Monday, June 4, 2007

June 4, 2007 – Under New Management

In the restaurant business the sign “Under New Management” is like a clean slate. It is as if they are saying, “All those bad meals and lousy service you had before are a thing of the past.” When you are part of the staff it leaves a lot of questions. “What kind of manager will this new guy be? Will he keep all of us old timers or replace us with younger and cheaper waitresses? How can I show my worth to her?” As a consultant I face these questions more often than others. Well, maybe not the waitress part, but you understand. Some days your world takes a turn.

Today marked such a day for me. My current client makes a point of rotating their management teams on a regular basis. The rational is that it give them experience in multiple areas within the company and allows ideas to flow from group to group. When this happens everyone has to re-acclimate to the new management style. Throughout your career you will likely work with many different types of managers and each time you will begin fresh. That clean slate is both good and bad. On one hand the poor performance of the past can be wiped out. On the other your new manager doesn’t know all the extra effort you have put in, your skill level or the promises that were made.

Let’s take a look at some of the “new boss blues” and actions to take to keep them from bringing you down.

Past Bad Behavior. To some extent this is your second chance at your job. This is true even if the previous manager gave the newbie your rap sheet. New managers are optimistic that things will be different under their watch. With this in mind there is no need to announce that you are “the one who did that think that caused the you-know-what to hit the you-know-where.”

Since managers generally have access to your records be prepared for any questions that might arise. Think through the situation and have an answer ready. Don’t directly deny anything that is in your record. Instead talk about what you learned from the experience, what you might have done differently then and how you are better because of it.

Abilities and Strengths. It takes time for managers to learn who the go-to people are and who is dependable. It took me nearly three months after my move to Syracuse, NY before I felt that I was connecting with the branch manager. Then they combined offices and shipped him off to Maine. I was back to square one.

You need to communicate your abilities to your new manager. Update your resume and trim it down to one page. Highlight the pieces that play to the strengths you want to promote. Send her a copy and request a fifteen minute meeting to walk through it. Unless she is anxious to do it sooner, schedule it for the second week. This will give her a chance to settle in and begin to see how things fit. Before the meeting plan out what you want to convey using the resume as the basis. Unless she is technically savvy, explain what you do in non-technical, business terms.

Promised Advancement. This is probably the most frustrating aspect of the whole deal and it just happened to one of my direct reports. I had started the promotion process for him just before the Area Manager resigned. If at all possible, get the exiting manager to complete the process or at least put the intent in writing for you.

If that fails, don’t hit the new manager with it within the first 2 weeks. When you do, first ask if her predecessor had mentioned the possibility to her. If not, explain your understanding of the situation, make your pitch and ask her to consider it. Demanding it will not likely obtain your objective.

More Reports. Here is an opportunity to be proactive. Meet with your new manager and walk her through the reports you are currently producing. Explain what information is available from which report and help her interpret what she is looking at. If she has a different set of reports take the time to compare them against the current ones. Point out any overlap and ask if you can stop producing the data in the old format to avoid double work. In the event that the current reports are company standards, ask her to consider switching to the existing forms where possible.

Getting a new manager is going to push you out of your comfort zone. Rather than letting your concerns fester, take action and meet the challenge head on.

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