Now that the term “onboarding” is clearly a part of the business vernacular, most organizations are doing a much better job than they ever have of preparing new hires for their new role and new environment.

In keeping with the philosophy “the best gift you can give an employee is a great boss”, I’ve also observed that organizations have made improvements in equipping hiring managers to support their new direct reports.

So, the relationship of the new hire with the organization and the relationship with the new boss are being addressed in Onboarding programs. But lately I’ve noticed a third relationship being added to the list in organizations that are truly interested in staying ahead of the “onboarding best practices” curve. This relationship is the one between the new hire and his team.

I recently presented at an Onboarding conference where organizations in the financial services and healthcare sectors both mentioned the importance of peers and direct reports in supporting the Onboarding process. There’s nothing wildly new about this in and of itself. The best Onboarding programs have always included meetings with peers to ensure that the new hire builds these key relationships early in. And one-on-one meetings with direct reports plus full team meetings are also critical in the initial weeks after a new leader is hired.

What IS new, however, is the shift in perspective around accountability. The new hire’s direct team is now being positioned as having shared accountability for the success of their new peer or new boss.

For example, CEO’s and heads of HR are spending time with Leadership Teams preparing them to help ramp-up a new member of the Team with the explicit message, “You are ALL accountable for the success of your new colleague”. In some environments, performance measures are even built-in to ensure that colleagues pay attention to extending a hand to their new peer. In these companies, sharing resources and information is a desired behavior and the message from the top is clear, “if the new man or woman doesn’t make it…we all share collective responsibility for this outcome”. Such a message raises the stakes big time!

Instead of the typical “crossing-of-arms-across-the-chest” stance, collaboration is stronger and preparation gets underway before the new peer joins the team.

• What should she know to be successful around here?
• What land mines should be pointed out?
• What’s the most efficient way of bringing him up to speed without creating overwhelm?

This accountability shift gets even more interesting when we focus on the new hire’s direct reports. What could be the difference in the behavior of employees who are coached that “setting your new boss up for success is an expected part of your job”? Yes, of course, the new boss still needs to earn trust, respect and credibility, but imagine the possibilities of adopting the perspective that “everyone in the team is essentially onboarding to this changed team, so let’s all take ownership for how well it goes”.

For me in my work as an Onboarding Coach…having the opportunity to support the SYSTEM, not just the new hire, dramatically enhances the success of the assignment.

I’d love to hear your ideas of how your organization prepares “the system” or the direct team for the new hire. Where does their accountability lie for the new hire’s success?

In my last blog post I shared the first step of dealing with the disappointment of starting a new position full of enthusiasm only to find as the weeks have gone on that the boss you were so excited to work for has turned out to offer less promise than you’d hoped.

This step was to face up and recognize that your boss is human too.

In this post…we’ll look at Step 2- Discuss Mutual Expectations with the New Boss

More often than not, I find that the challenges that surface in early weeks of a boss-direct report relationship arise because expectations have not been aligned.

This doesn’t necessarily mean there is a MIS-alignment…but simply that the alignment conversations haven’t taken place. There are too many assumptions being made.

Conversations about expectations need to focus on the WHAT and the HOW.

A) First the “what”…

If your boss isn’t sending you warm and fuzzy vibes…perhaps it’s because you’ve launched in by focusing on the wrong priorities. Your job description is not necessarily the right place to start. Be sure to have a conversation that identifies the most important initiatives over the next few weeks to demonstrate that you are ramping-up in a productive and appropriate manner. In other words…what does your boss REALLY want you to do in your first few weeks?

Here’s a client scenario. After three short weeks on the job, Jill was getting the sense that her boss was somehow let-down by Jill’s contribution. When she got the nerve up to check-in with him, she learned that the subject her boss most wished she would address was a long-standing organizational issue that was well within the scope of Jill’s role at her previous organization. Resolving this issue didn’t involve a learning curve for her at all. This expertise was, in fact, one of the key reasons Jill had been hired…despite the job description focusing on areas that were outside of Jill’s comfort zone. Jill had mistakenly understood that the “right thing” to do was to show commitment right off the bat to learning about all of the areas that were new to her. This misunderstanding could have easily derailed the relationship and Jill’s perceived performance in her role.

Now, how about YOU’re “what”? Based on the discussions through the recruitment process, what had you expected to be able to focus on in the initial few weeks of joining the organization? How are these expectations being met? I’ve witnessed new Onboarding coaching clients who are stewing over the disappointment of not being able to sink their teeth into the assignments that they’d been promised. It’s my belief that sitting on this disappointment is a sure start down the road of disengagement. Better to have a conversation about what’s different from what was expected. Then, in a non-blaming way, work to clarify how and when you may be able to experience the initiatives you thought you would be part of your mandate.

B) Now let’s look at the “how”…

Even clients who are perfectly aligned with their bosses on the “what” expectations for their first 90 days, often have missteps on the “how”. Mutual expectations around communication style, mode of communication and frequency are all too often left to chance. It’s only when things go horribly wrong that the discussions take place and by then it’s often too late.

In my self-coaching workbook, “Wow Them In Your New Job!”, I include an exercise that encourages new hires to set time aside with the new boss to talk about:
• Whether they prefer email, phone or face-to-face
• Frequency of updates preferred
• Turnaround times expected
• Nature of feedback preferred, etc.

Remember that this is a conversation about “mutual expectations”…it’s a chance to express your needs as well…it’s not just about pleasing the boss. Optimal communication meets the needs of both parties.

Having these “what” and “how” conversations to clarify expectations as early in the game as possible can go a long way to rectifying an uncomfortable relationship with a new boss. I’ve witnessed many boss-direct report relationships turning around profoundly with even one open and direct conversation about expectations.

So, if you are disappointed with how things are going with your new boss… what do you have to lose? Arrange for an “expectations” conversation as soon as possible.

My next blog post will address Step 3. After attempting steps 1 & 2, it’s time to decide if the gap is workable—or not.

After two years in your job with your new company, you’ve finally got the lay of the land. You know what it takes to get ahead and you understand all the key requirements of your position. You’ve ramped up. You are fully onboarded. You’re cookin’!

Then the world changes. Your boss leaves the organization and senior management goes outside to recruit her replacement. The announcement is out…the boss starts in two weeks and he hasn’t even worked in your industry before!

Guess what…you’re almost back at square one. As the new boss gears up…YOU are also onboardng all over again.

In recent years, there’s been plenty written about the onboarding process as this term has become more of a part of our business vernacular. Yet, I find that many organizations are still thinking of the onboarding experience as one that applies only in a very narrow circumstance– when a new employee joins an organization.

Yes, joining a new organization is perhaps one of the most dramatic transition times for an employee at any level, particularly for new leaders. But, when you gain a new boss, many of the principles that apply to traditional onboarding, apply to this transition experience as well.

One of the critical first steps of successful onboarding is CLARIFYING EXPECTATIONS. This post deals with the various ways that you will need to re-clarify expectations, now that there is a new boss at the helm.

1. Clarifying/Redefining Your Role

Think your current role and job description still hold just because your title hasn’t changed? Think again. Over time, as your new boss finds his way forward, you should expect to renegotiate the scope and focus of your role. In fact, being proactive by signaling in your early one-on-one that you appreciate that there may be shifts in your current role that your new boss would like to see will demonstrate your maturtity and insight. So, have that initial meeting to review your current role, but in your discussions demonstrate your flexibility and openness to the new boss’ ideas. Also offer suggestions as to areas that might need to be tweaked once you hear the new boss’ mandate and points of passion about his new department.

2. Redefining Success

Sure, the new boss will have to pay attention to the rules of the game in the new organization, but he will also arrive with his own set of rules around what types of behaviour he respects and rewards.

What does success mean to him?
What are his hot bottons?
What has he promoted people for in the past?
Specifically, in your role, what does he most want to see from you over the next 90 days?

3. Identifying Best Communication Practices

Your old boss loved email and weekly half-page updates on your project goals. To continue providing this means of communication to your new boss without checking in with him could be the kiss of death for a boss that rarely reads his email, prefers informal face-to-face discussion and expects frequent phone calls when you are on the road. You could still be communicating the same content that was on the mark for the old boss, but suddenly the new boss feels “left out of the loop” and has little sense of connection with you relative to your peers who also prefer in-person updates. It is important to have deliberate conversations about what style of communication you both prefer and to negotiate an approach that meets both your needs. Never assume.

Bottom line? Don’t under-estimate the importance of this transition timeframe both for you and your new boss. Thinking about it as akin to gaining a new job or joining a new company will help you to give the change the attention it deserves. It is critical to spend time upfront Clarifying Expectations– both your expectations of your new boss and the new boss’ expectations of you.