Preparing for You New Position – Phase One: Pre-Start

meeting your boss

If you could spend an hour with the next person to hold your current job, how could you use the time most effectively? What information (public or private) could you pass along to make the transition easier for your successor? What reports and other reading materials would you provide? What advice would you give about the best ways to deal with your boss……senior management in general…your key associates….your subordinates? What insider’s viewpoints could you give regarding the secret of how things really get done in your current organization, and how to watch out for pitfalls along the way?

Don’t you wish there were someone in your new organization who could do the same for you?

As a matter of fact, there are ways to collect large chunks (assuming that you have already found what you can via the web) of this information even before your scheduled start date. All you need to do is decide what information you need…..contact the right person(s)….and ask for it. Just about any information you request is available to you, except for:

  •  highly classified data, such as military projects, competitive secrets regarding product formulas or manufacturing processes, etc.;
  • information dealing with politically sensitive subjects due to power structure and “turf-protecting” situations;
  • information which your boss would prefer to withhold until you’ve officially joined the organization.

As you begin the systematic transition to your new job you’ll think of many kinds of information that can give you a head-start. The following list gives some basic data; you should be able to think of other items that will contribute to your Pre-Start education.

A.   The Organization

  1. All public documents such as annual and quarterly reports to stockholders; proxy statements; documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (Forms 10-k and 10-Q); public offerings (Form S-7); corporate profile or financial fact book; recent analyst research reports. (Most of these documents can be obtained through the Corporate Secretary’s office or Legal Department. or Web search.)
  2. Corporate and divisional publications including product/service brochures; catalogs and price lists; recent speeches by members of top management; capabilities presentations and scripts; recent “new business” proposals.
  3. Organization charts showing how the company is put together; names and titles of senior line and staff executives; the relationship of your function to the rest of the organization; reporting lines between you and top management. (Your boss should be able to furnish the organization data.)

B.   Your Department or Group

  1.  Plans and budgets that affect your job including descriptions of all projects and programs; dollar allocations per project; deadlines; staff allocations and time devoted to each area.
  2.  Departmental organization including position descriptions for all employees; recent performance appraisals of key people; detailed salary/bonus report for the current period; property and equipment assigned to your care; inventory reports; etc.

(Your boss should be able to supply this information, either formally or informally. If portions of the above do NOT exist – e.g., performance appraisals, position descriptions – you may want to put them among your first priorities after you assume control.)

 C.   Your Job

  1.  Position description including specific responsibilities, standards and deadlines; criteria for successful accomplishments of duties; salary history and position in pay grade; etc.
  2.  History of your predecessor including appraisals of performance and results; reasons for past successes and failures; areas of management satisfaction and dissatisfaction with working methods or results.

(There may be written information on this subject; otherwise, you’ll need to obtain verbal comments from your boss.)

Now that your imagination is stimulated, think of other materials or information you’d like to review before your scheduled start date.

Obtaining Advance Information

Since your contacts in the new organization are limited, your present sources of information are few: your boss, the Human Resources, your predecessor (if he/she is reachable and willing) and, possible, one or more members of your staff.

Perhaps your best strategy is to arrange a “pre-start” meeting with your boss, using a prepared agenda. (In fact, once the meeting is scheduled, it’s a good idea to send the agenda ahead of time, so your boss can review the items, assemble some of the requested materials, and add other topics for discussion.)

With this request you’re beginning a series of meetings with your boss – essential planning and “no surprises” sessions that will extend over the next three to six months. It’s important that each of you obtain the results you’re looking for. Especially with this advance meeting, the purpose and agenda should be clearly spelled out between the two of you.

Faced with many other problems – including the need to take a more active role in you new function until your arrival – your boss may not feel an advance meeting is necessary or practical. You may hear something like “Oh, don’t worry about it. You just get yourself here, and we’ll get started once you’re on board.” Still, it’s your responsibility to see that the meeting takes place now, so that you can clarify your roles ahead of time and control your entry into the new job.

Aim for at least an hour of uninterrupted planning of uninterrupted planning, at whatever time is least likely to complicate your boss’ schedule. You might justify the meeting in terms of the following objectives:

  •  To develop a strategy for introducing you to the organization;
  • To get an idea of the recent performance history of your office or function;
  • To obtain an understanding of your authorities, decision levels, and operating freedoms;
  • To become familiar with priority projects and deadlines;
  • (perhaps) to meet some of the people you’ll be working with in your job.

Of course, there are some additional benefits for YOU in having this advance meeting. Your fear of the unknown will be reduced as you obtain clarification of some of your questions. Your employees will be able to “put a face with the name” if you get the chance to meet them briefly. And you will appear to be a prepared, clear-thinking professional to people at various levels within the organization.

The “First Meeting With Your Boss” checklist contains many subjects you’ll want to cover before joining the team on a full-time basis. Use it as a guide, deleting those items that do not fit your situation and adding whatever special issues you’d like to discuss with your new boss.

First Meeting With Your Boss

  1. Use the following outline to structure the first meeting. Check each item that applies to your situation, and  make personal notes.
  2. Schedule a meeting with your boss as soon as possible after accepting the job offer. Send a confirming memo to highlight the subjects to be discussed.
  • Review current projects and problems that will demand your immediate attention.
  • Ask your boss for a capsule summary of recent performance regarding your function.
  • Ask for a candid evaluation of current strengths and weaknesses in the function, including areas that need priority attention.
  • Request and collect all information and materials as outlined earlier.
  • Along with available personnel records, make a list of all performance/salary reviews due in the next six months.
  • Clarify any remaining questions about your salary or bonus structure.
  • Ask for a general idea of your boss’ expectations for performance from you in the coming months.
  • Learn what resources are available to help you meet those expectations, including your authority to make changes in staff, time allocations, or deployment of resources.
  • Discuss your boss’ criteria and methods for evaluating your performance.
  • Ask your boss whether he/she perceives the need for training or development programs among your future employees.
  • Make sure you understand the extent of your authority to operate independently during your first months on the job.
  • Ask your boss to describe how he/she manages people. (although this is a question you should ask during an interview)
  • Ask for some guidance on your boss’ level of involvement during the first few months (inform, review, decision, approval, etc.).
  • Find out your boss’ preferences for progress reports (formal or informal) and desired timing.
  • Is it possible for you to meet your predecessor for a discussion of his/her experience in the job?
  • How does your boss plan to handle the announcement of your appointment to the job, and initial introductions to employees, associates or others?
  • What other issues would your boss care to raise at this meeting?

Tomorrow……Phase Two – First Days on The Job

Sharon Jenks, CEO/President The Jenks Group, Inc.

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