IT Management Challenge: Breaking In A New Boss

by drjim on September 19, 2008

IT Managers Need Tips On How To Handle A New Boss

IT Managers Need Tips On How To Handle A New Boss

A great deal has been written on how IT workers can deal with getting a new boss. For that matter, a lot has been written on what you need to do if you become the boss of a collection of IT workers. Shucks, I’ve even written a lot about how to find out what you’re CIO wants you to do. However, what’s been missing (up until now) is what an IT manager should do if he/she gets a new boss. The challenge here is that it’s not just you that will be evaluated by the new boss as they go about setting up shop, but rather it will be your team that the new boss will be evaluating. What’s an IT manager to do?

Let’s get something out of the way first. As an IT manager your new boss can broadly be placed into one of three categories: fantastic & almost god-like, average, and horriable tyrant. If your new boss falls into the fantastic / tyrant buckets, then you’ve got a whole other set of issues. However, since most bosses fall into the “average” bucket, let’s spent our time talking about what to do with just this type.

There are some interesting questions about why you have a new boss in the first place – what happened to your old boss? Oh, and by the way, why didn’t YOU get your old bosses job instead of this new person? Once again, just to keep things simple let’s push those items off to the side for now. Let’s assume that you’ve never met your new boss before – the hardest scenario.

It can appear to be a daunting task if you try to determine how to win you new boss’ favor before you meet them. In today’s era of a distributed workforce, there’s a good chance that you and your new boss may not be in the same town. This means that meeting them face-to-face should be one of your highest priorities. No matter how good you are at email or how engagaing you may be over the phone, there is no substiture for a face-to-face meeting in order to allow your new boss to size you up. Travel to meet them or have them come visit you.

When you meet them, what will you talk about? The key here is to let them do most of the talking. Your value to your new boss rests on the type and quantity of problems that you can make go away. It really is that simple. The worst situation that you can find yourself in is if your team is in charge of solving problems that your new boss doesn’t really view as being problems! This is why it’s critital for you to let your new boss tell you what he/she thinks their most critical problems are.

Remember the first day of school back in elementary school? Everyone in class was trying to show off for the teacher so that they would gain her affection from the get-go. Things are very similar when you get a new boss, everyone will be trying to get on his/her good side starting on day one. You can improve your odds of doing this if you take a moment and think like a chess master. Your new boss is dealing with exactly the same issues that you are – he/she despertatly wants to “look good” for their boss who put them in this new positon. Your long-term value will be in what you and your team can do to make your new boss look good to his/her boss.

So what DON’T you want to do when you have a new boss? Probably the worst thing in the world you can do is to overwhelm them. Email is easy to send and all too often IT managers start to CC their new boss on every email to show the boss how important the IT manager is. A much better approach is to show your value by creating a condensed summary of what your team is currently working on. Even here there are some dangers: us IT managers like to list each and every little accomplishment so much so that our summary often turns out to be equavalant to  “War & Peace” in length. Keep it short – one computer screen of information should do the trick. Write it in such a way that your new boss now has useful informtation that they could pass on to their boss.

The rough rule-of-thumb is that a new manager has about 90 days to show his/her stuff. You need to be tracking these first 90 days and doing everything that you and your team can to make your new boss shine in that time. Investing in your new boss now will result in a rich payout later on…

How did things go last time you got a new boss? Were you able to clearly communicate the value of both you and your team? Were there any misunderstandings? Did other IT managers steal your spotlight? Leave a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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