Congratulations! You just got promoted into a leadership position and building relationships with your boss and peers is integral to successful executive suite integration. It’s a big job. You don’t have an existing relationship with your new boss except for attending meetings in the past. As in life, things are never as straightforward as you might like. Once promoted, your boss immediately puts boundaries on their time and support.
The company promotes you into a new position where you have responsibility for profit and loss of a major revenue business segment. As the company looks externally for a candidate, they decide to give you a chance at the helm. Your feeling excited and overwhelmed at this opportunity and at the same time uneasy in how to deliver results quickly. The stakes are high and you are thrusted into a new political landscape. Are you ready and what levels of support will receive in your new position?
A few months later, you meet with your immediate boss. Until now, you have been flying solo with the help of people in the organization. Admittedly, you realize that your relationships are shallow at the level you are now operating – but that’s another story. However, it does affect how you are perceived with your boss.
During the conversation, your boss tells you why you were selected for the role. While the company entertained bringing in a new leader to shake the organization up; they believe you could do the same thing as an internal candidate. Let’s be honest, it is often harder to shake things up as an internal candidate. Alternatively, you could be in repair mode from the last leader’s impact or lack there of.
At this point, you are feeling more confident in the company’s decision to promote you. They choose you over risking an external candidate. Then he says, “I want to let you know that I won’t have a lot of time for you.” He suggests you work closely with his controller. How do you interpret that statement?
- He has full confidence in you and you don’t need help.
- The business you are running is not on his radar screen.The business may be doing well and he has more important business that need his attention and focus.
- He is not sure that you will succeed – perhaps you were not his first choice candidate.
Here’s the thing – bosses need to be available. That does not mean they need to be a part of every decision you make. Ideally, establish when they want to be consulted or advised so that you have a clear benchmark for meeting and let the relationship grow from there. The more confident they become in you, the more opportunities you will have to interact with them.
It is important to establish a relationship with your boss and that requires contact – in person, by phone or email. If you were an internal candidate and you had a strong relationship with your new boss before the promotion, you will likely experience visible and underlying support from your peers. New employees will bask in the honeymoon period where the boss will play a visible role integrating you into the organization. If you do not have a preexisting relationship with your boss, be ready for an uphill climb because your boss is assuming you have a strong base and don’t need them. In many cases this is not true because your peer set has been redefined.
Don’t be surprised if you are getting tested. Especially in higher level positions, bosses are evaluating how you form relationships with your peers and make decisions in a collegiate way. Some bosses may help you navigate the waters, other bosses sit back and see if you sink or swim. How you handle these interactions in the first six months will establish your management and leadership tone with your peers and boss. Do not underestimate what affect your peers have on your successful executive suite integration – personally and with your boss.
It’s easy to get stuck in what you think is right. When you think you are digging in, take a deep breath. It’s hard to see clearly when the lines are drawn. Find a trusted internal confidant or external executive coach to help you think through all your options clearly. Challenge your assumptions – your landscape is changing as you move into the executive suite and how you adapt will influence your success.