Preparing for Your New Position – Phase Three: Settling In and Taking Charge

taking charge2

You may see yourself as a warm, easy-going boss with a high level of concern for your people. Or you might picture your managerial style as hard-nosed and highly oriented to the tasks you’ve assigned to people. And you may be correct.

What counts most as you enter your new job is NOT how you see yourself, but rather how your people perceive you. Their reactions and job performance will be based on what THEY believe you want from them.

Let’s recognize up front that performance in any group is bound to show some slippage in a crisis situation, such as welcoming and getting used to a new boss. Even if your department was producing excellent results prior to your arrival, you can expect a temporary drop-off while everyone gets accustomed to your methods and standards.

There’s an effective three-step process for managing people during a period of transition. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Direction

Begin by letting your people know exactly what you expect of them. Tell them what’s to be done and (if necessary) how, when and where to do it. Supervise them closely to make certain their performance meets your expectations. Take corrective measures quickly if you see any evidence of performance drop-off or obstacles to specified accomplishments and deadlines.

Some managers think that being “directive” with their people requires a stern, unsmiling style that keeps them coldly distant from their subordinates. Nothing could be farther from the truth; you can be directive and warmly supportive at the same time. In fact, under normal circumstances you should be both. Your staff needs to feel that you have high standards….but also that you believe in their ability to produce the results you want. Expressing confidence in your people is usually a self-fulfilling prophesy.

However, you need to remember that smiles and pats on the back are rewards, and rewards should follow performance. If you appear a “softie” who gives rewards without first requiring satisfactory results from your people, you’ve lost one of your most powerful managerial techniques. In effect, you’ve rewarded non-performance instead of waiting until you see the results you’re looking for. When incentives are given away in advance with no need to be earned, they lose their power to stimulate performance.

You didn’t get this far without acquiring some ability to deal with people. With some forethought you can maintain a balance between friendly support and premature rewards. Once your people see that top-performers are treated differently from others, they’ll know exactly how they must perform if they want the same rewards from you.

Step 2: Relaxation

As each of your employees begins to show a willingness and ability to take responsibility for his/her actions, you can reward performance and stimulate further progress by relaxing your directive behavior. People who readily agree that you should involve yourself closely during the early stages will also become resentful if their satisfactory performance does not earn them some operating freedom.

This concept – called “positively reinforcing successive approximations” – is an effective strategy for helping your people develop professional skills and motivation. First you “lay on” the structure (direction); then, as soon as you notice the slightest step in the desired direction, you rewards the satisfactory performance by easing your close supervision. You praise them for their results. Continues progress brings more rewards, which generate more progress, and so forth.

Since your objective is to “accomplish organizational goals through the efforts of your people,” this relaxation phase is vital in developing your subordinates to the point where they can think and act for themselves.

Step 3: Delegation

Once your employees have demonstrated that they are able and willing to function on their own, your development strategy is nearly complete. Now it’s time to sit back and watch from a distance as your self-motivated and self-directed people run their own show.

To be sure, you still need to be informed and in control. The ultimate responsibility for their activities still belongs to you. Delegation is an excellent managing strategy as long as your people are functioning effectively, but you have to be ready to step in at the first sign of trouble. To an authoritative manager, delegation seems to be a risky way of doing things; but consider what happens when your people are operating on their own and producing satisfactory results:

  • You have less time required for close supervision and more time for thinking, planning and brainstorming new ideas for improving your operations or reaching for higher goals.
  • You have fewer “people” problems because your staff is motivated toward achievement rather than self-protection, unproductive competition, or other distracting behavior.
  • You’ve taken a giant step toward identifying a potential successor or two for the day when top management has another career jump in mind for you.

The three-step process can work for you, but it requires a careful distinction between group accomplishments and individual achievements. Not every member of your staff will develop at the same pace, or to the same degree. The “direction-relaxation-delegation” strategy only works with individuals and groups that are moving forward together. Be careful not to let your positive reinforcement spill over the non-performers as well as those who are delivering satisfactory results.

The COMPOSE Problem-Solving Model

Of course, the world won’t always rotate precisely as you want it to. Your attempts to “relax” your directive control of people’s activities, or to “delegate” tasks when your people appear ready to handle them, may not produce the results you expect. Performance problems can occur in the best-managed functions and, when they happen to you, you’re going to need a simple and quick method of deciding what’s wrong and providing a solution.

Further, you won’t always have the luxury of taking your time to analyze problems on the job and figure ways to get your people back on track. The COMPOSE Model is designed to help you identify quickly whatever performance problems have occurred, and then to develop “change” strategies aimed at solving them.

Acronyms are easy to remember. That’s why I’ve arranged the seven common sources of performance problems into the world “COMPOSE” (which happens to be synonymous with “putting things into proper order”):

Competence                – inability to perform as expected

Overload                     – too much workload

Motivation                   – lack of proper incentives

Perception                  – not understanding what’s required

Organization               – insufficient resources

Supervision                 – lack of direction from you

Environment               – problems with outside factors

If one of your people is having difficulties performing up to your expectations, the problem is probably associated with one of these seven factors.

Competence

Sometimes the problem is caused by lack of ability to complete the task as assigned. It’s important to remember that employees are not universally competent: some have more skill and talent in certain areas than others. Usually, job competence is a function of education, experience on the job, or aptitudes which specifically qualify certain people for certain jobs.

If you employee has a competence problem, ask yourself first whether he/she is assigned to the proper tasks – that is, could his/her talents be better utilized elsewhere in your group. If the ability is present, you might spend more time giving the employee direction: specific instructions (from which he/she can learn how to deliver the results you want), and close supervision to assure success while the employee is learning. You might identify training or development courses that would contribute to employee’s competence in the future. At times it’s constructive to assign the employee to work closely with someone who already possesses the skills, and watch those abilities “rub off” on the person who’s having problems in that area.

 Overload

Managers often assume that “if I can handle the workload, so can anyone else.” That’s not always the case, and y our first clue comes when the employee’s work begins to suffer because of overload. People become disorganized, and lack timely answers to basic questions. Deadlines are missed even though the employee has the necessary abilities to perform the tasks.

Often a case of overload will show itself in a short temper, or even physical illness caused by the continuous tension of trying to handle too much work.

If your employee suffers from an overload problem, you’ll want to re-examine the delineation of duties throughout your group and re-assign tasks more evenly. If this cannot be done, check your staffing in general to determine whether more people are need to achieve the goals of your department.

Motivation

It’s difficult to succeed with tasks if there is no motivation or incentive to perform that task. It’s important to realize that not everyone is equally motivated to perform: some folks can see their personal goals being realized by accomplishing the task, where others cannot. Some employees have a problem with willingness – the desire to do something well. Others have problems with won’tness – “I don’t like the work and I won’t put forth my best efforts.”

If incentive problems exist within your organization, check your use of rewards. Your people should clearly understand that successful performance on this task will gain them the rewards they seek – more enjoyable assignments, more pay, opportunity for recognition among their peers, or promotion later on. Positive incentives often take the form of public praise for work well done, and all your people are sensitive to how you feel about sharing the credit and giving everyone a “boost” within the group and in the eyes of your boss.

Perception

Some people don’t really understand what’s required of them in a given situation. They may possess the competence to succeed, and the motivation to try their best, but find it difficult to interpret your directions or comprehend the results they’re striving for. To be fully effective, the employee needs to know (a) what the job consists of; (b) the objectives accomplished by the task; and (c) how you want the task accomplished. There’s also a need to clarify which tasks have priority over others – what should be done first, for example.

Usually a return to the “Action Plan” will remove questions of perception regarding an assignment. Make sure your instructions are given in specific ways, to avoid misinterpretations by others. Review instructions if necessary, so that every member of your team understands what to do and why it’s important.

Organization

Every employee needs some degree of organizational support to accomplish assigned tasks. If you expect your employees to return their tools to the supply room before leaving, you’d better make sure that the supply room is open at the proper times. If your employee needs to produce a typed report by Wednesday, be sure there’s a typist available between now and then.

If there’s a problem in getting the required support from the organization, you may find yourself talking with your boss or others to find the solution. In such cases, other priorities may prevent you from getting the help you need. When this happens, you’ll have to revise your expectations regarding the employee’s assignment to avoid holding someone responsible for circumstances beyond his/her control.

 Supervision

As mentioned earlier, different people require different levels of supervision. To some, your continuing attention is a reward, because they want to spend time with you in the course of their work. To others, your close supervision can appear threatening to their perception of their autonomy. Some employees react to supervision by saying “What’s the matter? Don’t you trust me to do a good job?” while others will wonder if you trust them out of your sight.

The balance between too little supervision and too much is a matter of judgment. You need to give people sufficient operating latitude if you want to stimulate their incentive, yet too much “rope” can cause you to lose control. The best strategy is to maintain open communication with each of your employees, paying attention to feedback and adjusting your supervising style according to their wishes and your evaluation of their ability to perform on their own.

Environment

If a problem exists, and none of the preceding factors seems to be the cause, take a look at the external factors that may be influencing your employee’s performance. In some “hourly” situations, peer pressures can limit output. Gas shortages or baby-sitting problems can hamper your employee’s ability to get to work on time. Personal beliefs or political sentiments can occupy a person’s mind and interfere with productivity.

If there’s an environment problem, it’s useless to reprimand people for circumstances beyond their control. However, if outside factors are interfering with performance – and the control is clearly with the employee – a counseling session is called for. In any case, close communication with your people will create an atmosphere in which external problems can be identified and discussed so that each employee can perform without distractions.

Try the COMPOSE Model with your next managerial problem. It gives you a system for approaching problem identification and analysis during the first few months, even if you don’t have complete familiarity with the function or the people. Its orderly approach not only provides a basis for action – it also encourages your people to cooperate, since they can recognize the logical strategy you’re using.

Debriefing Your Boss debrief boss

No systematic approach to entering your new job would be complete without an official closing exercise. Earlier we discussed the need for a “no surprises” strategy of keeping your boss informed of your activities and progress. Presumably you’ve been maintaining this contact, and using the feedback to alter your direction and techniques.

Your contract for disclosure with your boss needs a wrap-up to signal your readiness to be your first opportunity to acquaint your boss with some of your operating methods, close observation has ended. One way to accomplish this is formal “debriefing” meeting at which all pertinent subjects are resolved. The objectives of this meeting are:

  • To bring your boss up to date regarding all phases of your transition into the new job;
  • To cross-check your conclusions about goals, and the resources available to achieve them;
  • To describe the improvements you’ve made since joining the organization;
  • To gain your boss’ confidence that you’re in control.

Your debriefing meeting should be scheduled within 90 days of your arrival on the job. It may be your first opportunity to acquaint your boss with some of your operating methods, Action Plans, personnel allocations, etcetera. It can lead to changes of strategy if certain approaches are not working as expected. It can be the basis for a review of staffing requirements for the future. In short, the debriefing meeting can be used to accomplish whatever purposes you’ve identified during your first few months on the job.

Most important, the meeting also establishes the potential of a long-term working relationship in which each of you can obtain the results you want.

The timing and length of the meeting are not half as important as being thoroughly prepared for it. Remember, you’re asking for your boss’ time, and a measure of your effectiveness is your ability to manage the time he/she will give you. Use charts, graphs, and other aids to clear communication. Leave materials behind to help your boss remember what was discussed.

Before departing from this meeting, get your boss’ reactions to everything presented. Set the stage for future meetings. Later, analyze what happened and plan for regular reviews and “no surprises” discussions. Identify suggested areas of improvement and make sure you’ve attended to them before the next meeting – at least to the point where you can show some progress.

Following is a “Debriefing” checklist to help you structure the meeting. Add whatever special items are necessary to customize the format to your situation.

  1. Give your boss some honest reactions to being involved in the organization, and express your appreciation of support received thus far (if applicable).
  2. Highlight major areas of concern.
  3. Review the contents of your “First Meeting” worksheets and report on progress to date.
  4. Review the subjects discussed at your “Ice-Breaker” meeting with employees.
  5. Present your Action Plans and explain your strategies for achieving results within the specified deadlines.
  6. Add any additional Items for your discussion.

Best of luck in your new position/job and enjoy the benefits of a great start!

-Sharon Jenks, CEO/President – The Jenks Group, Inc. http://www.thejenksgroup.com

 

Preparing for Your New Positions – Phase Two: First Days On The Job

first day on job

If you’re like most people, you’re anxious to “make a splash” in your new job at the earliest opportunity. Management – possibly content to wait several months for your first major contributions – will be delighted to witness your early success. Executives and managers throughout your company will mark you down as a “comer” on a fast track to further advancement (and nobody will be surprised when it happens). Your subordinates will see you as a polished leader, certain of where you’re taking them and sure of how to get there.

In fact, however, there’s a thin line between “making a splash” and “making waves”, especially where newcomers are concerned. As you join your new organization, be conscious of the line and don’t make the mistake of crossing it too soon, or without the support you need.

Up to this point you’ve been concentrating on gaining the approval and support of your boss. Equally important is the support you need from the people who report to you – your employees. It’s worth a moment or two to review the ways in which the enthusiastic cooperation of employees is earned by a new boss.

Leadership and Management

From among many definitions, we can distill the essence of leadership as “an attempt to influence the thinking or actions of people.”

Your employees have been hired because the function is too big for one person to handle. As the manager (leader) of this function, your job is to “influence” your people toward accomplishment of organizational goals. In this sense, your success depends ultimately on your people, and you must find ways to reach your objectives through their efforts.

The secret of successfully influencing people involves understanding what motivates them to perform up to the standards you expect of them. As you enter the scene, your employees’ personal “motivators” are both positive and negative:

  • Positive, in the sense that you represent a new beginning and your arrival could help them get closer to their individual career goals.
  • Negative, in that you are an unknown commodity, and working with you might not be a pleasant or successful experience for them.

Although you have many anxieties of your own about making a soft landing in your new job, be aware that your employees have questions, too:

  • What are your values? What do you stand for?
  • What do you want from them? Will you change their assignments or working conditions?
  • Will there be new rules?
  • What’s your personality like? Will you be easy or difficult to work with?
  • Will you listen? Can you be influenced?
  • Is this a “new start” or are you aware of their past successes and failures?
  • Are their positions secure? Will anything be taken away from them as a result of your arrival?
  • How visible will you be? How much contact will you want with them?
  • Will their creativity and contributions be recognized?

Each of these questions is a potential “negative” motivator because your employees’ anxiety will persist – and interfere with their productivity – until they receive satisfactory answers. Your actions and statements in the early weeks will provide those answers…..and once initial impressions are formed, you’ll have to work very hard to change them.

From the first moments on the job, you can show that you’re aware of these anxieties and begin to remove the negative motivators. Your systematic approach to entering your new job includes a thorough preparation for getting started with the people whose efforts will determine your success.

The “Easy Entry” Method

Many people fear a change in their working environment. To varying degrees, your subordinates are concerned about how your arrival will affect their lives. Under your predecessor – whether they were happy or not – at least they knew what to expect. They’ve become accustomed to being managed and evaluated in a certain way. In the beginning they’ll be watching you closely to see how your ways will differ from the old ways.

The “Easy Entry” method is a proven technique for respecting the concerns of your people while minimizing the disruptions to productivity that are caused by your arrival as leader of the group. IF you can incorporate each of the following six policies into your style, you’ll find that:

  • The group “performance drop” can be avoided entirely even though you may be making major changes in work assignments and procedures;
  • The structure of a planned entry will reduce some or your anxieties, too;
  • The “crisis” of your arrival will become an “opportunity” for personal growth and higher performance levels among all your people.

Each policy is described briefly. Based on the impressions you’ve formed from your Pre-Start review of projects, plans and personalities, you can list specific issues you’ll want to address.

 Policy #1: Learn the rules before you change them

Every organization has its traditional norms and customs, and your people are used to certain ways of doing things. Smart leaders know they have to “earn” the right to change procedures. Spend a few days getting to know how your people have acted and interacted in the past. Pay attention to traditional lines and patterns of communication. Show people you understand the system before you impose new ways of getting things done. With each change you introduce, be sure that all your employees understand why you’re improving the procedure and what benefits the change will bring.

 Policy #2: Evolution, not revolution

Even the most needed medicine is hard to swallow if the dose is too large. You may have inherited a smoothly running machine or a “clunker” badly in need of repairs. Either way, a massive dose of cure-all could kill the patient.

Plan your change strategy over an initial period (at least one month) instead of dumping all the issues on your people at once. Try to consult with key players and get them to “buy into” both the need for change and your methods of making it happen. Part-authors make very enthusiastic helpers.

Policy #3: Hold an early group meeting

Your first encounter with your employees will probably be brief and functional. As quickly as possible thereafter, schedule a meeting for everyone in your group, to calm the anxieties and set the stage for your action plans. (A structured approach is provided in the First Meeting Ice Breaker below.)

Policy #4: Get your people out of the weeds

The natural tendency for some people is to lie in the weeds, holding back their thoughts and ideas until they see which way your wind is blowing. Presuming that each of your employees is necessary for your group to be productive, you cannot afford to let them hide until it’s safe to emerge.

Potential contributors may need some prodding at first. Solicit opinions and probe for the reasons behind them. Let your employees know you’re interested in them, both as people and as professionals. Avoid judgmental reactions to their statements during your early days in charge.

Policy #5: Don’t knock you predecessor

On the surface, it’s easy to establish your leadership credentials by pointing out (even with faint praise) the failings of you predecessor’s programs and methods. It’s a quick way to show management that changes ought to be made and you’re the right person to make them. Besides, if the last person to hold the job is gone from the company or location, there’s no easy way from him/her to fight back.

Criticizing your predecessor is perilous, because at this stage you don’t know what loyalties exist in the organization. You don’t know who else worked hard to propose and execute the existing programs. A better strategy is to step with care in this area, and state your personal goals in terms of improvements rather than rescue missions.

Policy #6: Keep everybody informed

One of the best ways to foster a “team” spirit among your people is to begin with an open-communication policy. Although unwieldy in very large groups, the practice of keeping everyone informed demands little extra effort. Yet your people will know they are valuable members of the group, and their appreciation will translate into productive results in their jobs.

Of course, you’ll have more frequent contact with immediate subordinates than with others in the group. Still, you can insist on a “stair-step” communication system to assure that everyone gets the word.

Make your own personal notes on the six policies of the “Easy Entry” method, or add policies of your own.

The “Easy Entry” method can be implemented from your first day on the job. The mechanism is a series of transition meetings with your staff members. The sessions begin with an emphasis on getting to know each other (Ice-Breaker), and evolve into strategy meetings concerned with “where we want to go and how to get there” (Action Planning). Depending on your objectives and circumstances, you may need to schedule several meetings stretching over a period of many months.

Use the recommended agenda as guides, adding whatever special items you think should be covered. Divide the business items into several smaller meetings if you choose to concentrate in specific areas with your staff. If possible, send agenda outlines in advance so that all participants will know what’s expected of them and will have sufficient time to prepare.

Ice-Breaker Meeting with Your Employees

Use the following as an outline for you introductory meeting with employees. Check the items that apply to your situation, and make notes on how you intend to handle each subject.

Introduction

  •  Start the meeting by announcing its purpose: to begin a systematic transition involving two basic phases (organization analysis; action planning) and extending over a “set” time period.
  • Introduce yourself and give some pertinent information about your background.
  • Tell them something about your values, operating style, desire for future group accomplishments, etc.
  • To stimulate involvement and begin coaxing your people out of the weeds, ask each participant to describe his/her background, current major responsibilities, etc.

Business Portion

  • Describe the group’s workload (as you see it) for the next 30 days:

List current projects and deadlines

  • Discuss any changes you feel necessary for projects, deadlines or persons assigned
  • Discuss routine responsibilities for each participant, and ask staff members what your involvement should be
  • Ask each participant to describe the non-routine activities that are part of his/her job
  • Establish reporting/decision channels (explain your reasons for changing any previous customs)
  • Give the group your work schedule (including travel dates) for the next 30 days.
  • List any administrative matters to be resolved in the next 90 days (e.g. salary reviews) and schedule date/time for each.
  • Ask if there are any questions, and answer fully.
  • In adjourning this Ice-Breaker meeting, establish an open-door policy for the next 30 days (at least) and encourage each staff member to bring all delays or difficulties to your attention.
  • Add any Additional Subjects to Cover

Action Planning

As the series of meetings with your boss and staff progress, you’ll begin to feel a need for a system of recording and publishing the results.

The Action Plan format provides a simple framework for listing projects…..assigning specific responsibilities for each action step…..and tracking the results as you go along. Further, it serves as the basis for progress reports to keep your boss well informed, and for use during subsequent staff meetings.

After the Action Plan is prepared and circulated, you can take responsibility for keeping it current or assign the task to the person primarily charged with producing results. You can keep the master set on file in your office and schedule update sessions periodically.

The Action Plan helps you keep each project on schedule. Failure to reach a certain sub-goal by a given date is an automatic signal that something’s wrong and some trouble-shooting action is needed. After completion, the Action Plan worksheet is an excellent place to document performance and prepare detailed reviews for salary adjustments or other decisions.

Use one Action Plan sheet for each project.

To receive Action Plan sheet or Progress Record Templates please send an email to: sjenks@thejenksgroup.com

Look for the final phase in our blog tomorrow.

Sharon Jenks, CEO/President The Jenks Group, Inc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.