New Bosses—What About Your People?

Over the years, I have watched a lot of people get promoted into management roles, or I have hired people into senior management.  In almost every case I have seen two contrasting sets of emotions.

First is the general excitement about the new position.  People want to make a difference and they have a lot of ideas about how they are going to move their department or the company forward.  Second, there is a certain amount of anxiety because they wonder if they are going to be able to deliver what they promised. These two emotions are obviously about just them, the new boss, but they miss the boat when they don’t think about the repercussions of their new role on everyone else.What I want to talk about are the people who will now be working for you—their state of mind.

To be successful you need to take into account how they are feeling:
•    Are they both excited and anxious or are they just stressing out?
•    Were they happy the way things were and don’t see any reason for changes?
•    Did any of them hope to get your job?
•    Will any of them actually feel comfortable enough to tell you how they “really” feel?

Let’s be honest. The people who are now working for you are going through their own hell.  They are in unknown territory, which makes a person insecure, and no one is happy to be in that place.  They try to talk themselves into believing everything will be okay, but in truth they fear you will either fire them or make their life so miserable they will probably need to leave.  I realize I am exaggerating a bit but don’t kid yourself. These feelings are real and will affect each person’s ability to work. So what can you do to help them through this extremely difficult time to regain their footing?

Four Simple Steps to be a Better New Boss

STEP 1: Get interviewed by your new employees
In the Harvard Business Review Blog Priscilla Claman, President of Career Strategies, states that when someone gets a new boss they should take the initiative and set up an interview with them and get themselves hired again.  Take this suggestion but turn the tables and have your employees interview you. Through the interview process allow them the opportunity to ask you questions that would determine if they would hire you as their boss.  You’ll gain immediate insights on what is important to them in a manager. As in all interviews, ask questions of them as well to understand their perspective on the role you are filling and the culture you will be working in.  A great one to start with is, “What do they feel would make a person successful in this position.”

STEP 2: Learn before you lead
Once the interviews are completed, go out of your way to understand exactly what everyone is doing.  Park your ego for a second—don’t criticize, don’t judge and don’t be afraid to let them know when you have no clue what they are doing and why.  Be a completely objective observer.  Remember your people didn’t ask for this change and they probably believe they are doing a good job.  They do not want to hear how smart you are and how you are hear to solve their problems.  What they want to hear and see is that you want to understand what they do on an individual level.

STEP 3: Give them their moment in the sun
Next, let your people have a few wins early on. This allows them to regain their stride and they will start feeling better about their job and you.  A happy employee performs at a higher level.  Don’t forget to give them credit publicly. When you share your employee and team successes the goodwill spreads exponentially.

STEP 4: Tell them, Tell them again, Tell them again
Lastly, over-communicate.  Let your people know your expectations, your vision, your dreams, your fears and what you don’t understand. Humanize yourself and don’t put yourself on a pedestal—they cannot connect with you there. In the end, you need them to help you get where you want to go. But they can’t do it if you don’t tell them where you are going and empower them to help you get there.

Congratulations on your new job, the fun is just beginning.

By, Greg Thiesen, President and CEO, Red Book Solutions and B2A – Over 30 years of experience in various areas – President and CEO of  Red Book Solutions and B2A, Turnaround Specialist with Doering and Eastwood, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Information Officer for a major division of Conagra, Inc. and Senior Manager and a Certified Public Accountant with Ernst and Young


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