New Bosses Should Come with Warning Labels
If you have worked for a few years for a company, you probably had the experience of a change in management or leadership. Change is difficult for most people. It causes emotions to change. It causes uncertainty. Sometimes the employees are excited. Sometimes the employees are nervous and concerned. Employees wonder about the leadership style of the new person in charge.
The initial thoughts always come down to the employee in terms of what does it mean to me? How will my life be affected? Do I still have a job? Will I be asked to do more with fewer resources or pay? What other changes will happen? What are the new leader’s expectations?
For the leader, the emotions are similar but different. They are undoubtedly excited about the new situation, and yet the leader has a specific charge. At this point, the leader has a sense of the culture of the organization, the team, possibly the Board of Directors, the issues, and the immediate challenges to be solved. A sense is not knowing until you get to know the team, listen, and ask questions. A sense is a trap.
For myself, I have changed roles inside organizations and held leadership roles in several organizations. What I have found is that even if the change improves the organization, in the long run, employees have no idea who you are, your style, and what you believe in. This takes time. Often time, the leader does not have.
What I have found to be most helpful is to hold a company meeting (face to face) if possible, depending on the size of the organization in the first week. Technology can be used for remote locations for the initial introduction, so everyone feels included. The message must be authentic, including how you feel, what you value about the organization, and what you want from the employees. The message should start with what is not changing, such as the mission, vision, and values. It is something employees can hold onto and then listen to what is changing.
I always included three points that are important to me when I worked at the university level. My expectations are:
- Do the Right Thing: No matter what, do the right thing. Do what is best in the situation for the student, faculty member, or the employer. We will not second guess you. We will discuss it so we can learn from it.
- No Surprises: Never surprise us. If you make a mistake or there is a problem, let us know immediately. We can work through the issue together. We are all human, and mistakes will happen. We are a learning organization.
- The elevators: A simple thing to do is talk with students when on the elevator, or cafeteria, or student lounge or in the hallways. In the elevator, the student or students are a captive audience. Most people are quiet in the elevator, and this is an excellent opportunity to just see how they are doing. I have always felt if the student says “okay,” we have a chance to ask a few more questions. Something might be off for them at school or at home. The student(s) should say “great” or “well.” My experience tells me that for most students, the university is a sanctuary. A place of focus and caring. A place where they have friends. A place where they are studying an area of interest, learning, and growing. So when the response is “okay,” something is going on. We need to demonstrate care and help.
Over time, we will all get to know each other, and I look forward to the conversations. Let them know how you plan on getting to know them. This investment of time will create a more influential organization.
Have a great week!