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

by | Jun 17, 2015 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning |

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.

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

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Paul Robbins

    As a civil servant working for the Coast Guard, I get a new military boss every couple of years. I always welcome the new boss with the wish that the assignment will be the best of her/his career. I clarify the central principle of my team’s work (producing demonstrably valid, reliable training programs), the criticality of “principles over personalities,” driven by operational data and organizational doctrine.

    I then invite the new boss to consider the one most important accomplishment she/he would like to leave as her/his legacy, and pledge my support in making that accomplishment reality.

    Throughout her/his tour, our conversations center on the above. It seems to work well!

    • Karin Hurt

      Excellent, Paul. Thanks so much for sharing the details of your approach. Very helpful.

  2. Alli Polin

    Excellent. When a new boss steps in, it can be a rough transition for everyone. Love your metaphor of a double dutch jump rope – hits home. I wrote about it from the perspective of the new boss. It may resonate with your tribe too. http://breaktheframe.com/eye-to-eye-with-the-new-boss/

    Thanks, Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      Alli, Awesome! I love it when folks share links back to their writing. A great post and a great way to expand the conversation.

  3. LaRae Quy

    I have found that disciplining myself to really listen and PAY ATTENTION is huge! So often I’m jumping ahead of the conversation or thinking of something else entirely that I don’t listen.

    It takes discipline and mental toughness to truly pay attention…it sounds easy but our mind tends to wander….

    Great article Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, me too! You are so right, that discipline is vital.


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