New Boss? Six Steps to Starting Off Right

So you've got a new boss and she starts next week? Perhaps you haven't given any consideration to preparation -- after all, she's the one who's new, right? Not so fast -- you have a role to play too, if care at all about your career trajectory and job satisfaction.

Likely, you've seen those studies that say you have seven seconds to make a positive first impression. Making a strong first impression is only the start; there are additional steps you must take to set the right tone with your new leader.

Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School, studies how we evaluate people when we meet. She's discovered there are two aspects people evaluate when they first meet: a person's perceived trustworthiness and competence. To make the best possible impression on your new boss, you want to do more than simply show your "curb appeal" and solid eye contact. Going the extra mile to demonstrate your capabilities as a team member requires a bit of planning on your part, but will be well worth the time.

Here are six things to do so you can start this important new relationship strong.

Decide: who do you want to be? As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Do a bit of reflection -- what impression do you want your new team leader to have of you? Try to sum it up in a headline. Is it, "Veteran project manager with tons of energy"? Or, "Go-to person for creative problem-solving"? Whatever the impression you wish to create, think about how you have been demonstrating that value and make a list of your accomplishments to back it up.

Do your homework. Learn what you can about your new boss. Not to the point of being a creepy cyber-stalker of course, but find out what you can about her. What are her professional credentials? What talents is she bringing to your department (or if hired from outside) to your company?

Spiff up your online presence. Just as you will be checking out your new leader's credentials, she'll most likely be doing the same. Be sure all of the places where your work product appears are up-to-date (LinkedIn profile, resume and company intranet web pages) and that they accurately reflect your recent accomplishments.

Create a list of talking points. Be ready with answers to the following questions:
• What could be improved around here?
• What's working well?
• What have you done to help our team accomplish its mission?
• What's your wish-list for our department?

Take a walk in her shoes. First of all, realize that your boss probably has just as many questions as you do about the way the department will be once she takes the helm. Try to anticipate what those first questions might be about -- the informal, unwritten rules of your company or department that she might not know about. Then, during the first week or two, be prepared to show her the ropes. She'll be immensely grateful.

Keep it professional. Do not, under any circumstances, bad mouth your previous boss, even if that person was Evil Incarnate. You do yourself no favors by dishing dirt on the previous leader. The same goes with your current team mates. Tempting as it might be to tattle on co-workers you deem lazy, unethical, disorganized or in any way deficient, you are better off letting the boss discover these challenges herself. It will come to light sooner than you think.

Whenever a new leader joins a team, it's unfamiliar territory for both the leader and the team of professionals she will lead. You can do your part to ease the transition by being prepared and demonstrating your value to the team, as well as taking a moment to consider how your team leader is viewing the transition. Starting out strong means looking past that first "nice to meet you"; it also means planting the seeds to cultivate this important new business relationship.

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