When You’re A New Boss – You Never Get A Second Chance To Make A First Impression

by JP Elliott, PhD on February 4, 2010

We all know the old adage “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” but how many of us really take this advice to heart, especially when starting a new job. The first 90 days are critical to establishing your credibility in a new organization, but the stakes are even higher when you are the new boss.

Not only do you have to learn your way around a new company and adjust to a new role, but you also have to gain the respect of your new team. No small task. In my experience, you cannot underestimate the impact these early impressions can have on your career, your ability to lead your team, and make an long-term impact. Bottom line is people form judgments fast – your only defense is a good offense. So, the question becomes…do you have a game plan for making a great first impression?

Early in my career, I was lucky enough to recieve some great advice about the importance of first impressions. I had just announced my decision to leave Taco Bell, where I had been a manager of People Development and to join IBM. The word that I was leaving had gotten to Emil Brolick, who at the time was the President of Taco Bell. Two days before I was set leave the organization; I got a call from Emil’s assistant letting me know that he wanted to speak with me. When I got to his office, he said that he had enjoyed working with me and his advice to me was simple, ”make an impact - quick.” He went on to explain that he attributed much of his success to his focus on making an impact in those first few months which meant he had to get to know and “build trust with his new team – quick.”        

I took this advice to heart  and while there are multiple approaches to starting fast at a new job, I wanted to share with you advice that I gave to a friend of mine who recently landed a management role in HR at a Fortune 500 company. Since this is her first time leading a team, I recommended that she conduct one-on-one interviews with each of her staff to assess their individual strengths, how they think, and their working style. Not only does sitting down with your new team to “listen” make a great first impression, it also builds instant credibility and will give you ideas on how to make an impact fast – think low hanging fruit!

Below are the questions I suggested with my thoughts on why she should ask each question and the insights she could expect to gain from her team’s answers.  

1. What challenges are facing the organization?

  • This will help you to understand how broadly your team thinks about the business and how strategic they are in terms of seeing the bigger picture. 

2. What resources could we leverage more effectively?

  • This question will ensure you gather ideas for quick wins that if implemented will prove you are listening, not just going through the motions.

3. How could we improve the way the team works together?

  • This will give you a view into the current team dynamics. Are there personality conflicts, were they having staff meetings before, what is not happening that they wish was, etc? 

4. What types of projects have you worked on?  Which one was your favorite?  Least favorite?  Why?

  • Getting an understanding of the type of work someone likes and dislikes provides insight into each person’s specific skills, past experiences, strengths, opportunities, and preferences. All of which will help you to get the most out of your new team.

 5. Over the next year, what skills, or experiences would you like to develop?

  • As a manager, part of your job is developing your people. You can’t effectively do this unless you understand how you can help design development experiences or provide coaching/mentoring that will build their capabilities. This is one question that truly shows you care about your people. It also makes you different than 90% of the bosses out there who 1) either don’t care or 2) are afraid to ask since they can’t guarantee you will get the experiences you are looking for. 

 6. How would you describe your working style? 

  • Notice I didn’t say “How do you like to be managed?” In my experiences, people do not like things done to them, but they are open to working together.  Understanding how someone likes to work will help you to flex your style in a way that gets results, not resistance. 

 7. What expectations do you have of me and my role? How can I help you be successful over the next year?

  • This might seem like a question that can get a manager into some trouble.  As a manager, shouldn’t it be the other way around with you communicating your expectations to your team?  Yes, but not before you assess your team’s current understanding of your role. Once you get a handle on this, you can manage, set, and if needed, correct their expectations accordingly.  

Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, there are multiple ways to make a great first impression as a new boss. What other questions, tactics, or ideas would you recommend to new managers who want to ensure they hit the ground running and make an impact - quick? 

 Photo Credit: Will Lion

{ 3 trackbacks }

Assembling a High-Performance Team | The QuickBase Blog
March 4, 2010 at 9:04 am
Eva Rykr » Blog Archive » Assembling a High-Performance Team
March 5, 2010 at 3:24 pm
Assembling a High-Performance Team | HRM Today
March 11, 2010 at 3:42 pm

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

lauren May 19, 2010 at 12:02 pm

This is really great and invaluable advice….

Thanks for taking the time to present it!

Nice job :)

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: