was interwoven with my career path? Yes, I did, so after my boss left, and the new one came, I proceeded to act like a stuck-up, conceited stink starter (my gmom's word for busy bodies who need to stop startin s*@t and then ducking for cover) who ruled the place. Needless to say, it almost got my black ass fired. For real yaw, and believe me, I just knew I was a Queen B up in there. So, here are some hard and fast rules when a new sheriff comes to town, provided you give a damn about your job:
Meet with the new boss immediately. One study says it only takes 30 seconds for a new boss to decide whether she likes you or not. Explain what you do, your value to the company and how you can be of service. When asked about the challenges you face in the company, don't sugar coat, but come ready with solutions. Remember, it's not a gripe fest. It's a chance for the new boss to gather intel and get to know her team.
Present your responsibilities. When you are a new leader, you want to know who is on your team and the skill set they bring to the table. Provide a listing of your overall duties, special projects with updates, administrative functions that you handle, and anything else that would be helpful to the boss. You never want to be seen as invaluable, so don't give a measly paragraph, but don't offer up five pages either. Give just enough to make them ask for more.
Be prepared to answer all questions. New bosses ask about everything from the culture of the company to who should be promoted to why they should keep you. Be ready and willing to answer the questions honestly without going down some crazy random road or telling your life story. They want to see how you think and how you communicate.
Ask the new boss how she likes to communicate. I actually did this when our new editor came on board and it worked like a charm. I was told to write brief memos initially, then we would transition to email correspondence once the boss was accustomed to our internal system.
Be an asset, not an ass. Ok, I was the latter when my new boss came. I thought I was so much smarter than him. It got me a horrible review and the entire company saw me as difficult. Lesson learned. Now? I offer quality intel, check-in often and follow-up quickly so that bosses know I am on their team from the get-go.