Eye to Eye with the New Boss

by Alli Polin on February 5, 2013

eye to eye for the first time with the new boss

I had a great job.  I was responsible for not only executing on some interesting and fun work but also I was tapping into my creativity daily and reporting directly to the business line SVP.  He was a busy guy so I had a lot of latitude to take risks, offer recommendations and generally make things happen.  Then one day “it” happened.

I was informed that a new VP was hired and I’d be reporting to him moving forward.  As a part of “the new guy’s” negotiation process, he made the request that he own my part of the business in addition to the other division he was brought in to lead.  The company needed him; the core of the business was suffering without a strong, permanent leader in the position.  Unfortunately, to get him to say yes to the offer, they threw me in as a part of the deal.  WHAT??!!

I definitely had a chip on my shoulder and I was defensive from the first moment I walked into his office for our meet-and-greet.  Somehow, I walked out of his office an hour later thinking that it would be OK.  What happened?

It wasn’t the questions he asked me or what he said to me about who he was or his plans for the organization. What made it OK?

Authenticity

My new boss was experienced yet humble, down to earth, and excited for what we could co-create.  He was a real guy who didn’t know it all but wanted to learn.

Honesty

He told me why he requested my division be under his wing.  He was also looking to broaden his skills from recruiting leadership into talent management consulting.  He’s a learner and he wants to be in the action, not above the action.

Joy

We laughed together in our first meeting despite the fact that I was ready to hate him.  There was a lightness to his demeanor that invited me to join him with a lightness in my own.

Passion

I could have given him a status report, gotten him up to speed on the business and walked out.  Instead, he wanted to know more about the strategic direction that work that had been completed to date.  I was able to share my passion, not just my trail of accomplishment.  Passion lit me up and drew us both into the conversation.

Before I left his office, I’m not sure why, I told him that I wasn’t happy about having a new boss.  I wasn’t looking forward to the change but I was looking forward to working with him.  It was as if I had pulled a weight off of my back and had thrown it out the window.

Fast forward several years and multiple positions later…  We moved from subordinate / manager to peer / peer.  He was no longer my boss or manager, to this day he is my friend and mentor.   I credit it to his way of being from day one.

I believe in the power of WYSIWYG.  How do you build trust with new people on your team or with customers?

(Photo credit)

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Mertz February 5, 2013 at 7:11 am

Great principles, Alli. Joy is a key one! I would add humility and empathy. Both relate to really listening to understand and get a view of the world through their eyes. Doing this through questions and meaningful exchanges builds trust. Thanks! Jon

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alli February 5, 2013 at 7:15 am

Absolutely, Jon! My new boss had (and still does) incredible amounts of humility. Also – great point to make… trust comes not from telling someone who we are and our long list of ideas to change the world but instead from a meaningful, honest exchange where we show up as our true-selves listening, curious, and willing to connect. Many thanks, Jon!

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Dan Forbes February 5, 2013 at 7:22 am

Alli, Thanks for sharing your experience with the new boss. That is always a time of anxiety and sometimes fear. Not only did your boss demonstrate the right way to lead, but you responded in the right way. You gave him your attention, you listened, you gave him the benefit of the doubt, you were open to change, you stepped up to the opportunity to become a better leader.

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alli February 5, 2013 at 7:25 am

Thanks, Dan. He truly invited me to step up by being open, genuine and excited about what we could create. By treating me like a person, equal to him, and not a subordinate he invited me into the relationship – best thing any leader can do!

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Michelle Mazur February 6, 2013 at 1:30 am

I recently started a new job, and when I was interviewing for jobs. I spent as much time as I could grilling my would-be boss. I wanted to know what kind of leader he would be and how he would treat me. I did look for all 4 of these characteristics (and a bunch of others). I think this is a good guide for job hunters to audition a new boss!

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alli February 6, 2013 at 1:35 am

Hope you love your new boss! So important for job seekers to know that they are empowered to ask questions and grill their would-be boss during the interview process! Learning who someone is up front, how they operate and what they believe helps us to understand if we’re heading into a culture clash or a culture match. Thanks for your reminder to job seekers to know the characteristics that matter most to them in a leader and to look for that.

Best,

Alli

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Sandy Jenney February 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm

What a great experience and valuable lessons.

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alli February 6, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Thanks, Sandy! It was a great experience. I hope that every single person that benefits from his authentic style and the way he prioritizes ongoing 1x1s with every member of his team will take his strengths and start to reflect them in their own leadership.

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Alice Chan February 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm

What a great story you shared, Alli! I loved that you were open enough to “meet” the man you were ready to hate. And what great display of genuine interest in engaging you that he displayed! I especially love the authenticity your described. Also love that he wanted to be in the action and not above the action. That’s a real leader, and certainly how I was when I led teams. Thanks again for this wonderful post, Alli!

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alli February 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Alice – His authenticity made a huge impact on me. He didn’t show up as the new guy looking to prove himself and quickly make his mark… the first thing he knew he needed to do was to meet and engage with the people. He’s definitely a leader that has taught me many lessons about putting people first, moving at the right pace and making the right choices for his own life-balance priorities as well. I was lucky to work with him.

Many thanks!

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Dad of Divas February 7, 2013 at 9:31 am

I have had bosses that were great and those that were not, but setting the initial tone that you want to have with them is SO important!

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alli February 7, 2013 at 5:32 pm

We’ve had a similar experience! The worst may have been when I thought that my new boss was starting with an open and honest relationship and instead they were watching me like a hawk not to be successful… but to mess up. Thanks for your comment!

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Lalita Raman February 8, 2013 at 1:46 am

Great post Ali. I have been in a similar position and I relate to the feeling one goes through at the time such an announcement is made. You have brought 4 relevant points that are so important for any of us in day-to-day life. I wish more people especially in that position of a boss use Authenticity, passion, Honesty, joy. I loved the way you made known your discomfort to your boss.

Thank you for sharing.

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alli February 8, 2013 at 1:55 am

Thanks, Lalita! I was lucky that day (and for a few years while I worked with him in multiple organizations!). Too many believe that they need to assert their authority instead of building relationships. Leadership happens through relationship!

Appreciate your comments!

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