On a Double Dutch Tight Rope: Your New Boss and You

Over my career, I’ve underestimated the need to adapt well to a new boss more than once. Trust me, it’s harder to recover… but doable.

Working for a new boss often feels like a tight rope. If you’ve got a new boss, you may be experiencing that nauseous feeling that comes from walking a fine line. That’s good. You need to be paying attention.

My best advice for teams and new bosses? Try switching up the metaphor. View the tight rope as a Double Dutch jump rope instead, and you’ll be a lot more productive, successful, and save yourself a heck of a lot of time.

False Security

If you’re the welcoming committee, it’s easy to assume that life will continue as usual. After all, you’re making progress and your old boss was happy. Of course she put in a good word. (Even if she did, it’s likely not enough.) Here’s how to  take it up a level–to find a higher gear.

If you’re the new boss you likely feel the same way. You’ve seen this movie before in a different theater. You know what works, and after all, they brought you here for a reason… this team needs help.

The biggest problem I see with folks welcoming the new boss is that they believe they’re the ones with the well-cadenced jump rope and it’s the boss should adapt. They’ve got this and can’t wait to show ’em how good they are.

The biggest mistake I see new bosses make is ignoring that the intact cadence has value, and slowing down enough to notice the magic.

So here’s my advice for jump-ropers on both sides of the cadence.

Consider your next boss-team switch-a-roo like hopping into a jump rope game already in play. You’ve got to watch a few turns before rushing in, otherwise you’re going to get smacked in the face.

A Few Guidelines

Pay attention to how others are interfacing, and what seems to excite her or drive him crazy. Learn from the mistakes of others.

When jumping into a spinning scene, stop and notice. Who’s in control? Are there subtle moves causing even the best players to trip?

Ask questions. Not tons of “How do I do this ?” questions, but strategic questions like “How can I be most helpful?’ “What’s the best way to communicate with you?” “How do you like your coffee?” (Just kidding.)

Understand the Need for Data  This is where I see many style conflicts get most into trouble. Trying to win an analytical boss (or team) over with an emotional argument will make you lose credibility—fast. Similarly, overwhelming a big picture thinker with a ream of spreadsheets may leave them with the impression you’re “Just not that strategic.”

Some additional thoughts that will help

How to PERSUADE your boss (goes both ways) 

The DARN method:  How to give your boss bad news (could go both ways, but many bosses struggle with this) 

And of course there’s my book: Overcoming an Imperfect Boss: A Practical Guide to Building a Better Relationship With Your Boss You can read the latest review by Jane Anderson here.

And the keynote, Becoming the Boss You Wish You Had.

Call me. I can help. 443-750-1249.

Dealing With Moody People At Work

Maybe it’s a side effect of passion, intensity, or commitment, but some of the most interesting people I know have a moody dark side. Moody at any level is tough to be around. If it’s your boss it’s even trickier. It’s tempting to avoid the mood (and the person who wears it) and just try to survive. But if you can take the EQ high-road, you may find a rich relationship waiting to be forged just below that annoying surface.

5 Ways to Get Past Moody

  1. Find A Safe Way To Talk About It – One of my favorite bosses had such highs and lows that her direct report team gave her two almost matching Barbie dolls for her bookshelf. The first was immaculately dressed in typical Barbie fashion, matching shirt, shoes and pearls. The other doll wore ripped clothes, had magic marker on her face, and hair that looked like it had been eaten by a cat. Our request was that she put the doll out that best portrayed her mood as a warning sign. We knew if ‘evil” Barbie was lurking, we laid low. She accepted the gift with a smile (we chose a “good Barbie day”). She used the dolls strategically for our benefit. More importantly, she got the point when one of us went to her shelf and switched the dolls. Find a safe way to raise the topic.
  2. Notice The Patterns – You wouldn’t force your kids to eat peas right after they woke up from a nap. If you’re dealing with moody, notice the patterns and, whenever possible, choose your timing. I actually had a peer for whom I charted the outbursts to find the discernible pattern. I learned the triggers and timing. Our relationship improved substantially. Don’t screw this up by leaving the chart on your desk.
  3. Understand Root Cause – When someone accuses you of being moody, you’re likely reaction is likely: “well, I may be a bit tired, or hormonal, or stressed, but the issue is real.” Others feel that way too. It’s likely crankiness could be substantially reduced by addressing the underlying causes.
  4. Don’t Reward The Behavior – Don’t coddle. If you succumb to hysterics, the tantrums will continue. Stay calm and suggest another time to discuss the issue. They may be angry if you walk away, but once they cool off, they’ll likely appreciate it (and you).
  5. Keep Your Cool – Bad moods wear off, so immunize yourself as much as possible. Recognize the behavior for what it is, and don’t take it personally. If it’s really not about you, then let yourself believe that. Of course, this takes us back to number three: be sure you’re understand your part in the moodiness mix master.