January 15, 2013

New Boss, Old Headaches; Getting Management Transitions Right

For most employees, getting a new boss is not a good thing.  Just when they have the old boss “trained,” a new boss comes in on a mission to make an impact.  After all, if the new boss doesn’t change anything, why do you need a new boss…right?   

Change is the constant for most work places.  That includes a change in management.  Failure to properly transition in a new boss is a bad idea.  I have seen companies that purposefully leave new managers to find their own way, as if they must earn the respect of the people they will supervise.  Sure, it is up to the new manager to build the relationships necessary to transition from management to leadership.  (Management is when people follow because of external motivation like intimidation, threats and such; leadership happens when people follow because of internal motivators like buy-in, trust and respect.)  Whether you work for or supervise a new manager, you can ease the transition.  Check out the following recommendations: 

Prepare the employees for the change before the new manager starts work.  Nothing is worse than being a new manager and having to explain why you are there.  A smooth management transition starts before the new manager is in place.  Remember, the employees’ main concern is what the change means for them personally.  They already have their own answers to that question, which may or may not be accurate.  Start with the impacted employees in mind.

Explain the organization culture and history to the new manager.  Use key stories to convey what is important and why.New Boss

Express high and positive expectations for the new manager’s contributions to the Company.  This is an important step for managers of new managers.  A public endorsement of the new manager is like an official delegation of authority.  It tells the employees that you are behind the change, and it lends your credibility to the new manager for a while.  Employees can express high hopes for the new manager as well; it creates a positive environment for everyone.

Offer to help…and follow up.  Many new managers are afraid to get help, thinking it makes them look less capable.  Don’t waste valuable time and resources allowing a new manager to reinvent the latest wheel; get the new manager productive quickly, and be proactive with support.

Assign a mentor to the new manager.  This mentor should preferably be someone to whom the new manager does not report directly; perhaps a peer in another department.  Set a time limit on the assignment (3 to 6 months), and set specific goals for the mentor (e.g., one lunch per week, or involve the new manager in a cross-functional initiative). 

These steps are important for internal promotions as well as external hires into management.  Great careers start with getting off on the right foot.

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