It happens all the time. Headquarters or owners drops someone in to help a division or portfolio company accelerate through a point of inflection, working for a boss who doesn’t want them. If you’re the one getting dropped in, emphasize building trust in the face of possible distrust or resentment. Jump-shift your loyalties immediately. 1) Disengage from your previous situation; 2) Engage with your new boss; and 3) Do what is required to accelerate progress – in that order.
Be prepared for your new boss to fear the worst. They may think you’re there to spy on them, to shore up one of their personal weaknesses, or to replace them. As much as they try to bury those concerns, and whether they voice them or not, they are real and must be addressed before they can trust you.
Your long-term loyalty to the people that put you in to work for your new boss is best served by transferring your immediate loyalty from them to your new boss. Help them by helping your new boss. Make this is a hard shift. You no longer work for the people you used to work for. You work for your new boss and have to earn their trust. The best way to earn trust is to be trustworthy.
Be explicit with the people that put you into the job. Be clear that you’re going to route communication to them through your new boss. Neither they nor you should go around your new boss in any way. You may not be able to and may not want to sever all communication links, but you can make sure your new boss knows everything you’re telling their bosses – ideally before you tell them. And in all cases make sure your new boss hears about communication with their bosses from you and not from them.
Choose to be optimistic. Believe the best about your new boss and how you can help them get done what they need to get done. Even if they didn’t choose to have you work for them, you can choose to make this the best possible experience with the best possible results for all involved. Focus on these positives at all times with all people in all your thoughts, words and actions.
Leave your ego at the door. Proactively tell your new boss that you want to be part of their team. Commit to your new team’s purpose – its cause. Do this explicitly with your words. Then follow up with actions to reinforce this.
Adjust to your new boss’ working style immediately. This is a hard shift, not an evolution around control points, decision-making and communication.
Engage with your boss personally. Make them feel appreciated, valued and valuable. Invest to learn what matters to them and why. Learn their stories. Learn about them and from them.
Create and present your new boss with a realistic and honest game plan to get up to speed on your new organization. Don’t assume that what the people that dropped you in told you or what you observed from your previous vantage point was right. Look at things with a fresh pair of eyes as though you were joining the organization for the first time. Seek out your new boss’s perspective early and often, and be open to new directions.
One key to engaging is to put the relationship with your new boss first – as much as you can without becoming a victim of their battles with others.
Understand and move on your new boss’ agenda immediately. Know your boss’ priorities. Know what your new boss thinks your priorities should be. Be open and willing to do whatever it takes to move the organization forward, putting aside your own interests as appropriate.
Be on your “A” game. Be present and “on” – everything done by you and your team will be part of your new boss’ evaluation of you. Deliver early wins that are important to your new boss and to the people they listen to, showing that you are 100% behind your boss. In a restart, the score is reset. Your old wins and your team’s old wins are history. This is a reset and a whole new opportunity to accelerate.
Know there are going to be bumps in the road. Adjust as required to minor or major surprises with temporary or enduring impact.
Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #665) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.