Whether you have been re-assigned to another executive or started a new job at a different organization, the idea of working with a new boss may seem daunting to even the most seasoned administrative professional. You are your executive’s business partner and your relationship is critical. Will you be able to connect as well as you did with your old boss? What should you do? What shouldn’t you do?
Although you’ll have many questions, and it will take a while to answer them all, the good news is that transitioning to a new boss doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking or overwhelming. You just need to spend some time deciding on processes and ideas that will help you make the transition easier and smoother. Here is a rundown of some of the tested and proven ways smart EAs and admins ease into a solid working relationship with a new boss or executive.
First impressions matter a lot, and the kind of impression you leave on your new boss will play into setting the tone for your relationship. On your first day, ensure that you are on time, look the part, and most importantly, demonstrate that you are more than up to the task and committed to the job. Being proactive is paramount to your success, so start to think of ways you can anticipate your new boss’s challenges.
If you can identify your new boss’ work style or preferred processes, you can look forward to a smoother transition. You’ll want to learn as much about what they prefer as you do about what they dislike, so you know what to avoid as you work with each other.
How do you do this? You can observe how your new boss behaves and interacts with other executives, as well as other employees and team members. This approach, while effective, may take a bit of time. A quicker, effective approach is to ask your new boss outright what works and what doesn’t work for them. Some people aren’t comfortable being so direct, so you could reach out to your predecessor instead and ask for a few pointers.
Beyond getting to know your new boss’s preferences, having a sit down early on will be of mutual benefit. Seize this opportunity to clearly communicate and clarify your mutual expectations. A forthcoming leader will let you know the kind of help and support they will expect from you, and, perhaps, even let you in on a couple of tips for success in your new job.
In this profession, the role of an EA can be quite different company to company, team to team, or executive to executive. Although there may be minimal differences from your last role, there could be significant ones, too, so you’ll want to quickly identify how your new boss views your partnership, and what projects, tasks, or skills are most important for its success. Your boss may have changed, but your experience hasn’t, and that should give you the confidence to deliver what is expected of you and get off on the right foot with the new boss.
To get the most out of this session, be sure to ask any important questions you may have. You can be sure that your transition will be much smoother if you know what your new boss values most so you can plan to actively pursue success or excellence in these areas.
You may have heard something about your new boss, their style, or even shortcomings. It may be true, but it may also be office gossip and couldn’t be further from the truth. Allowing yourself to form a prejudice against your new boss even before you get a chance to interact with them will negatively impact your working relationship. You want to give yourself the chance to form your own, fresh opinions.
Similarly, focusing too much on comparisons can be damaging. You must embrace this new chapter in your career and close the doors on the old one. Your old boss communicated with you a particular way, but that’s behind you, and your job now is to discover the best ways forward with this boss. You will be best served if you can keep an open mind and embrace working with your new boss without constantly comparing them to your previous one.
Having a shared sense of professional purpose is great, but building a personal connection can be valuable as well. What values do you two share? Likes and dislikes? Even if you don’t talk much about these shared interests or points-of-view, knowing they are there will help you connect better with your new boss. This connection, albeit unspoken, is, in itself, an icebreaker, and you will be motivated to build a good working relationship with the new boss.
Who else at the company should be part of your “go-to” gang? Is there another EA who has been working for the organization for a long time? They may be able to share a few ideas to help you succeed in your new job. As you get settled in, think about how you will communicate with the assistants working for other leaders in the company, so you can create a good rapport. It is important to develop a solid support network or internal coalitions.
Over time, examine who your boss interacts with on a regular basis. From higher-level executives to members of their team, make a deliberate effort to build a cordial and professional relationship with them. With such a foundation, any interactions with any of these parties will be smoother and professional, allowing you to do your work more efficiently.
By all means, go ahead and do all that you can to demonstrate your value and what you bring to the table. You can even make as many changes as you may deem suitable to ensure things run more smoothly. The one mistake to avoid is overstepping too soon – either in areas your boss indicates are low priorities, or things they prefer to handle independently. You will want to be proactive, but it’s wise to ensure you have a good understanding of your priorities, and, are excelling in those areas first before you try to take on things outside your job description. You will need to build trust first as well, to ensure your boss is receptive when you want to advocate to do those things later.
Don’t take it too personally when your new boss points out areas where you can do better. Feedback is a gift – if you’re receiving it, it’s because your boss wants you to be success. Strive to do better, and do all you can to improve your performance. Take positive criticism positively and act accordingly. The sooner you can improve on any problem areas, the sooner you can get back on the right track. If you haven’t heard anything, it’s always wise early on in a new job to be direct and ask for feedback from your new boss. A couple of weeks on the job should be more than enough time for them to have an opinion of you and your work thus far.
Challenges familiarizing with the new flow or systems, among other things, may leave you stuck while trying to perform a task or execute a project. Your new boss expects results, and the best thing to do is to ask for help. If you have other EAs or admins in the organization, they will likely be a great resource, perhaps even before you connect with your boss.
Things may not fall into place right away – they rarely do. But don’t give up or be tempted to call it a day too quickly. Instead, give yourself time to settle in, and approach things with a fresh, perspective while actively working to improve whatever needs your attention most. Look at working for a new boss as an exciting chapter in your career as an admin professional – one necessary to grow your career and skills. With the right attitude and these tips highlighted, you can make the transition easy for both yourself and the new boss, and soon your partnership will be thriving.
Heidi Souerwine, CMP, is the Executive Director of ASAP and manages content strategy for ASAP and its portfolio of products, including the APC, EA Summit, EA Ignite, and PACE. Prior to moving to Maine and joining the ASAP team in 2017, she spent 15 years in Washington, DC managing training and events from 10 – 10,000 attendees for international membership associations, non-profits, and the federal government. Heidi is passionate about needs-based program development, purposeful event design, and cultivating active community and engagement.