You've Been Named Boss; Now What?
By Ramon Greenwood
Betty made a giant leap forward in her career when she landed a new position as Director of Marketing for a major division of a multi-billion dollar corporation. She would go from supervising one employee to managing 27 men and women. Her annual budget would increase dramatically. She would be expected to breathe new life into a lackluster marketing staff that had fallen behind the pace expected in the hard-driving corporation.
She came to me for advice on how to make the most of the opportunity.
Here's the sense of what I told her.
The biggest challenge will be to think in terms of managing a function - getting things done through other people - rather than doing everything yourself. Your job is to manage the assets assigned to you so that your department's goals are reached.
Be realistic about the reception you receive from your staff as well as your peers in management. There will be many signs of cordiality. Accept them graciously, but be aware that beneath the surface, there is another world rife with tension. You will be on trial as the organization takes your measure.
Everyone with whom you work--your boss, staff and the heads of other departments--will ask themselves the central question: What does Betty coming here mean to me?
Key members of your staff will wonder why you were selected for the job instead of them.
Will you be shaking an iron fist or extending a velvet glove?
The Meter Starts Running On Day One
Don't try to remake the world overnight, but keep in mind the meter starts running on day one.
Hasten to establish your competence. Reassure your boss that you will help him achieve his goals. Demonstrate to your staff that you will lead them and protect them in the hierarchy.
Various cliques will try to recruit you to their causes. Keep them at arm's length. Show your peers that while you are a team player, you understand your responsibilities as their boss.
You will have a degree of objectivity in your view of the situation on the first day that will never be possible again because the personalities, the pressures, the gains and losses you will encounter will color your thinking as time goes by.
Write a memo to yourself as to how you see the situation, the task, the pluses and downside factors. Describe how you feel about the people, especially your boss. Spell out your goals, immediate and long term.
Update this document as you go along; use your initial impressions as a benchmark.
Always be aware that your risks will be greater because the scope of your responsibilities is broader and the impact of your decisions is more crucial. Never forget that with fewer people between you and the top, you will have less protective cover.
Be prepared for some surprises. No organization ever looks the same from the inside as it does from the outside.
Always see the activities of your department in the context of the larger mission of the corporation. Communicate this view to your staff. You must have their working support if you are to succeed as a boss.
Ask yourself every day, "How can I do this job so well that the organization will be looking to assign more and more responsibility to me?"
About The Author
Ramon Greenwood is a former Senior Vice President of American Express.
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