Manage the Risk of Briefing New Management

By staying objective, sticking to the facts, and allowing the new management the time and space to work through his/her problem, we can be part of the new manager’s solution, not part of the problem.

A respondent on GaryNorth.com has a problem…

He is a mid-level employee of a firm, is concerned about how to respond to the incoming new top-level boss, who wants one-on-one interviews with all subordinates in the firm, for the stated purpose “… to learn exactly what they do, and to get to know them.”

There are many problems in the firm, including management performance problems, and our respondent is very opinionated about management’s poor performance to date.  But, he’s now concerned that sharing his opinions with the new boss will get him into trouble with present managers; those present managers may retaliate for information communicated within the private interview with the new boss.

This is a real risk, and a valid concern; and is to be ignored at one’s peril.

So, how does one meet the needs of the new manager, without incurring the wrath of existing management and other employees?  If you’re in this situation, unless you’ve received prior instructions, do the following…

Maintain Perspective

Remember the purpose of the meeting:  “… to learn exactly what they do, and to get to know them.”

In addition, remember that first, foremost, and always, the new boss’ role is to accomplish predetermined objectives through others; in the interview, the “others” will be you.

What they “do.”  In other words, talk about your job, not others and not the job of others, and not how well others do their jobs.

“Get to know them.”  In other words, the new boss wants to understand your personal traits, characteristics, and results.  He or she will learn this about others from those others.

Guidelines

Here are specific guidelines for the interview:

Leave your likes and dislikes at home…

You are not being paid to like or dislike anyone or anything.  From this perspective, spending time and energy in the workplace on likes and dislikes constitutes at best, a freebe of your time and energy, or at worst, an unjustified resource sink of company resources and time.

In the new boss context, your likes and dislikes may be used against you to deflect valid issues and criticism of current management; that is, used to dismiss your criticism as subjective.

Operate with your own authority…

Whatever one may think of other people, if one does not have authority over them, one cannot directly cause them to change.  In the workplace, one does not have authority over one’s superiors; but, higher-higher does.  Leave “corrections” of those outside your authority to those others that do have authority.

This includes manipulating higher-higher to cause them to assert their authority on your boss, on your behalf.  Don’t go there.

Stick to objectivity…

Stand 10,000 feet back, and communicate with lots of broad perspective.  Put subjective/intangible information into a broader perspective.  Ensure your discussion is un-distorted by your personal bias and emotions.

Talk about processes and results, not people…

When we define success and failure in terms of processes and results, we can avoid the very negative repercussions of blame, and the natural human tendency to defend themselves.  In other words, fix the problem, not the blame.

Talk about jobs, resources,  and qualifications, not people…

Keep it objective: discuss the job, the resources, the qualifications, not he and she and they and them.

Take responsibility for your subordinates…

Talk about your subordinates in terms of how you will help them improve their performance, not about how they disappoint you…

If you have subordinates, functionally or administratively, their performance is your problem.  This responsibility comes with authority.  This means performance problems are yours to fix.  Your discussions with higher-higher should be about how you will fix performance problems; nothing more.

Deliver facts…

It is not intuitive, and it is certainly not common knowledge, but the greatest value anyone can deliver is to get to the truth; and the truth is always based in fact.  Want to help that new boss get to the truth?  Then just deliver facts, not opinion.

Deliver opinion only when asked…

But if the new boss is sharp, he/she will want to hear your opinion.  But, here’s the big secret: one’s opinion says more about the one rendering the opinion, then the subject of the opinion.  The new boss may be just smart enough to know this; and to evaluate the opinion-maker.

This is why in the context of opinion, it’s important to remember the child’s ditty about pointing fingers: whenever you point a finger at someone, you point three at yourself.

Delivered opinion must be verifiable; meaning, based on factual evidence…

“He said, she said” (hearsay) is a non-starter; except for the negative reputation it delivers to the person engaging in hearsay.

Allow the new boss to do the job; which requires him/her to connect the dots…

The new boss is getting paid to collect, collate, analyze, and process information; and then develop and implement plans to deal with that information.  Allow him/her to earn his/her pay in this respect.

Give him/her the benefit of the doubt that he/she will earn the compensation.

Conclusion

Incoming new management always has a large problem coming up to speed on who is doing what, the extant performance problems, and which players need to improve their performance.

By staying objective, sticking to the facts, and allowing the new management the time and space to work through his/her problem, we can be part of the new manager’s solution, not part of the problem.

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